Trump refuses to say the QAnon conspiracy theory is false

At Trump’s NBC News town hall on Thursday, held in lieu of a debate with Joe Biden after a dispute over the format, moderator Savannah Guthrie gave Trump as many opportunities as she could to denounce the theory. QAnon argues that prominent Democrats and global elites are part of a pedophile ring that only Trump can stop. QAnon first went viral on extremist forums and then became even more well-known to a wider audience after spreading on YouTube and many other mainstream websites.

“I don’t know anything about QAnon,” Trump said at first.

Guthrie pointed out she’d just explained it in brief: “this theory that Democrats are part of a Satanic pedophile ring and that you are a saviour.” (The rest of the extremely short version is that a top-level government official — “Q” — is leaking this secret onto the internet.)

“What you told me is not necessarily fact,” Trump said. “I know they are very much against pedophilia, they fight it very hard.”

“They believe it is a satanic cult run by the ‘deep state,’” Guthrie said.

Then Trump pivoted quickly to antifa. Guthrie tried to bring Trump back on topic, pointing out Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) had just recently said it should be easy for political leaders to condemn QAnon. Trump, who has been reluctant to criticize any of his supporters in the past, said he “just didn’t know” about QAnon.

“Let me just tell you what I do hear about it is they are very strongly against pedophilia and I agree with that,” Trump said. “I do agree with that.”

“But there’s not a satanic cult,” Guthrie pressed.

“I don’t know that,” the president said. “And neither do you know that. Why aren’t you asking me about antifa?”

Guthrie asked one more short follow-up, about a tweet written by someone else that Trump had shared. It featured a conspiracy theory about Joe Biden, Seal Team 6, and the death of Osama bin Laden.

“That was a retweet,” Trump said. “That was an opinion of somebody.”

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