Trump under fire for failing to disavow QAnon conspiracy theory
Donald Trump faced condemnation yesterday over his failure to disavow the QAnon conspiracy theory during duelling TV events that put his differences with his challenger, Joe Biden, on vivid display.
The fresh controversy comes as millions of people vote early ahead of the 3 November presidential election and the coronavirus surges again, with 38 states reporting rising cases.
Early viewing figures released yesterday will not have pleased the president, who is famously ratings focussed, with Biden’s ABC News town hall event drawing 2.3 million more viewers than Trump’s rival performance on NBC News.
Variety reported: “Biden drew 12.7 million total viewers on the Disney-owned network, while Trump drew 10.4 million in the same 9-10 pm time slot on NBC. Across the entire runtime, the Biden town hall averaged 12.3 million viewers. In terms of the fast national 18-49 demographic, Biden is comfortably on top with a 2.6 rating to Trump’s 1.7.”
Official figures were due to be released later in the day.
QAnon’s followers believe Trump is trying to save the world from a cabal of satanic paedophiles that includes Democratic politicians and Hollywood celebrities. It has been linked to several violent acts since 2018, including at least one alleged murder.
The US president has praised QAnon adherents, including a congressional candidate. At his town hall event on Thursday, he repeatedly claimed to be ignorant of the movement, which is considered by the FBI as a potential domestic terror threat.
“I know nothing about QAnon,” he told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in Miami,
Florida. “I do know they are very much against paedophilia. They fight it very hard. But I know nothing about it ... I just don’t know about QAnon.” Guthrie interjected: “You do know!” But Trump said: “I don’t know. No, I don’t know.”
There was a widespread backlash. Ben Collins, a journalist at NBC News, tweeted: “Outside of a straight up endorsement, this is about as about as close to a dream scenario for QAnon followers as is humanly possible.”
Trump and Biden’s simultaneous events were held in lieu of a second presidential debate, which was cancelled after the president contracted the coronavirus and refused to debate virtually. Although both candidates are white men in their 70s, their presentations proved to be radically divergent in style and substance.
Speaking in Philadelphia, Biden offered long, detailed answers and promised to follow the science in combating the pandemic.
“The words of a president matter,” he told the ABC host George Stephanopoulos. “When a president doesn’t wear a mask, or makes fun of folks like me when I was wearing a mask for a long time, then people say it mustn’t be that important.”
The former vice president conceded mistakes in a 1994 crime law that led to the mass incarceration of African Americans and promised to take a firm position on whether to expand the supreme court, saying people “do have a right to know where I stand. And they will have a right to know where I stand before they vote.”
But the sober policy discussion on ABC was often overshadowed by Trump’s characteristically vague answers to questions that no other US president in modern times would even be asked.
He became agitated when pressed by Guthrie about his views on white supremacy and his retweeting of a conspiracy theory that Osama Bin Laden might still be alive.
When pushed on whether he owed money to any foreign bank or entity, Trump replied: “I will let you know who – who I owe whatever small amount of money.
“When you look at vast properties like I have – and they’re big and they’re beautiful and they’re well located … the amount of money, $400m [£310m] is a peanut. It’s extremely underlevered. And it’s levered with normal banks – not a big deal.”
‘I know nothing about QAnon … I do know they are very much against paedophilia. They fight it very hard’ Donald Trump