Trump un­der fire for fail­ing to dis­avow QAnon con­spir­acy the­ory

The Guardian - - World - David Smith

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

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