During an NBC town hall on Thursday evening, President Donald Trump refused to denounce QAnon— a right-wing conspiracy theory that believes there is a secret government cabal of pedophiles.
When asked point-blank by NBC News host Samantha Guthrie to disavow the group, the president dodged the question, saying he knew nothing about it.
“I know nothing about QAnon. I do know they are very much against pedophilia… and I agree with that,” Trump said.
Trump’s non-disavowal drew quick criticism from the Anti-Defamation League.
“Shockingly irresponsible,” tweeted Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL. “@POTUS refused to disavow QAnon – a dangerous and hateful conspiracy theory that promotes antisemitism and has inspired followers to commit multiple instances of real-world violence. This isn’t hard. Feigning ignorance is unacceptable.”
Guthrie pushed back, explaining to Trump that QAnon followers believe “that Democrats have a satanic pedophile ring and you [President Trump] are the savior of that.”
Trump diverted by focusing on other groups like Antifa and “the radical left,” which he said are “burning down cities run by Democrats.”
The FBI has deemed QAnon a domestic terrorist threat. The group pushes theories that a circle of Satan worshipping pedophilic Democrats in government, entertainment, and religion are plotting against Trump, while operating a global sex-trafficking ring and drinking the blood of children. It has also been criticized for being antisemitic.
Jewish leaders and scholars of antisemitism have called attention to the group’s use of antisemitic tropes and age-old antisemitic stereotypes, and have rung the alarm on QAnon’s attempts to spread hate and violence against Jews.
Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have responded by banning all QAnon-related accounts, while YouTube has begun its crackdown on QAnon channels, saying that the platform would not support content that is “used to justify real-world violence.”
Trump’s refusal to denounce QAnon comes two weeks after he failed to condemn white supremacists at the first Presidential debate, sparking public outrage. After Thursday’s Town Hall, human rights leaders and activists are once again voicing their concern.
Along with the ADL, many politicians also took to Twitter to voice their disapproval of the president’s remarks.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D) tweeted on Thursday evening: “This isn’t hard: QAnon is a crazy, dangerous, fringe conspiracy theory. I denounce it. Trump refuses to say the same — simply because most of its followers support him. Worse, Trump amplifies QAnon, which can lead to real world consequences and violence. Enough already.”
Sen. Corey Booker (D) took the opportunity to look forward to the election:
“First, he refused to condemn white supremacists. Then, he refused to condemn dangerous conspiracy theories like QAnon. Now, we must unite as a nation to reject this man and everything he stands for.”