CNN’s John Avlon lied repeatedly to viewers about President Donald Trump’s views on white nationalism in a “reality check” segment on Monday morning.
The point of the segment was to link Trump to the New Zealand terror attacks, via his rhetoric and his supposed indulgence of extremists, even though Avlon was forced to admit that Trump had not directly incited the shootings.
Avlon began by mischaracterizing the president’s response to a question in the Oval Office Friday about whether Trump thought white nationalism was a growing phenomenon. He played a small snippet of Trump’s remarks: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess…”.
“Not exactly a full-throated denunciation from the bully pulpit,” Avlon said, leaving out the part where Trump called it “terrible.”
Trump had not been asked to denounce white nationalism — though he did. He had been asked whether he thought it was a growing phenomenon — and he answered that he did not, though he allowed that “perhaps that’s the case” in light of the attacks in New Zealand.
Here is the full transcript of the question, and the president’s response.
Q: Do you think that white nationalism is a rising threat around the world?
Trump: I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case. I don’t know enough about it yet. They’re just learning about the person and the people involved. But it’s certainly a terrible thing. Terrible thing.
Avalon then went on to list several other supposed examples of Trump indulging white nationalists.
“We all remember the Charlottesville white nationalist marches,” Avlon said, as footage of neo-Nazis marching in a torchlight procession played on a screen behind him. “And we all remember President Trump’s response,” Avlon continued.
The screen behind him cut to Trump’s Aug. 15, 2017, press conference, showing Trump saying, “very fine people on both sides.”
This is the same deceptive edit used by several other CNN hosts recently, including Chris Cuomo, among others.
Avlon did not mention that Trump was referring to protesters and counter-protesters over the issue of the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee — as even CNN noted at the time — and that Trump had specifically excluded the neo-Nazis from ‘very fine people.” Avlon also failed to tell CNN’s audience that Trump had denounced the neo-Nazis the day before in a speech against bigotry from the White House.
Instead, he went on to tell viewers: “What you might not remember is that white nationalists, most notably David Duke, praised the president’s response. That’s the same David Duke who Trump wouldn’t condemn during the campaign.” He then played footage of Trump’s February 2016 interview on CNN, where Trump claimed he didn’t know enough about David Duke. (Trump later said he could not hear the question properly).
Avlon neglected to mention that Trump had, in fact, condemned David Duke during the campaign six months before that interview, and even the day before the interview. He did so again the day after. The claim that Trump would not condemn Duke is a flat-out lie.
“You know what shouldn’t be hard? Condemning the KKK and neo-Nazis.”
(You know what shouldn’t be hard, for a news organization whose motto is “facts first”? Reporting the facts.)
Avlon went on to cite statistics from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), indicating that white extremists had committed the majority of extremist-related murders in 2018. He failed to report that the ADL report also noted political ideology was not the motive in the majority of killings, and that the proportion of ideologically-motivated killings by extremists actually declined in 2018. (Update: The ADL report also shows that “extremist-related killings” are down 39% in the first two years of the Trump administration.) That suggests white nationalism might be falling, not rising.
Avlon went on to complain that white Trump has “no problem” denouncing radical Islamic terrorists, he is “muted at best” in denouncing white nationalists.
But Trump has done so repeatedly. He began his first address to Congress by condemning antisemitism. And in his speech from the White House after Charlottesville, he said: “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Avlon and CNN want to pretend that never happened.
At the end of the “reality check” segment, the CNN hosts could barely contain their disgust. “Is there a lower bar, John, on earth, than condemning anti-Muslim white supremacist attacks?” host John Berman asked Avlon.
Yes, there is: reporting the fact that the President of the United States condemned those attacks, and that ideolody. It’s not hard to do — especially when lying about it means confusing the public, and stoking fear and division.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.