Team Trump had their hands full on Wednesday morning as they were tasked with the unenviable job of cleaning up the president’s outright refusal to disavow white supremacists and far-right extremism. The results were, shall we say… lacking.
As Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley was on CNN ridiculously claiming that the president condemned white supremacy three times during Tuesday night’s debate, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro used an MSNBC appearance to blame debate moderator Chris Wallace for telling far-right groups to “stand back and stand by.”
MSNBC host Hallie Jackson noted that the president was getting a “lot of headlines” over that moment—with his Fox friends even saying he blew the “biggest layup” in debate history—before asking Navarro what the president was trying to say.
“‘Stand by’ for what? And why didn’t the president denounce more strongly the Proud Boys in that moment, Peter?” Jackson wondered aloud.
“I think that moment for me underscored just how poor Chris Wallace did as a debate moderator,” Navarro replied. “There is an expression in boxing, there is a cut man in a corner, Chris Wallace’s function as Joe Biden’s cut man and also as a second debater on the president.”
Jackson quickly interjected, pressing Navarro to answer her question about Trump’s seeming embrace of violent extremism, prompting the presidential aide to say he’s “going to get to that.”
“When [Wallace] asked the president the question about that, the president said, ‘Of course,’ he started to say, of course he would denounce that, and Wallace cut him off,” Navarro continued. “So I’m not—I think the president has made it clear that he wants no part of that kind of stuff, what the president also made clear, I think it is a good distinction between Joe Biden and the president is that the president is for law and order.”
The MSNBC anchor jumped in again, noting that “people have ears” and they heard what Trump said, adding that when he was specifically asked about the Proud Boys he didn’t denounce them.
“He said in fact, ‘Stand by,’” she declared. “Why wasn’t he more forceful about that and do you believe he needs to clear that up?”
Navarro, meanwhile, said “that’s not for me to say” before once again placing the blame on Wallace for the president’s own words.
“What I saw last night was Chris Wallace interrupting him when the president was about to clear that up,” he stated. “And the president and Chris Wallace, I mean that—I thought it was Chris Wallace let that thing get out of hand and then he was Joe Biden’s cut man.”
An incredulous Jackson shot back: “You think it’s Chris Wallace’s fault that the president didn’t denounce white supremacists?”
The Trump adviser repeated Gidley’s absurd claim that Trump “has denounced white supremacists repeatedly” and that Jackson just wasn’t “hearing that” before again describing Wallace as Biden’s cut man.
“You’ve been around the block on politics. You know blaming the ref can sometimes not be a good look for the candidate coming out of a debate,” Jackson reacted.
“He wasn’t a ref. He was a cut man,” a desperate Navarro concluded.