McEnany tries to justify Trump targeting hospitalized Buffalo man

The smart move would be for the White House to change the subject, not try to justify the president's misguided offensive against a victim.
Image: Kayleigh McEnany
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing at the White House on May 1, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP
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By Steve Benen

After an elderly Buffalo man was hospitalized following a confrontation with police at a social-justice protest, a bizarre conspiracy theory originated on an anonymous Twitter thread, which soon followed to an anonymous blog. From there, it migrated to a right-wing media outlet, before being embraced by the president of the United States -- who tweeted about it yesterday.

The deranged theory is without merit, which probably has something to do with congressional Republicans' reluctance to defend Donald Trump on this one. Privately, even one of the president's advisors described the tweet as "dumb" and "beyond stupid."

And so it fell to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany to defend the indefensible -- not during a press briefing, but in another Fox News interview.

"So the president was raising questions based on a report that he saw. They're questions that need to be asked, and every case we can't jump on one side without looking at all the facts at play.... This individual had some very questionable tweets -- some profanity-laden tweets -- about police officers. Of course, no one condones any sort of violence. We need the appropriate amount of force used in any interaction, but there are a lot of questions in that case."

First, to argue that Trump can occasionally just "raise questions" by parroting nonsense he finds on the far-right fringe is to misunderstand the nature of the American presidency. When the Oval Office speaks, it's supposed to mean something -- to the public and to the world. It may seem like a convenient out to distance Trump from his own conspiracy theories, as if he can occasionally just think aloud via social media, but the moment he attaches himself to deranged foolishness, he accepts a degree of responsibility for the nonsense, even if it was "based on a report that he saw."

Second, "no one condones any sort of violence," except Donald Trump, who's condoned violence against protestors he disagrees with on more than one occasion.

But even putting aside these relevant angles, let's not miss the forest for the trees here: Two Buffalo police officers knocked down a 75-year-old man. When the elderly man's head hit the concrete, he bled from his ear. He's still, a week later, in the hospital.

The sitting American president thought it'd be a good idea to go after that guy with accusations that nearly everyone recognizes as ridiculous, and his chief spokesperson kept the campaign going, telling a national television audience that the senior citizen's Twitter account includes some profanity -- which, incidentally, puts him in the same category as Donald Trump, who's tweeted plenty of vulgarities over the years.

The smart move would be for the White House to change the subject, not try to offer weak justifications for the president's misguided offensive against a victim.