Inside the 3 hours it took to get Trump's 'white power' tweet deleted

Inside the 3 hours it took to get Trump's 'white power' tweet deleted
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany points to a reporter to take a question at a White House press briefing Friday, May 1, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

The basic facts are these: Sunday morning, Donald Trump tweeted about the “great people” in a video in which one of his supporters yelled “white power.” Three hours later, he deleted the tweet. Through the rest of Sunday and Monday, neither Trump nor any official spokesperson condemned the use of “white power” as a rallying cry. But how did it happen?

The White House continues to claim that Trump didn’t hear the white power part. It’s not that he didn’t listen to the video, aides say, he just somehow didn’t hear it. Or bother to condemn it once he knew about it. But, The Washington Post reports, “senior White House advisers say they immediately realized they had a problem” with the tweet, and it “set off a scramble.”

“Senior staffers quickly conferred over the phone and then began trying to reach the president to convey their concerns about the tweet,” the Post reports. “White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, son-in-law Jared Kushner and other senior advisers spoke with president, said several people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of private conversations.”

And three hours later, Trump agreed to have the tweet deleted, “moved, in large part, by the public calls from Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s only black Republican, to do just that, aides said.”

In other words, it was by no means a foregone conclusion that Trump would agree to delete the tweet. It took Kayleigh and Jared and unnamed other senior advisers and someone pointing out that it’s probably a good idea to listen to the Senate’s only Black Republican on this one. Although NBC News reported that the delay was also because White House officials could not immediately reach Trump, who “was at his golf club in Virginia and had put his phone down.”

Sit with that a minute: The president of the United States could not be reached for permission to delete a white power tweet because he was golfing.

Since then, Trump and the White House have had ample opportunity to distance themselves from the call for “white power.” Trump’s Twitter feed, for instance. Or when McEnany appeared on Fox & Friends on Monday and said “His point in tweeting out that video was to stand with his supporters, who are oftentimes demonized.” (Yeah, for saying things like “white power.”) Or when McEnany held a press briefing and claimed “he did not hear that particular phrase,” but somehow did not get a question about whether he condemned it until she had ended the briefing and was leaving, when she ignored questions shouted after her. (Not exactly well played, White House press.)

”A senior White House official said that had McEnany been asked, she was prepared to say that of course the president condemns white power, white nationalism and racism in any form,” the Post reports. She just … didn’t. Which is telling—although we already knew what it tells us.


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