Donald Trump refused to denounce the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon in his NBC town hall on Thursday night.
QAnon has been labeled a terror threat by the FBI, as The Guardian reported, and its followers believe that a Satanic cabal of Democratic politicians and Hollywood celebrities run a secret child sex trafficking ring out of Washington, D.C.
According to CNN, the theory, which is rooted in anti-Semitic tropes, has been connected to several violent events in the past few years. In the Pizzagate incident of December 2016, for example, a North Carolina follower drove to Washington with his AR-15 rifle to free children supposedly imprisoned in the basement of a pizzeria by Hillary Clinton and her cohorts.
Trump, who was taking part in the event instead of a second presidential debate, claimed to not know about the group when asked by NBC host Savannah Guthrie if he would denounce it.
Guthrie suggested that he was actually aware of the conspiracy theory, which has been widely covered in the press and has reportedly found support among many of his supporters.
“They are very much against pedophilia,” Trump declared.
When the moderator again pushed him to clarify his stance on QAnon, the pair began talking over one another.
“So cute,” Trump commented in response to her questioning.
Later, Guthrie asked Trump why he had retweeted a QAnon Twitter account that claimed that Joe Biden had a Navy SEAL team killed.
“That was a retweet! People can decide for themselves!” Trump said.
“I don’t get that. You’re the president, not someone’s crazy uncle,” the moderator responded.
The refusal was strikingly similar to the opportunity Trump was given to unequivocally condemn white supremacy in the first debate.
Several Republican candidates running for Congress in November with Trump’s endorsement have backed QAnon. Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has promoted their ideas, won the August primary runoff in Georgia’s 14th district, and is expected to soon be elected to Congress.
The House overwhelmingly condemned QAnon earlier this month, but 17 Republicans rejected the resolution.
Trump has previously given the group moderate support. According to a count by Media Matters, he has amplified Twitter accounts that promote QAnon more than 250 times. Bill Mitchell, a broadcaster who promotes QAnon, attended a White House “social media summit” in July 2019.
In August, Trump told reporters at a news conference that he knew little about it but understands its supporters like him “very much” and “love America.”
After those remarks, Vice President Mike Pence was asked to comment on QAnon, and he replied that he dismisses it “out of hand.”
Biden had no such trouble denouncing QAnon last month. The former vice president called the movement “embarrassing” and “dangerous,” suggesting that its followers take advantage of the mental health benefits in the Affordable Care Act.