President Donald Trump doubled down on his refusal to denounce QAnon conspiracy theorists, saying in a nationally televised town hall Thursday night that “they are very much against pedophilia” and he agrees with that sentiment.
In a heated exchange, NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie asked Trump if he could state that the prevailing conspiracy devised by QAnon was not true.
“I know nothing about QAnon,” Trump responded.
“I just told you,” Guthrie said.
Trump fired back, saying, “What you tell me doesn’t necessarily make it fact.”
QAnon’s main conspiracy theories – none based in fact – claim dozens of Satan-worshipping politicians and A-list celebrities work in tandem with governments around the globe to engage in child sex abuse. Followers also believe there is a “deep state” effort to annihilate Trump and that the President is secretly working to bust these pedophilic cabals.
The President claimed that all he knows about the movement, which has had a prevalent presence at his campaign rallies, is that “they are very much against pedophilia” and that he agrees with that sentiment.
Followers of the group – which has been labeled a domestic terror threat by the FBI – have also peddled baseless theories surrounding mass shootings and elections and have falsely claimed that 5G cellular networks are spreading the coronavirus.
During the town hall, the President also tried to separate himself from his recent retweet of a conspiracy theory from an account linked to QAnon, which baselessly claimed that former Vice President Joe Biden orchestrated to have Seal Team Six killed to cover up the fake death of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
“I know nothing about it,” Trump claimed. “That was a retweet – that was an opinion of somebody. And that was a retweet. I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves.”
But Guthrie responded: “I don’t get that. You’re the President. You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.”
Trump has frequently used his social media platform to promote various QAnon-associated accounts and their related theories. He previously refused to condemn the group in August and went so far as to embrace their support.
“I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate,” Trump said in August.
“I have heard that it’s gaining in popularity,” Trump said, suggesting QAnon followers approved of how he’d handled social unrest in places such as Portland, Oregon. “I’ve heard these are people that love our country and they just don’t like seeing it.”
The President has also defended his decision to endorse Republican congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia, despite her history of promoting QAnon theories and making racist and anti-Semitic remarks.
Social media companies are facing pressure on whether they will be banning QAnon-related activity.
In August, Twitter removed a false claim about coronavirus death statistics that Trump had retweeted. And Facebook said earlier this month that it will ban any pages, groups, and Instagram accounts representing the conspiracy theory QAnon from its platform.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has stopped short of pledging to ban QAnon followers from its website,” saying the company is “looking very closely” at the group and that YouTube has “already implemented a large number of different policies” related to the issue.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.