Not that this makes one bit of difference to the people who insist the alt-right is a massive threat to the republic.
President-elect Donald Trump told New York Times reporters on Tuesday that he disavows the fringe political movement that many say helped power his candidacy.
But he also rejected the idea that he bears responsibility for the growing prominence of groups espousing white nationalist viewpoints.
“I don’t think so, Dean,” Trump said in response to a question from Times executive editor Dean Baquet about if he has energized the “alt-right.”
The alt-right is a nationalist movement that embraces populism and white identity politics. At times, as was the case at a conference this weekend in Washington, adherents have used outright racist and anti-Semitic attacks to further their views.
Richard Spencer, a neo-Nazi leader who coined the term “alt-right,” opened a speech at the conference with the greeting: “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”
“I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group,” Trump told Baquet. “It’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why.”
Asked point-blank about the conference featuring Spencer, Trump again disavowed any support.
“I disavow and condemn them,” Trump told Times reporters. He did chide them for continuing to ask about the topic though, telling one questioner: “Boy, you are really into [this issue].”
I really hope this is Trump’s last word on the controversy even though it certainly won’t make a bit of difference to Politico or to the New York Times or anyone else who thinks it was the alt-right that propelled Trump’s candidacy. They are going to continue pushing the Donald-Trump=Alt-Right meme because it fits in nicely with their objective of GOP=Alt-Right. As David Harsanyi points out in The Federalist, the press seems hellbent on normalizing the alt right:
Why would The Los Angeles Times give the GQ treatment to a guy who “heils” victory and quotes Nazi propaganda onstage in German, as Richard Spencer did this weekend? I suppose it’s the same reason every major publication gave David Duke, who was polling at 3-4 percent in his Louisiana Senate race all year, their undivided attention. (What am I talking about? We’re still hearing about Duke on a daily basis.) It’s to create the impression that they matter.
Surely one story letting us know a former Klansman with no constituency is a Trump fan would have sufficed. After all, the father of Orlando ISIS shooter, also fan of the Taliban, was a Hillary supporter. White supremacists like Trump in the same way Hamas liked Barack Obama. Is ISIS or Hamas a bigger or smaller threat than the NPI? Does it matter? Or is it just a way of connecting candidates — all worthy of criticism — with support they have no control over?
None of this is to say Trump shouldn’t be called out for his vulgar rhetoric or ideas, some of which gave these people the space they needed. Nor does it absolve Republicans who look the other way when genuine bigotry appears. Yes, GOPers shouldn’t “normalize” the alt-right, and neither should the media imbue the movement with an outsized importance to feed its preferred narrative regarding the election.