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The White House doubled down on framing the Bubba Wallace incident as hoax on Monday after President Donald Trump demanded an apology from the Black NASCAR driver more than two weeks after a noose was found in his garage at Talledega.
White House press secretary Kaleigh McEnany repeatedly and inaccurately compared the incident to the Jussie Smollett controversy when asked about Trump’s tweet in a Fox News interview and later during a briefing with the White House press corps.
McEnany was first asked about Trump’s Tweet in an interview with Fox News’ Sandra Smith.
‘Saw it with Jussie Smollett’
“So NASCAR would note, their statement says that this garage pull rope was there since last fall, since far before the teams arrived at these garage, ” McEnany said. “And they also said definitively, the FBI investigation determined it, that there was no hate crime versus Bubba committed.”
“What the president is making is a broader point that this rush to judgment, before the facts are out, is not acceptable,” she continued. “We saw it with the Covington kids and saw it with Jussie Smollett, and now we saw it in this case before the FBI came to this conclusion.”
The question was about Trump’s tweet earlier in the day declaring the incident “just another hoax.”
No hoax in Wallace incident
McEnany’s statement that the noose was in the garage before Wallace’s team occupied it ahead of a race in Talladega, Alabama is accurate. The FBI determined in an investigation that it had been there since 2019.
Trump’s claim that it was a “hoax” and McEnany’s comparison to the Smollett incident are not accurate. One of Wallace’s crew members did find a noose. NASCAR reported it, and the FBI then investigated.
Meanwhile, McEnany’s Smollett comparison implies that Wallace and his team orchestrated the incident as a hate crime. Smollett, an actor formerly on Fox drama “Empire,” was indicted after allegedly staging a hate crime in Chicago and making false claims to police in 2019.
Wallace never saw or reported the noose himself. A member of his team did. There were no false claims of a hate crime publicly made by Wallace’s team. A noose was found, and an investigation ensued from there. NASCAR later released a photo of the noose.
McEnany pressed by White House press corps
The subject was repeatedly broached during McEnany’s press briefing later Monday. McEnany declined to answer why Trump demanded an apology from Wallace when he in fact did not perpetrate a hoax. She instead deflected to White House’s longstanding strategy of demonizing news media.
“When you level false charges, you not only slander me, you slander the American people,” McEnany quoted Trump as saying about news media while not directly addressing the question of why Wallace should apologize.
McEnany again refused to address the question when pressed later in the news briefing.
“I’m not going to answer a question a sixth time,” McEnany said when pressed again.
“Kayleigh, you've been asked it but you haven't answered it,” a reporter responded.
Response to Trump’s flag statement
McEnany was also asked about the portion of Trump’s tweet criticizing NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag from its events. Trump has repeatedly defended memorials to Confederate figures while making criticism of removing monuments to the Confederacy a central theme of his divisive Independence Day speech at Mt. Rushmore over the weekend.
McEnany initially declined to address the question, again leaning on her talking points criticizing media and referencing Smollett.
“You’re focusing one word at the very bottom of a tweet that’s completely taken out of context,” McEnany said.
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