White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed Monday that President Donald Trump doesn’t have an opinion on the Confederate flag.
Just hours earlier, Trump tweeted to bemoan the flag’s absence at NASCAR events, saying the company’s decision to ban the flag was responsible for the sport’s “lowest ratings ever.” (Fox Sports executive Michael Mulvihill has said NASCAR viewership is actually up 8% since its return on May 17.)
Asked repeatedly to explain why the president wouldn’t condemn the flag, a symbol of slavery and white supremacy, McEnany instead deflected and said Trump’s tweet was being mischaracterized.
In one particularly illuminating exchange, Bloomberg reporter Mario Parker asked why Trump hadn’t praised NASCAR for banning the flag, given “what it represents in terms of treasonous acts and insurrection against the Republic.”
McEnany responded by criticizing the renewed national movement to remove Confederate monuments, then ― when pressed again to address the flag specifically ― said the president had nothing to say about the issue.
“He’s not given an opinion one way or the other on that,” she said. “I just spoke to him this morning.”
Kayleigh McEnany: "The President wants no part of cancel culture... He stands against the demonization of Americans." pic.twitter.com/13SIuiRDHO
— The Hill (@thehill) July 6, 2020
The claim struck a chord with PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.
“Let that sink in a minute,” she tweeted after the briefing. “The president of the United States can’t say whether he supports flying a flag associated with treason and supporters of slavery.”
.@PressSec has said repeatedly today that Pres Trump has not taken a stance in favor of or against the Confederate flag.
Let that sink in a minute.
The president of the United States can't say whether he supports flying a flag associated with treason and supporters of slavery.
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) July 6, 2020
NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was also a focal point of Trump’s tweet earlier Monday. Wallace, who is Black, led the successful movement to ban the Confederate flag from NASCAR events. A noose was later found in his racetrack garage, which an FBI investigation concluded wasn’t part of a targeted racist attack against Wallace.
Trump baselessly called it a “hoax” and inexplicably demanded that Wallace apologize to other drivers.
“Love over hate every day,” Wallace responded on Twitter. “Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS.”
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) July 6, 2020
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.