McEnany defends Trump for asking ‘legitimate’ questions about Buffalo protester
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday defended President Trump’s incendiary tweet from a day earlier in which he claimed without evidence that an elderly man pushed to the ground by police in Buffalo, N.Y., may have been part of a “set up.”
McEnany offered a full-throated defense of the president’s tweet, which was triggered by a report from a right-wing media outlet and widely condemned by Democrats and a few Republicans.
“The president was raising questions based on a report that he saw. They’re questions that need to be asked,” McEnany said on “Fox & Friends.”
“This individual had some very questionable tweets, some profanity-laden tweets, about police officers,” she continued, referring to 75-year-old Martin Gugino. “Of course, no one condones any sort of violence. We need the appropriate amount of force used in any interaction, but there are a lot of questions in that case.”
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade questioned the timing of the tweet, noting it came on the morning of George Floyd’s funeral.
McEnany said Trump has acknowledged the injustice in Floyd’s case, “but the president was raising some questions, some legitimate ones,” about the incident in Buffalo.
Two Buffalo police officers were charged with assault after video went viral of them shoving Gugino after he approached them during the protest. The 75-year-old staggered and fell backward, hitting his head on the concrete and lying motionless as blood pooled on the sidewalk and the officers walked away.
Gugino is still in the hospital. The officers involved, Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe, have pleaded not guilty in the incident.
Trump tweeted the conspiracy theory about Gugino on Tuesday morning following a report on One America News Network from a reporter who has also written for Russian outlet Sputnik.
“I watched, he fell harder than was pushed,” the president tweeted. “Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”
The tweet was particularly jarring given it comes amid a national debate and shifting opinions on police brutality following the death of Floyd, who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Numerous GOP senators sought to avoid commenting on the tweet, claiming either that they hadn’t seen it or did not want to weigh in. A handful of Republicans spoke out on the tweet.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, called it “shocking.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who recently said she is struggling with whether to support Trump in November, appeared exasperated by the tweet.
“Again, why would you fan the flames?” she asked.