Navarro: ‘Don’t fall for’ message from TikTok lobbyists, ‘puppet CEO’
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro late Saturday defended President Trump’s position on banning TikTok from the United States, calling the Chinese-owned video app a “national security threat” and arguing that Americans should not “fall for” the company’s efforts to bolster its public image.
“Here’s what I would ask the American people. If they’re using TikTok and they hear the president is going to basically ban that, get on the Trump train with that, because that app you’re using, fun as it may be, is dangerous,” Navarro, an outspoken China critic, said on Fox News’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine.”
The administration official went on to denounce TikTok’s lobbying efforts, claiming that they “put a puppet” American CEO in charge of the company. Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive, took over as the organization’s CEO in May.
“They’re going to make it sound like, oh, can’t hurt you, this, that and other thing. Don’t fall for this. Do not fall for this,” Navarro added.
TikTok, a short-form video app that has grown rapidly in popularity in recent years, has been under a cloud of scrutiny from the Trump administration and members of Congress over its relationship with the Chinese company ByteDance and its handling of user data. Many lawmakers have voiced concerns that Americans’ data is not secure in the hands of a Chinese-owned app, considering a national intelligence law that requires disclosure of sensitive data when it’s requested by the government in Beijing.
Trump told reporters on Air Force One Friday that he was “looking at TikTok” and considering using emergency powers or an executive order to ban the platform’s operations in the U.S. The comments echoed previous remarks from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said in early July that that the government was worried TikTok has shared user data with the Chinese government.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump said.
Navarro added late Saturday that the White House’s decision would mean scrutinizing “any kind of software that sends the information for Americans back to servers in China.” Though speculation has been raised about what authorities the administration has to impose a ban.
TikTok declined to comment directly on Trump’s remarks. A company spokesperson said in a statement that “we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.”
TikTok’s U.S. general manager, Vanessa Pappas, also defended the app and some of the measures the company has initiated. In a video released on Saturday, Pappas said that the company isn’t “planning on going anywhere” and that it’s “here for the long run.”
In the face of criticism, Mayer, the TikTok CEO, announced last Wednesday that the company would publicly release the platform’s code in an effort to push back against “rumors and misinformation” about its handling of user data. Mayer also claimed that any action against TikTok would ultimately harm competition in the social media space.
The comments from the CEO came the same day TikTok sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee leaders disputing allegations about its security practices.
“TikTok is not available in China,” the letter read. “We store Americans’ user data in the US, with back-up in Singapore, with strict access controls for employees. We have never provided any US user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked. Any allegations to the contrary are unfounded.”
A TikTok spokesperson also noted that the company has hired 1,000 people in the U.S., with plans to add another 10,000.
Following Trump’s comments on Friday, reports surfaced that Microsoft was in talks to purchase the short-form video app. However, those talks were said to have been put on hold on Saturday, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Navarro voiced strong opposition to the possibility of Microsoft purchasing TikTok, claiming on Fox News that “we’ve got to be really careful about all of this.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has, meanwhile, come out in support of a company like Microsoft acquiring TikTok.
UPDATED 11:44 a.m.
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