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Opinion What insanity did Kayleigh McEnany just suggest?

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks at the White House on Monday. (Sarah Silbiger/For The Washington Post)
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By himself, President Trump couldn’t have come up with the conspiracy theory underlying his recent attack on Martin Gugino, the 75-year-old Buffalo-area protester who was shoved to the ground last week by Buffalo police. The incident took place outside of Buffalo City Hall, and video captured the encounter. Gugino wound up supine on the sidewalk, and a pool of blood formed around his head.

Assault charges were filed against two Buffalo police officers, who were suspended over the incident. Nearly 60 officers in the elite Emergency Response Team quit the unit over the treatment of the officers.

Pretty straightforward, huh? Not for Trump, who gathered some information about the case from One America News Network. That cable network, in turn, appears to have grabbed the idea from the blog Conservative Treehouse. Here’s the gist:

Okay, that baseless allegation is bad enough. As Ashley Parker and John Wagner write in The Post, the tweet “demoralized some aides and allies, who were frustrated if not particularly surprised by Trump’s latest incendiary suggestion.”

Kelly Zarcone, a New York lawyer who’s representing Gugino, issued this statement: “Martin has always been a PEACEFUL protester because he cares about today’s society. He is also a typical Western New Yorker who loves his family. No one from law enforcement has suggested otherwise so we’re at a loss to understand why the president of the United States would make such a dark, dangerous and untrue accusation against him.”

Full coverage of the George Floyd protests

Gugino is part of the Catholic Worker Movement and a member of the Western New York Peace Center, as well as a Buffalo group that advocates for economic justice and affordable housing.

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Leveling the allegation is one thing; defending it is another, as White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany demonstrated in a chat on Wednesday morning with the folks on “Fox & Friends.” Asked about the president’s claim regarding Gugino’s alleged affiliation with antifa, McEnany responded with this mouthful:

So the president was raising questions based on a report that he saw. Other questions that need to be asked in every case, we can’t jump on one side without looking at all the facts at play. This individual had some very questionable tweets, some profanity-laden tweets about police officers. 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. In fact, you had 56 police officers who resigned in protest of how their fellow officers were treated. So I think we need to ask why those officers resigned, what happened, what facts were on the ground. The president was just raising some of those questions.

Boldface inserted to highlight a dangerous bit of official commentary. In the aftermath of the assault against Gugino, his Twitter account has been locked. As for what may have troubled McEnany about the account, there’s a hint in this Buffalo News piece:

On June 3, the day before the pushing incident, Gugino retweeted Emma Gonzalez, one of the survivors of the Parkland school shootings who has herself become an activist. She wrote “(expletive) the police.” And he commented on the retweet the same words. The phrase has been repeatedly used during the protests here in Buffalo and across the nation.

Correct: In apparently deploying profanity regarding the police, Gugino joined millions upon millions of Americans. So what bearing does McEnany believe his tweets have on his interactions with Buffalo police? What kind of thought-control scheme do we have here? Or does his Twitter account unlock the mystery/conspiracy theory about his alleged ties to Antifa?

We’ve asked McEnany why the tweets are so important to this case. We’ll update this post if we get a response.

As of Wednesday, Gugino remained in the hospital but was recuperating, according to Zarcone. As he recuperates, he faces a president who thinks nothing of sliming him. It doesn’t end there, however: He also faces a willing collaborator in McEnany, someone who signed up to advance and sharpen Trump’s smears. She’s just doing her job.

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