White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday defended President Trump for calling a black reporter’s question about his self-professed nationalism “racist,” arguing that “there’s a difference between nationalism and white nationalism.”
Conway was speaking on “PBS NewsHour” Wednesday evening, hours after a Trump held a lengthy and combative post-midterm news conference during which Yamiche Alcindor, the program’s White House correspondent, asked the president about critics who say that his embrace of the word “nationalist” is emboldening white nationalists.
“I believe that what he was saying to your colleague Yamiche is that the implication of racism in the word ‘nationalist’ is very unfortunate, because there’s a difference between nationalism and white nationalism,” Conway told “PBS NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff.
She suggested that it was unfair to ask the president about his use of the term.
“I resent tremendously always being put into this toxic stew of racism and sexism and misogynism and xenophobia. It’s a lot on our shoulders, because it’s not fair,” Conway said.
Trump fully embraced the word “nationalist” during his last few weeks on the midterm campaign trail, declaring to a crowd in Houston last month, “You know what I am? I’m a nationalist.”
The term is generally associated with nationalist movements in Europe and elsewhere that have promoted a narrowly defined national identity linked to race and ethnicity.
Trump acknowledged at the Houston rally that “we’re not supposed to use that word,” in an apparent nod to its problematic connotations. But the next day, during an exchange with reporters in the Oval Office, he said, “I think it should be brought back.” He also denied that it was intended as a dog whistle to white supremacists.
“No, I never heard that theory about being a nationalist,” Trump told reporters at the time. “I’ve heard them all. But I’m somebody that loves our country.”
Asked about bipartisan criticism of Trump’s embrace of the word, Conway on Wednesday again suggested it was wrong to raise questions about the issue.
“I think that questions with racist implications, though — maybe that is a better way of saying it than how it was said, but — the implications are weighty,” she said on “PBS NewsHour.”