Fox News reporter John Roberts angrily responded to criticism from social media users, after he questioned White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Donald Trump’s comments on white supremacy groups.
During the presidential debate on Tuesday, which was the first of the three planned before 3 November’s election, the president was asked by moderator, Fox News host Chris Wallace, “to condemn white supremacists and militia groups”.
Mr Trump first attempted to avoid the question, but then name-checked the far-right white supremacist group the Proud Boys, and said: “Stand back and stand by! But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”
Watch: John Roberts ‘Does the president denounce white supremacy and groups that espouse it in all its forms?’
Mr Roberts questioned Ms McEnany about the comments during a fiery press briefing at the White House on Thursday, but the press secretary argued that the president had condemned white supremacist groups.
She added that president Trump has “condemned white supremacy more than any other president in modern history.”
Some Twitter users criticised Mr Roberts for his questioning of the press secretary, and author Tim Young tweeted: “John Roberts and Chris Wallace need to answer some questions to the public after their pushing of the false ‘Trump won't denounce white nationalists’ story.
“These are two of Fox News' top journalists and people who still tune in deserve apologies, corrections and answers.”
John Roberts and Chris Wallace need to answer some questions to the public after their pushing of the false "Trump won't denounce white nationalists" story.— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) October 1, 2020
These are two of Fox News' top journalists and people who still tune in deserve apologies, corrections,and answers.
While, Douglas Ernst, a writer at the conservative newspaper The Washington Times tweeted about the exchange: “Here is another embarrassing clip in which John Roberts pretends as if the president is a horrible person because he refuses to play along with some sick version of Groundhog Day.”
Here is another embarrassing clip in which John Roberts pretends as if the president is a horrible person because he refuses to play along with some sick version of Groundhog Day. https://t.co/fU9e3OIKiO— Douglas Ernst (@douglasernst) October 1, 2020
Following the press briefing, Mr Roberts, who is Fox News’ chief White House correspondent, told the station’s Melissa Francis live on air: “The press secretary would not, in a definitive and unambiguous and non-deflecting way, say that the president condemns white supremacism in all its forms and any group that espouses it.”
He added that the claim “is not something that I just made up!” as he cited top Republican senators Tim Scott, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham, who all asked Mr Trump to condemn white supremacy following the debate.
Mr Roberts, who was at this point visibly angry, then responded to criticism he faced from some social media users for his exchange with Ms McEnany, according to The Daily Beast.
“For all of you on Twitter who are hammering me for asking that question, I don’t care!” he said. “Because it’s a question that needs to be asked and clearly the president’s Republican colleagues a mile away from here are looking for an answer for it too.
“So stop deflecting, stop blaming the media!” he added. “I’m tired of it!”
Following Mr Trump’s name-check of the Proud Boys on Tuesday evening, members of the far-right group claimed his words were an endorsement, and one prominent member wrote: “Standing by sir” on “free speech” social media site Parler.
When asked about the group by a reporter outside the White House on Wednesday, Mr Trump said: "I don't know who they are. I can only say they have to stand down and let law enforcement do their work."
However, he did not clarify what he meant by his comment for them to “stand by” and when asked if he welcomes their support, Mr Trump said that he wants "law and order to be a very important part of our campaign."