On Tuesday, Donald Trump met with a group of The New York Times reporters. In doing so, he tried to disavow the fringe “alt-right’ movement while rejecting the notion that he stoked the group’s neo-Nazi/white nationalist views. This won’t impress anyone who listened to Trump fuel conspiracy theories that were embraced by the movement during many of his rallies.
However, President-Elect Trump’s apparently trying to adopt a different tune. Part of this public denouncement could have everything to do with a high-profile white-supremacist/neo-Nazi Trump group holding a conference last weekend in Washington D.C. There, they toasted his victory with Nazi salutes, which isn’t the greatest look for any new presidential administration. Trump has also been busy feuding with the cast of Hamilton and meeting with a good chunk of the political universe in Trump Tower.
But Trump got down to business on Tuesday. While responding to Times executive editor Dean Baquet’s question on whether he felt any responsibility for the group’s recent rise, the president-elect answered: “I don’t think so.” He went on to denounce them, but he also says he wants to understand more about them:
“I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group. It’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why.”
When asked to further elaborate on the topic, Trump chided the reporter asking the question, “Boy, you are really into [this issue].” Trump has not made himself readily available to the press, so you can’t fault the Times reporters for asking follow up questions about an issue that has dominated the news cycle and could become dangerous.