Piers Morgan, a talk-show host who once competed for Donald Trump’s approval as a contestant on “The Apprentice,” spent much of Friday boasting about a chummy interview he had conducted with the former game-show host in Davos, Switzerland. The interview was newsworthy, Morgan told anyone who would listen, since, according to him, it contained something rare: an apology from Trump.
"What would you do if you could go back in time?"
Everybody else: "Stop Hitler"
Piers Morgan: "PR for Hitler" pic.twitter.com/N2LANqI3Mz
— James Felton (@JimMFelton) January 26, 2018
That, at least, is how Morgan described Trump’s remarks, as regret for having retweeted anti-Muslim videos posted on Twitter by the deputy leader of a fringe political party for British white supremacists. Video of the exchange, however, reveals that something quite different happened:
WORLD EXCLUSIVE: In his first international interview since becoming US president, @realDonaldTrump says sorry for retweeting anti-Muslim videos. @piersmorgan https://t.co/kFCEKnYxyI
The full interview will air on Sunday 28 January at 10pm on @ITV and available on the @itvhub. pic.twitter.com/Am5nH1jvPw
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) January 26, 2018
Far from expressing regret, or taking any responsibility for his role in helping to promote the hateful ideology of the racist group Britain First, Trump offered a variety of excuses. The first of these was that he had good reason to share the videos, since, he said, they depicted “radical Islamic terror,” and he wanted to do his part to draw attention to such behavior. Second, Trump said, the fact that he had taken part in the propaganda campaign of a group of British racists was hardly worth mentioning, since it “was not a big story” in the United States at the time.
Most importantly, however, Trump argued that he could not be held responsible for promoting the hate-filled views of the British extremists he had boosted on Twitter because he had no way of knowing that the obviously racist tweets he had chosen to share had been posted by racists.
After Morgan told Trump that he wanted the British people to get to know “the real you” and suggested that an apology “would go a long way,” the president stammered out something less than contrition. “If you’re telling me,” Trump said, “that’s a horror p –people, horrible racist people, horror — I would certainly apologize, if you’d like me to do that.”
But instead of going on to actually offer an apology, Trump returned to excusing himself, adding, “I know nothing about them.”
Among those who noticed the blank space where the apology was supposed to be was Tracy Brabin, a member of the British Parliament from Batley and Spen, whose seat was previously held by Jo Cox, a pro-European MP assassinated in 2016 by a white supremacist who shouted “Britain First” as he stabbed and shot her.
Hello @POTUS . You've just said you'd apologise for sharing far right hatred on social media. As the MP for #batleyandspen, a community who's MP was murdered by someone holding similar views to those you endorsed, we'd like to hear that apology. Thank you.
— TracyBrabinWY (@TracyBrabin) January 26, 2018
When Morgan then helpfully handed Trump his next line, “And you would disavow yourself of people like that,” Trump returned again to his main point. “I don’t want to be involved with people … but you’re telling me about these people ’cause I know nothing about these people,” Trump said.
While Morgan engaged in some creative editing of the president’s remarks to characterize them as an apology, the whole exchange closely echoed Trump’s weird attempt, in early 2016, to claim that he had never heard of American white supremacists like David Duke or the Ku Klux Klan.
.@realDonaldTrump: "I know nothing about David Duke" https://t.co/1FIKzrf8Kb #CNNSOTU https://t.co/hfEJArGwmv
— CNN (@CNN) February 28, 2016
“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?” Trump told Jake Tapper of CNN during the Republican primary campaign. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists, so, I don’t know. … You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about.”
Trump’s sudden difficulty in recalling who exactly the former Klan leader was came five months after he had responded to a question from John Heilemann of Bloomberg News — “Would you repudiate David Duke?” — by saying: “Sure, I would do that, if it made you feel better. I don’t know anything about him. Somebody told me yesterday, whoever he is, he did endorse me.”