White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany continued to evade questions from reporters on Monday about why Nascar driver Bubba Wallace should apologise after what many people believed was a noose was found hanging from his garage at Talledega Superspeedway in Alabama in June.
Ms McEnany’s boss, Donald Trump, tweeted earlier in the day asking whether Mr Wallace, who is black, had “apologized to all of those great Nascar drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX”.
The FBI recently concluded that no hate crime was committed after what appeared to be a noose was discovered in Mr Wallace’s stall at Talladega last month.
The investigation concluded that it was a pull-rope handle that had been there since at least October 2019.
White House reporters on Monday repeatedly challenged Ms McEnany to explain what Mr Trump meant when he wrote that Mr Wallace ought to apologise to his peers.
“I’m not going to answer a question a sixth time,” Ms McEnany said, amid protests from reporters that she had not yet answered the question at all.
Earlier in the day, Ms McEnany explained Mr Trump’s tweet to Fox News as the president making “a broader point that this rush to judgment on the facts, before the facts, is unacceptable”.
Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)July 6, 2020
Mr Trump also falsely claimed in his tweet that Mr Wallace’s publicity of the noose episode and Nascar’s decision to ban Confederate flags from its events have “caused [the] lowest ratings EVER!”
Nascar’s ratings on Fox Sports are up 8 per cent, a spokesman tweeted on Monday.
At her press conference on Monday, Ms McEnany also defended Mr Trump’s criticism of Nascar for banning the Confederate flag at its events.
“The president wants no part of cancel culture,” she said. “He stands against the demonization of Americans.”
Mr Trump continued to weigh in on the intersection of sports and politics on Monday, criticising public momentum for Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians and the National Football League’s Washington Redskins to change their names, which many people believe are racist against Native Americans.
“They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct,” the president tweeted.
“Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!” he wrote.
Mr Trump is certain that being the spokesman of a white grievance movement is the key to his re-election this November, The Washington Post reported over the weekend.
The president is no stranger to such cultural touchpoints.
He rose to political fame partly on the back of his racist “birther” conspiracy, a debunked theory that the former president Barack Obama was not a natural-born US citizen. Mr Trump never produced any evidence to support his claim against Mr Obama’s citizenship, despite repeated claims he had corroborating information.
The president also previously branded NFL players who knelt during the national anthem to protest racism as “sons of bitches”.