In a rare interview with Axios on HBO, Jared Kushner did his best to deny that his father-in-law and boss, President Donald Trump, is a racist, offering this awkward formulation: “You can’t not be a racist for 69 years, then run for president and be a racist.”
Kushner then insisted that calling Trump a racist was bad for victims of racism: “When a lot of the Democrats call the president a racist, I think they’re doing a disservice to people who suffer because of real racism in this country.”
But Kushner’s effort to defend Trump collapsed when reporter Jonathan Swan raised the topic of birtherism—the false, racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, which Trump promoted for years, even into his own presidency.
“Was birtherism racist?” Swan asked.
Visibly uncomfortable, Kushner responded, “Um, look, I wasn’t really involved in that.”
“I know you weren’t,” Swan said—and repeated the question.
“Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that,” Kushner said.
The exchange continued with Kushner again attempting to distance himself from Trump’s birtherism and refusing to answer the question of whether birtherism was racist.
Swan then posed a related question: was Trump’s campaign pledge to ban Muslims from entering the United States “religiously bigoted?” Kushner would not answer this one either. Instead, he offered spin: “I think he’s here today and I think he’s doing a lot of great things for the country. And that’s what I’m proud of.”
He asks Jared Kushner if Trump is a racist and Kushner quickly says no.
But then the reporter simply asks him if birtherism was racist and Kushner all of a sudden forgot how to talk.
Then he got asked about the Muslim van. Jared went limp.
— Shaun King (@shaunking) June 3, 2019