Look at All the Ways Trump’s Staff Is Avoiding Answering This Basic Question

They are endorsing a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward climate denial.

Jan-Otto/Getty Images

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Nobody at the White House seems to have asked President Donald Trump about his position on climate change. For years, Trump has been calling global warming a hoax, sometimes alleging that it was invented by China.

So why not just confirm that this is still his opinion? Especially when, after withdrawing the United States from the most important climate deal in history, aides might want to use the opportunity to show that the president understands the basic science.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and White House press secretary Sean Spicer had several opportunities to share the president’s current thinking on the issue. At Friday’s press briefing, four different reporters asked Pruitt four variations on this basic question from ABC’s Mary Bruce: “Yes or no, does the president believe that climate change is real and a threat to the United States?”

And four different times, Pruitt basically gave this response: “All the discussions we had over the last several weeks was focused on one singular issue: Is Paris good or not for this country?”

But Pruitt isn’t alone. Over the last several days, many of his closest advisers have revealed they spend no time discussing global warming with the president. 

At Tuesday’s press briefing, when a reporter asked if Trump believes that human activity contributes to global warming, Spicer replied, “Honestly, I haven’t asked him. I can get back to you.” When he appeared at the podium again on Friday, Spicer still didn’t have an answer.

On Thursday, after the Paris decision was announced, CNN asked Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, whether or not the president believes climate change is real. “You are going to have to ask him,” Cohn responded.

During a press briefing following the Paris announcement, a reporter asked about Trump’s beliefs on climate change. “I have not talked to the president about his personal views on climate change,” a White House official said.

Earlier on Friday, Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway also refused to answer if Trump thinks global warming is a hoax. When pressed by news anchor George Stephanopolous on Good Morning America, she assured him “The president believes in clean environment, clean air, clean water.”

Many of his advisers may not broach climate change with Trump, but recently, K.T. McFarland, his deputy national security adviser, slipped him two Time cover magazine stories about global warming to get the president riled up.

The only problem? One of the stories turned out to be an internet hoax.  

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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