WATCH: Kellyanne Conway defends Donald Trump staffers who tweeted about a phony "assassination attempt"

Conway said the campaign wouldn't retract the statements until CNN retraced "all the storylines"

By Matthew Rozsa
Published November 7, 2016 2:56PM (EST)
 (Screengrab via YouTube)
(Screengrab via YouTube)

It doesn't matter that the "assassination attempt" against Donald Trump on Saturday night was actually a non-violent protester who had a sign. Trump's surrogates want you to believe that their candidate was nearly assassinated, and they won't let something as inconvenient as the facts get in the way.

During an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway insisted that the protester from Saturday's rally in Reno, Nevada, was actually "a Democratic plant or operative trying to disrupt our rally" (he wasn't). She added that, "I think people saw a nimble, resilient Donald Trump who would be nimble and resilient as president as well."

Tapper interjected to point out that “it wasn’t an assassination attempt. It was apparently a local voter, a Republican who says he is supporting Hillary Clinton. He has given money to Hillary Clinton. He has canvassed for Hillary Clinton. But he says he’s a Republican. But most importantly, he was not trying to assassinate anyone.”

Tapper then asked the all-important question: “This was not an assassination attempt, but why is your campaign spreading that it was?”

Conway seemed uncomfortable when answering the question, sputtering, “That’s really remarkable. That that’s what the storyline is here.”

She then insisted that the Trump campaign wouldn't retract its claim that the Nevada protester had tried to assassinate Trump unless CNN retracted “all the storylines, all the headlines, all the breathless predictions of the last two weeks that turned out not to be true."

Conway isn't alone among Team Trump in trying to cast the Reno incident as a thwarted assassination. Donald Trump Jr. retweeted posts insisting just that, including this one from former political operative and CBS News employee Jack Posobiec claiming that it was an assassination attempt.

In reality, the incident at the Reno rally involved a non-violent protester named Austyn Crites, a registered Republican who is supporting Hillary Clinton in this election. An unknown audience member shouted that he had a gun when he was trying to raise a sign, which started the commotion that led to Trump being rushed off-stage.

“All of a sudden, because they couldn't grab the sign, or whatever happened, bam, I get tackled by all these people," Crites told KRNV. "And somebody yells something about a gun, and so that's when things really got out of hand."

Watch the exchange below:

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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