That shock value is eclipsing human values among Trumpites became clear Tuesday night on Fox News. In a viral cable-news moment, Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager and current television commentator, faced off against Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas over the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border. This exchange happened:
PETKANAS: “I read today about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was taken from her mother and put in a cage…”
LEWANDOWSKI: “Womp womp.”
PETKANAS: “Did you just say ‘womp womp’ to a 10-year-old with Down syndrome being taken from her mother? How dare you?”
It went on from there, with Petkanas repeatedly wondering how Lewandowski could dare say something so despicable and with Lewandowski saying that when you commit a crime in this country, you forfeit your right to be with your family.
Commentators, pundits, people like Lewandowski — not to mention fully empowered representatives of the president — have been polluting the airwaves with their lies and claptrap about how family separation isn’t, in fact, a policy; about how this is merely a case of the White House following the law; and so on. That stuff is sufficiently tawdry. With his womp-womp comment, Lewandowski adds a spin of barbarism to the mix. (CNN used to pay him as a contributor for his thoughts.)
And yet Fox News wanted to hear more from this fellow. On Wednesday morning, host Sandra Smith welcomed Lewandowski back on to the Fox News air for something of a post-game interview. In other words, for some content like what Lewandowski tweeted on Wednesday morning:
To kick off the interview, Smith went with this question: “Corey, dealing with children is a very sensitive and obviously very highly charged subject. You made a comment last night that’s gotten a lot of attention in the media. Would you like to address that right now?”
Yes, as a matter of fact! Here’s a transcript of some of the exchange:
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I’d love to address it, because my comment was specifically about Zac [Petkanas] trying to politicize the use of children as a political football in this discussion, because the law is very clear. When parents commit crimes by coming into this country, regardless of who their children are, they are separated because we are a nation of laws. That has never changed. This is a policy that is implemented under the Obama administration, and Congress can change this. But they’ve chosen not to do that.
And so it doesn’t matter to me if you come with one child or ten children, nobody wants to see their parents separated from their children. But the parents understand that by coming to this country illegally, they are committing a crime and there are consequences, just as there would be in any other country in the world. So let’s not make this about politicizing children. Let’s make it about the rules and the laws, and Congress has the ability to change that.
SMITH: But, to be clear, you were not speaking about the young girl with Down syndrome that was separated from her parents at the border?
LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I don’t know the young girl that Zac referenced. I was mocking Zac, a liberal, Democrat (sic) National Committee activist who is doing nothing but politicizing the issue of making an example of one particular child.
SMITH: There are some who saw your words last night as overlooking an individual when there are so many affected by this. Do you feel that you owe an apology of any sort?
LEWANDOWSKI: An apology? I owe an apology to the children whose parents are putting them in a position that is forcing them to be separated.
There’s so much here. First, the dodginess: We know what Lewandowski meant when he said “womp womp”; he was diminishing the trauma of a child being taken away from her mother. Second, the insouciance: Trump, after all, is the one politicizing children, using this madness to press for immigration legislation. Third, the mendacity: This is a Trump administration policy, not an Obama administration policy.
So why the decision of Fox News to bring him back on air? What value is there, after all, in hearing just how weaselly Lewandowski could be in denying the turpitude in “womp womp”? Ratings, of course: Fox News to some extent thrives on the ridiculous claims of its guest commentators, whether they relate to how torture “worked” on Sen. John McCain during the Vietnam War (it didn’t), or to how sports journalist Jemele Hill was “unemployed” (she wasn’t/isn’t), or to any number of other senseless claims. Those moments migrate onto the Internet, where recycled videos and related commentary signal to certain Americans: Here’s the channel where people can say what they think.
News organizations have struggled for three years to ensure representation for pro-Trump viewpoints without violating standards of truthfulness and decency. As it turns out, that’s all but impossible. There’s no way to defend a cretinous policy without behaving like a cretin.