In the middle of his comments, fellow guest Corey Lewandowski cut in.
“Womp womp,” President Trump’s former campaign manager said, making a dismissive trombone-like sound effect.
“Did you just say ‘womp womp’ to a 10-year-old with Down syndrome?” Petkanas shot back.
“How dare you,” he repeated as Lewandowski attempted to speak. “How dare you. How dare you. How absolutely dare you, sir.”
The Trump insider’s prime-time appearance sent the exact message the White House has been attempting to counter in recent days.
Images and audio from the border, of crying children wrenched from their families by government officials, have sparked uproar over President Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy.” The president has doubled down on his stance, maintaining the policy while falsely spewing blame at congressional Democrats.
The administration continues to struggle to articulate its argument for the policy, even as polls show two-thirds of Americans oppose family separation and some GOP lawmakers are breaking ranks with the president.
Lewandowski’s appearance immediately went viral. CNN’s Brian Stelter called the words “dismissive, despicable” in his nightly newsletter, Reliable Sources.
“There is no low to which this coward Corey Lewandowski won’t sink,” former Fox News star Megyn Kelly tweeted. “This man should not be afforded a national platform to spew his hate.”
Liberals also latched onto the comments.
“Democrats don’t just represent progressive values, we also represent the middle & even the middle right because of how far the #GOP has shifted,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted Tuesday night.
On Wednesday morning, Lewandowski doubled down on his comments, appearing aghast when asked by a Fox News host if he felt he needed to apologize.
“An apology?!” Lewandowski stammered. “I owe an apology to the children whose parents are putting them in a position that is forcing them to be separated.”
Lewandowski also attempted to cast reports about his “womp, womp” utterance as “Fake News,” claiming he had been trying to discuss “the real issue, which is fixing a broken immigration system.”
In fact, he charged, it was the media that were being offensive.
People didn’t buy Lewandowski’s take, immediately ratioing his tweet with outraged replies, some unprintable.
“We all saw the video, Corey,” attorney and former Obama campaign member Michael Starr Hopkins tweeted. “A real man would own up and apologize. But ya know….”