President Trump’s three-part reaction to the weekend’s violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville has inspired a few head-turning Fox News segments, with hosts and guests typically friendly toward the president scrambling off the Trump Train.
But under less scrutiny, conservative hosts who have been generally supportive of Trump have spent the week endorsing his evolving message. On “Bottom Line,” the commentary segment included with Sinclair Media programming, former Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn argued that the president had given a pitch-perfect response and that opposition was coming from the violent left, which did not want to be exposed.
“The sky is blue — does the president have to repeat that fact day-in and day-out for us to believe it?” asked Epshteyn on Wednesday’s segment. “The president correctly acknowledged that there was hate and violence coming from the left. Rep. Steve Scalise and three others, shot at an Alexandria baseball field, have the bullet wounds to prove that there is hate and violence on the left.”
On Wednesday’s episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” there was a second consecutive night of questions about why Trump, not left-wing protesters, was the focus of criticism. An opening segment questioned whether the First Amendment was shredded by companies denying Web services and hotel rooms to white nationalists; a second segment raised awareness of a pro-Trump protest in San Diego that had been threatened by protesters.
“It seems like, correct me if I’m being a conspiracy nut, that in certain places local politicians decide they don’t want to protect people they disagree with and so they don’t,” said Carlson.
On “Hannity,” a host who has stood out as Trump’s most stalwart defender in the press spent nearly 10 minutes playing back criticism of the president’s statements that had run on other networks. Much of it, Sean Hannity said, was a distraction from the racist past of the Democratic Party, a well-known bit of history which in conservative media is frequently claimed to be obscure.
“Here something the media won’t tell you,” said Hannity. “Republicans have been the party of Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation. Democrats? What have they been? The party of segregation, the Southern Manifesto.”
After a tedious recitation of history, concluding with Democrat Hillary Clinton’s praise for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (a Democrat and former KKK member who later apologized for his membership), Hannity pivoted to the problem he said only Trump would talk about: left-wing acceptance of black radicalism.
“President Obama made it a point to associate himself with groups like Black Lives Matter that chant things like, ‘What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want them? Now. Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon,’ ” said Hannity. “President Obama even invited Black Lives Matter to his White House and praised a Black Lives Matter leader, DeRay Mckesson, while completely excusing his anti-police remarks. Just take a look at a couple of McKesson’s tweets.”
Over the rest of the show, Hannity interviewed nonwhite conservatives who were happy to make the case that the problem facing America after Charlottesville was a deranged left.
“They couldn’t make Russia, Russia, Russia stick,” said Herman Cain, the former presidential candidate. “They couldn’t make refugee, refugees, refugees stick. So now their desperate attempt is racism, racism, racism.”
And on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh argued that criticism was being lobbed at Trump to “nullify the election,” referring obliquely to columnists who’ve urged the president to step aside.
“If they really can get Trump out of office by eventually saying, ‘He’s unfit! This guy is just beyond the pale,’ this will be a fundamental part of it,” said Limbaugh. “ ‘Well, look who elected him! For crying out loud, Nazis and white supremacists and the Klan? We can’t have somebody like that be president!’ That’s why they’re setting this up. The reason why they’re trying to portray this infinitesimal, this tiny number of people as Trump’s base is because that will be one of the foundations that will be used to force Trump out of office.”