Donald Trump's campaign issued a statement on Tuesday about his suggestion that "Second Amendment people" could "maybe" do something about Hillary Clinton and her judicial appointments if she wins the presidential election. But the campaign didn't frame its attempt at clarification that way; Team Trump issued what it called a "statement on dishonest media."
See, the real culprit here, according to the Republican presidential nominee, is a bunch of biased journalists twisting his words. But #NotAllJournalists, apparently: Some of Trump's allies in the conservative press are helping to shift the blame.
To review, this is what Trump said at a rally in Wilmington, N.C.: "Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick — if she gets to pick her judges: Nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don't know. But I tell you what, that will be a horrible day."
Here's Sean Hannity's take, delivered during an interview with Trump on Tuesday night: "Obviously, you're saying that there's a strong political movement within the Second Amendment, and if people mobilize and vote, they can stop Hillary from having this impact on the court. But that's not how the media is spinning it."
Hannity's interpretation is, objectively speaking, completely bogus. Whatever you think Trump meant, it is an indisputable fact that what he said referred to a time after the election — a time when Clinton would be picking Supreme Court justices and there would be "nothing you can do" because it would be too late to stop her from wielding that power. Trump did not say people can "mobilize and vote" to stop Clinton on Election Day. He just didn't.
Matt Drudge took a different approach to defending Trump on Wednesday morning, posting a headline from Heatstreet: "Media freaks when Donald Trump jokes about the Second Amendment, stays silent when HIS life is threatened."
The accompanying article accused the press of applying a double standard to two recent incidents — Trump's Second Amendment "joke" and the arrest in June of a man who tried to take a gun from a police officer outside a campaign event in Las Vegas, saying he planned to use it to shoot the billionaire candidate. One could argue that the attempt on Trump's life was under-covered, though Trump himself has not made this argument.
In any case, the episodes are not very similar. As Heatstreet pointed out, random wackos threaten violence against presidential candidates all the time. The frequency does not make such threats any less contemptible, but it also does not negate the notability of one candidate making a comment that could be seen as inciting violence against his opponent.
A closer parallel, the Daily Caller suggested, was a remark by Joe Biden during the 2008 presidential campaign. Speaking about Barack Obama, Biden told a Virginia audience that "if he tries to fool with my Beretta he's got a problem." Breitbart cited the comment in a story, too, saying Biden had "mentioned the possibility of an Obama assassination."
But the context of Biden's comment was vastly different from that of Trump's. Biden was running with Obama, not against him. And he was telling Virginians not to believe "malarkey" about Obama plotting to take away their guns, saying if that were true, the then-senator from Illinois would have a problem with his own, gun-toting running mate.
Biden was vouching for Obama's Second Amendment credentials, telling gun owners that they have nothing to worry about. Trump was doing the exact opposite when talking about Clinton.
Breitbart and Drudge offered another comparison, too: a reference Clinton made to Robert F. Kennedy's assassination that Obama's campaign believed to be directed at him, during the 2008 Democratic primary.
Explaining to the editorial board of a South Dakota newspaper why she was still in the race in late May, Clinton said, "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California."
At the time, a Huffington Post headline captured one translation of the remark: "Journey to the center of Hillary Clinton's mind: 'Why would I drop out before Barack Obama is assassinated?'"
Yes, that came from the Trump-hating Huffington Post. The New York Times covered Clinton's remark on the front page. Politico covered it. MSNBC covered it. Basically every news outlet that supposedly favors Clinton over Trump in 2016 chronicled the outrage over her assassination comment in 2008.
The double-standard argument doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
Still, it has proven to be an effective rallying cry for Trump throughout the campaign. Expect to keep hearing it from him and his boosters on the right side of the media.