On Dec. 29, 2014, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) admitted that he'd attended an event hosted by white supremacist leaders a decade earlier. The timing was awkward for Republicans, since Scalise had recently moved into the upper ranks of the House caucus after Eric Cantor lost his reelection bid. Within 24 hours, then-Speaker John A. Boehner stood by Scalise.
"More than a decade ago, Representative Scalise made an error in judgment, and he was right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate," Boehner said in a statement. "Like many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I know Steve to be a man of high integrity and good character. He has my full confidence as our Whip, and he will continue to do great and important work for all Americans."
It was important for Boehner to step up for Scalise because Scalise was part of the party's leadership team. Yet the day after Hillary Clinton delivered a stinging indictment of Donald Trump, the Republican Party's ostensible leader, on the same subject, other Republican leaders haven't risen to his defense.
The Republican Party has tweeted repeatedly since Clinton's speech, praising the National Park Service, hitting Clinton on her foundation and pledging to return to the Constitution. It offered no press release in defense of its nominee, issuing one only about Clinton having not held a press conference since last year.
That's been the only subject of Republican Chairman Reince Priebus's tweets, too, including one this morning.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan's website (where Boehner's 2014 statement currently lives) includes an update about constituent outreach by Rep. Mac Thornberry added since Thursday — but, then, Ryan's official page isn't the proper place for a political defense. The Facebook page for his campaign has updated twice since Clinton's speech with a YouTube video of one of his speeches and a call to update the tax code.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference, has also weighed in on social media since Clinton's speech: She gave a shout-out to a local business and wrote about preventing forest fires.
NBC's Frank Thorp reached out to both Ryan's office and that of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The results?
The speech was not a surprise. Clinton announced that she intended to link Trump to the so-called alt-right earlier this week, making it clear she would imply that the Republican nominee had the backing of racists and anti-Semites. In a normal election cycle, that would prompt the party to line up leaders and surrogates in defense of their candidate. This isn't a normal election cycle.
MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin (who noticed the GOP's silence early) points out that his network asked party spokesman Sean Spicer about the lack of a coordinated rebuttal to Clinton. "I don't know," Spicer said. "I think Congress is in recess."
Congress is in recess, as it has been since the middle of July. (Nice work if you can get it.) That didn't stop members of Congress from tweeting. By my quick tally, there have been 86 tweets from Republican members of Congress since Clinton's speech. A handful have dealt with the presidential race; none can be interpreted as a defense of Donald Trump.
One Republican's tweet can be interpreted as the opposite.
There has also been no defense of the Republican nominee from his running mate. After a string of tornadoes in his home state, Gov. Mike Pence returned to Indiana. His tweets over the past day have dealt with the state's recovery. His campaign Twitter account, which could easily have tweeted a link to a statement defending Trump, didn't. He hasn't tweeted there since Wednesday.
Trump does have statements on his website offering a defense. Three come from members of the "Republican Leadership Initiative," a party effort to teach the basics of political campaigns to those interested. So the party-connected individuals we can say with certainty have defended Trump are Alfred Liz, Patricia Bober and Oz Sultan.
This is not exactly a circling of the wagons.