How far over the line was President Trump's attack on “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski on Thursday? Consider this:
While CNN and MSNBC, Brzezinski's employer, were airing live remarks by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a White House news media briefing, Fox News cut away to grill Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel about Trump's tweets.
McDaniel defended the president, arguing that his tweets were a natural response to the constant criticism he receives from Brzezinski and co-host Joe Scarborough.
“Today, the president acted like a human, and he pushed back,” she said.
Fox News anchor Julie Banderas wasn't buying the excuse.
“Listen,” she replied, “you don't need to stoop to the level, obviously. I don't care who you are. You don't stoop to the level of that. I mean that's like me scolding my 4-year-old for using a bad word and then me repeating it. That's just not how you run a country or you parent a 4-year-old. I mean I have to be honest, you know, if you see this negative commentary on a show, change the channel. Ignore it. I mean that's what I tell my kids: When somebody's mean to you, don't fight back. Just walk away.”
When McDaniel tried again to justify Trump's tweets by listing some of the insults directed at him, Banderas answered by lauding the grace of Barack Obama.
“People used to call President Obama stupid,” she said. “People used to call him a Muslim. People used to call him underqualified, a sellout to America, a hater of Israel. I mean they called him every name in the book, but you didn't see him lash out.”
This was the Thursday-afternoon programming on Fox News. Really.
For the White House, Banderas's remarks should serve as proof that Trump went too far. The president expects his provocative comments to be scrutinized by other news outlets, but he counts on Fox News to shade coverage in his favor and signal to his base that the rest of the media is overreacting.
If that is what he thought would happen this time, then his calculus was way off.