Trump administration officials' claim that they were too busy to weigh in on racist comments Tuesday made by one of their most famous supporters stood in sharp contrast with how this White House has responded to other news developments regarding race.
President Trump did finally find time a full day into the controversy, tweeting Wednesday:
When Roseanne Barr, the former star of the hit ABC show “Roseanne” made headlines Tuesday for a string of racist, sexist and Islamophobic tweets that led to the cancellation of her show, the backlash was severe — even from conservatives.
The White House initially chose not to weigh in on the story.
“He’s focused on North Korea,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on board Air Force One on Tuesday. “He’s focused on trade deals. He’s focused on rebuilding our military, the economy, and that’s what he’s spending his time on, not responding to other things.”
After being pressed again, Sanders said, “Again, the president spent his day focused with things going on this morning.”
“That’s not what the president is looking at,” she continued. “That’s not what he’s spending his time on, and we have a lot of bigger things going on in the country right now.”
This was a surprising response from a White House that had been quick to wade into — or even create — major story lines about race in the past. And it proved too irresistible for Trump to stay on the sidelines long.
This is the same president who found time to call Barr to congratulate her on the success of her television show and tweet about it, though even there were concerns about someone with Barr’s history of making racist remarks being given such an influential platform.
This is the same White House that called for the firing of ESPN columnist Jemele Hill after she tweeted that Trump was a white supremacist following Trump’s seeming reluctance to criticize the white supremacists responsible for a violent rally in Charlottesville.
“I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN,” Sanders said at the time.
This is the same president who found time to praise hip-hop artist Kanye West, send him a signed “Make America Great Again” hat and incorporate him into his speech at the National Rifle Association convention after the rapper tweeted his support for the president.
This is the same White House whose leader took to Twitter to dismiss hip-hop artist Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s argument that the success of the economy for black people is meaningless if it doesn’t come with respect for black people in that society and in communities abroad.
This is the same White House whose boss took time during a campaign rally in Alabama to call NFL players “sons of bitches” worthy of being fired for protesting against racial injustice during the national anthem.
This is the same White House whose leader had time to tweet support for conservative activist and frequent Black Lives Matter critic Tomi Lahren after Fox News reported that she had water thrown on her forearm at a restaurant.
The Trump administration has proved that it doesn’t mind weighing in on racial matters when it is to attack political opponents or affirm those praising the president. But when it comes to racist comments and ideas from those supportive of the administration, there is no time — until, it seems, there is a Trump-centric angle.
On Wednesday, Trump entered the conversation not by condemning it, but by making it about himself.