President Trump, ever the media critic, remarked on Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Fox News town hall, calling it “so weird” and noting that anchor Bret Baier, who has been critical of Trump in the past, was “so smiley and nice” to Sanders.
Sanders (I-Vt.), a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, participated in a wide-ranging hour-long town hall Monday night hosted by Fox News and moderated by Baier and Martha MacCallum. The president apparently tuned in for it.
“So weird to watch Crazy Bernie on @FoxNews. Not surprisingly, @BretBaier and the ‘audience’ was so smiley and nice. Very strange, and now we have @donnabrazile?” Trump tweeted midmorning Tuesday.
Trump’s use of “we” got people thinking. Was it simply the royal “we”? Or was he counting himself among Fox News viewers, or referring to himself as part of Fox?
Baier, who sees himself as a straight news reporter in a network known for its right-leaning commentators, responded to Trump’s remarks.
“Thanks for watching Mr. President — we’d love to have you on a town hall soon — or even an interview on @SpecialReport — it’s been awhile. We cover all sides,” Baier tweeted.
Later Tuesday, Trump followed up with more tweets taking aim at Sanders and Fox News. In one, he accused the cable network of shutting out Trump supporters during the town hall.
Trump offered no evidence to back up the claim.
“Many Trump Fans & Signs were outside of the @FoxNews Studio last night in the now thriving (Thank you President Trump) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the interview with Crazy Bernie Sanders. Big complaints about not being let in-stuffed with Bernie supporters. What’s with @FoxNews?” he said in the tweet.
A Fox News Channel spokeswoman on Wednesday did not comment on Trump’s claim. She pointed to a report by the Allentown Morning Call stating that the cable network had “reached out to various political and local groups in the area and mined requests to attend after it publicly announced the event.”
Trump also mused Tuesday night that Sanders and his wife “should pay the Pre-Trump Taxes on their almost $600,000 in income.”
“He is always complaining about these big TAX CUTS, except when it benefits him. They made a fortune off of Trump, but so did everyone else — and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing!” Trump tweeted.
Sanders and his wife earned about $566,000 in 2018 and $1.15 million in 2017, according to tax returns released by the senator on Monday. Much of the couple’s income came from books that Sanders wrote in 2016 and 2018.
Trump has not released his own tax returns. He has repeatedly said he would release them after an audit is completed, although acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said recently that Trump would “never” turn them over.
Sanders has called for wealthier Americans to pay more in taxes, and in a statement Monday, he said he considers “paying more in taxes as my income rose to be both an obligation and an investment in our country.”
The president was not the only one voicing displeasure at Sanders’s town hall appearance. The criticism began with Fox News host Sean Hannity, who, borrowing Trump’s moniker for Sanders, said at the start of his show: “We saw Crazy Bernie on the air tonight. Whew. That was hard to watch. Bernie Sanders for two hours! Wow. Gee, let’s hear every communist idea we possibly can.”
Then on “Fox & Friends,” Trump’s favorite show, host Brian Kilmeade said Sanders’s town hall “got a little tiresome after an hour.”
One key moment during the town hall that may have irked conservatives, and may explain why Trump put “audience” in quotes, was when Baier asked attendees whether they would be willing to give up their private health insurance from work to transition to a government-run health system that resembled Sanders’s Medicare-for-all proposal.
Many in the audience cheered.
Trump predicted in another tweet Tuesday night that the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination would come down to Sanders and former vice president Joe Biden.
“I believe it will be Crazy Bernie Sanders vs. Sleepy Joe Biden as the two finalists to run against maybe the best Economy in the history of our Country (and MANY other great things)!” he said. “I look forward to facing whoever it may be. May God Rest Their Soul!”