As President Trump faces a tidal wave of bi-partisan criticism for not having directly called out and condemned white supremacy on Saturday, his favorite TV program, “Fox & Friends,” came to his defense on Sunday.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) pleaded with the president to use the words “white supremacists” and to label what happened Saturday as a terrorist attack, instead of vaguely calling out violence on “both sides.” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) declared that “white supremacy is a scourge” that “must be confronted and defeated.” Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) tweeted, “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer (D) directly blamed Trump for the explosion of hate in his city this weekend, accusing the president of intentionally courting white supremacists, nationalists and anti-Semitic groups during his 2016 campaign.
“This is not hard. There’s two words that need to be said over and over again: domestic terrorism and white supremacy,” Signer said. “That is exactly what we saw on display this weekend, and we just aren’t seeing leadership from the White House.”
“Fox & Friends” host Pete Hegseth, who was considered for a position in the Trump administration during the transition period, defended the president amid the national outcry over his vague statement on the white supremacist terror attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, praising Trump for calling out the “many sides” at neo-Nazi Charlottesville protests, saying he “nailed it.”
“I think the president nailed it,” Hegseth said of Trump’s statement on the attack. “He condemned in the strongest possible terms hatred and bigotry on all sides as opposed to immediately picking a side out the gate.”
Hegseth highlighted Trump’s “We are all Americans first” remark.
“You hear the slogan, ‘America first,’ but what does that mean if you are America first? It means you’re not a racial identity first. You’re not a class first. You’re not a gender first. You’re not a sexual orientation first. You’re not another country first. It’s not multiculturalism first. It’s America first,” he said.
Hegseth’s co-host, Abby Huntsman, noted that critics were appalled that Trump did not single out the white supremacist ideology that brought thousands of people to Charlottesville in the first place.
“You can call that out,” Hegseth said of the president’s critics, “but still also listen, say, on Black Lives Matter, to the grievances of young African-American males in urban cores who feel like they are looked at differently by police. That discussion still should be had. Just like young white men who feel like, ‘Hey, I’m treated differently in this country than I feel like I should have. I’ve become a second-class citizen. None of it — they tell me I have white privilege.’”
“None of that justifies racial preferences or violence at all,” he continued. “But there’s always a grievance underneath it that it’s worth talking about. And we should never live in such a politically correct culture that we can’t at least have a conversation. There’s a reason those people were out there. Some of it is outright racism and needs to be condemned. A lot of it, though, is, ‘I feel like my country is slipping away and just because I talk about nationalism — not white nationalism — doesn’t mean I’m talking in code that I’m a racist.’”
As Salon.com‘s Taylor Link notes:
Hegseth was generous, to say the least, in his characterization of the men who gathered around the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville Friday night. The men who descended on Charlottesville this weekend were not just nationalists. They were white nationalists who advocated for a country without Jews and black people. They sang songs that were popular during the height of Nazism. Hegseth will try to whitewash these facts, of course, because he will continue to defend the president, no matter the costs.
Watch the segment, courtesy of Media Matters, below: