The Trump administration continues to dig in their heels on the false equivalency of blame for the white supremacist riots in Charlottesville, Virginia. But CNN's Jake Tapper was not having it.
“Nazis are bad people” should not be a difficult statement with which to agree.
And the idea that those opposing neo-Nazis have a moral high ground should not be a controversial one.
But apparently, this administration is struggling to accept either of those notions.
Donald Trump took his time issuing an actual statement — as opposed to a couple of nonsensical tweets — about the hate-driven violence unleashed by torch-wielding white supremacists against anti-racist protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia.
And when he did finally speak, it was a bizarre response which almost immediately declared his non-responsibility, then right away jumped to the mendacious claim that the bigotry and violence was coming from “many sides,” before eventually going off on a wholly inappropriate tangent about the economy.
Afterward, Trump went largely AWOL to return to his golfing vacation.
But the “both sides!” lie is still present, as evident in Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert’s appearance Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
Bossert declared that he was “proud of the fact that [Trump] stood up and calmly looked into the camera and condemned this violence and bigotry in all its forms.”
Host Jake Tapper responded by pointing out that, as neo-Nazi websites celebrated Trump’s vague response, “he was not clear enough in specifically condemning white supremacy.”
Bossert tried to deflect that troubling point, instead going on to recount Trump’s half-hearted call for “true affection” and love among all Americans. And when Tapper asked about the rebukes from fellow Republicans, Bossert again largely ignored the question.
He then, in typical Trump administration fashion, went into talking point mode, taking up Trump’s “both sides” line from Saturday.
But Tapper had zero patience for such mendacity, asking sharply, “How many people did the counter-protestors kill yesterday, Mr. Bossert?”
And when Bossert grew irritated with Tapper’s condemnation of him and of Trump, Tapper did not back down.
“Neo-Nazis, Klan, alt-right, and others went to Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting anti-Semitic, anti-African American, and other racist slogans,” Tapper stated vehemently, adding, “One person was killed by one of these alt-right, Klan, Nazi protesters and you just decried both sides of this.”
BOSSERT: We had protestors and counter-protestors that showed up yesterday. This is the very challenge that confronted the mayor and his police officials and fire officials and the national guard officials that were called out in advance. These were people who showed up intentionally looking for trouble. These weren’t people that showed up to protest a statue. I’m sure there were good people in the group that had various opinions on the removal or maintenance of the statue. But what they found when they showed up were groups from outside that showed up on both sides looking for trouble, dressed in riot gear, prepared for violence. It’s not tolerated. It’s not tolerable. I think what you saw is Republican unity in terms of denouncing it, and I think you saw the president stand up very clearly and not only denounce it, but rise to a presidential level of calling for a countermessage of love and dignity and respect for fellow human beings.
TAPPER: How many people did the counter-protestors kill yesterday, Mr. Bossert?
BOSSERT: Well, I tell you, one death is too many, Jake.
TAPPER: But that wasn’t by the counter-protestors. She was — the victim was a counter-protestor.
BOSSERT: Hold on one moment, Jake. I don’t for one minute, I don’t for one moment, and I won’t allow you for one second, to put me in a position of being an apologist for somebody who is now a charged murderer. This individual should face swift justice. The president of the United States shares that view. I know he does. I share that view deeply. And I don’t want to be put in a position, and I won’t allow you to put me or him in a position, of not finding that justice as swiftly as possible.
TAPPER: You just decried both sides. You just decried both sides. Here we have a situation, Mr. Bossert, where neo-nazis, Klan, alt-right, and others went to Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting anti-Semitic, anti-African American, and other racist slogans, provoking the people of Charlottesville, Virginia, making them feel intimidated. Yes, violence did break out. One person was killed by one of these alt-right, Klan, Nazi protestors. And you just decried both sides of this, and this is the issue.
Bossert went on to fallaciously insist he had done no such thing, as though he hadn’t been listening to his own words for the previous ten minutes.
And he then declared that all of the “groups that clashed yesterday” showed up in Charlottesville “looking for violence.”
The “both sides” view is problematic in so many of its iterations.
But never is it as repugnant and antithetical to common sense and common decency than when it is used to downplay hate-driven, fatal violence, and to actually attempt to equate swastika-bearing, torch-wielding Nazis with the people standing up to them and their toxic ideology.
If the Trump administration continues to cling to this despicable talking point, they will further prove just how little they care about anyone outside of their base. But they will also further damn themselves with tanking polling numbers, as the rest of the country denounces all for which the current White House stands.