If Sarah Huckabee Sanders thought she could get away with the same “this is a president who fights fire with fire” line that she gave Fox News during Thursday afternoon’s White House Press Briefing, she was sorely mistaken.
Filling in for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for the second time this week, Sanders spent most of the briefing struggling to defend President Donald Trump’s viciously personal tweets directed at Morning Joe co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.
“I think the American people elected somebody who's tough, who's smart, and who's a fighter, and that's Donald Trump,” Sanders said, painting him as the victim of “bullies” in the media who criticize his actions and policies on a daily basis.
Reiterating some of the language expressed on Morning Joe of late, she said, “Frankly, if this had happened in the previous administration, the type of attacks launched on this program, the things they say ‘utterly stupid,’ ‘personality disorder,’ ‘mentally ill,’ constant personal attacks, calling multiple members ‘’liars,’ liars to their faces, while they're sitting on their programs, the rest of the media would have said, guys, no way, hold on.”
Sanders would not admit that the tweets were “beneath the dignity of the office.” And she would not say that the president should be held to a “higher standard” than a pair of cable-news hosts.
When asked by CBS News’ Major Garrett if the tweets contribute to the type of divisive rhetoric that led to the shooting of Republican Rep. Steve Scalise and others, she said, “the president in no way, form, or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence,” despite plenty of evidence to the contrary during the 2016 campaign.
Hallie Jackson, who works with Brzezinski at NBC News, asked an increasingly exasperated Sanders whether she would tell her own children that Trump’s behavior is acceptable. “When it comes to role models, as a person of faith, I think we all have one perfect role model and when I'm asked that question, I point to God,” she said. “I point to my faith and that's where I would tell me kids to look. None of us are perfect and certainly there's only one that is and that's where I would point, that direction.”
Once again, the White House declined to give CNN a question, with White House correspondent Jim Acosta shouting, “No apology from the president, Sarah?” as she left the room.
The condemnations of both Trump and his spokesperson came fast and furious on cable news following the briefing. CNN’s Dana Bash said she knows Sanders from back when she was running her father Mike Huckabee’s campaign in Iowa in 2007. “She know politics but she also knows basic human decency,” Bash said. “She did what was obviously hard to imagine giving her truth serum and having the same kind of reaction come out of her mouth.”
“It was stunning,” S.E. Cupp added. “I also know Sarah, and she's lovely and I found her hypocrisy today to be really stunning. I mean, she talked about the president being a tough fighter, and then she frankly whined for 20 minutes about how often he gets attacked. I think that didn't make him look very tough.”
On MSNBC, Katy Tur seemed even more stunned by the display, especially Sanders’ comments about Trump not advocating violence. “I wonder if she knows when she says some of the things she says,” Tur said. “Donald Trump has never advocated violence? Donald Trump has advocated violence. I saw him do it a number of times on the campaign trail.”