President Donald Trump’s “many-sided” response to the weekend’s white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia—including the lethal car-ramming of anti-Nazi protesters by a 20-year-old Adolf Hitler admirer—predictably prompted a paroxysm of rationalization by the folks at Fox & Friends.
On Monday morning’s show, regular cohost Steve Doocy, along with weekend hosts Abby Huntsman and Pete Hegseth (subbing for the vacationing Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade), twisted themselves and the facts into a tangled mess in order to the blame Democrats and the media for the widespread criticism being heaped upon Trump.
“There’s been a lot of outrage—Democrats, media,” Huntsman declared, and held up the front page of a New York newspaper sporting the headline “THE NAZI TRUMP WON’T CALL OUT.”
“I was looking at the Daily News this morning,” Huntsman said. “I knew right away, when he didn’t call it for what it was—a lot of people thought he should, many members of the Republican Party as well—I knew exactly the direction the media would take it, and the Democrats would take it. Because it fits right into the narrative many of them had the whole time he’s been president—that he supports these types of groups.”
“No matter what, they were gonna say that,” said Hegseth, who on Sunday’s installment of Fox & Friends had praised the president for not “immediately picking a side out [of] the gate,” and seemed to defend the white nationalists and neo-Nazis, some of them sporting swastika armbands, who had come to Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue commemorating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Justifying Trump on Monday, Hegseth claimed: “I think the president nailed it... First he condemns in the strongest possible terms hatred and bigotry. He salutes the police. He talks about our country and how we should rally around it. And then yesterday he came out—and the White House came out—with a very strongly and specifically worded statement.”
That, to put it charitably, was an eccentric take on the president’s Saturday statement, in which he ad-libbed equal culpability (“many sides, many sides”) on both the neo-Nazis and their opponents for the violence, in which 32-year-old counterdemonstrator Heather Heyer was killed when James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly rammed an anti-Nazi crowd with his Dodge Challenger, tossing bodies in the air, and then fled the scene.
Meanwhile, the Sunday statement Hegseth praised came from an insistently anonymous White House spokesperson, not from President Trump.
In a blithe defense of the alt-right and neo-Nazi protesters who had showed up to support white nationalism, Hegseth had said Sunday that “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.”
Meanwhile, in especially egregious instances of dishonest editing, the program first ran video of Vice President Mike Pence condemning white supremacists but excluded Pence’s trashing of the national media for “spend[ing] more time criticizing the president’s words than they did criticizing those that perpetrated the violence to begin with.”
Then, in a second instance of willful dishonesty, Fox & Friends played a clip of then-President Barack Obama speculating on the motives of a murderer who shot and killed five Dallas cops during a July 2016 Black Lives Matter protest—he noted that it’s “dangerous” to tar a whole movement with the evil act of a deranged individual—without mentioning that he called the shootings “a vicious, calculated, despicable attack on law enforcement.”
“He wasn’t actually entirely wrong, but the grace given to him of course is never given to President Trump,” Hegseth complained. And Huntsman drew an indefensible parallel from Obama’s cautionary statement to the appropriate blame-fixing in Charlottesville.
“Unfortunately, that happens all too often today, right?” she said. “You have one individual and that then turns into speaking for a political party, speaking for a much bigger group, for a president—that’s when it gets very complicated and problematic.”
Was Huntsman making the point that the white nationalists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were “a much bigger group” that shouldn’t be held in any way accountable for the homicidal act of one of their supporters? It sure sounded like it.