Towards the end of his interview with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) on Sunday morning, Fox News host Chris Wallace forced his guest to reckon with the series of incendiary tweets President Donald Trump posted over the weekend as anti-police violence protests raged across the country.
Paraphrasing his previous guest, Dr. Cornel West, the Fox News Sunday host said, “We have to talk not only about what is going on in the riots in the street, we have to talk about what is going on among people at the highest levels of our society.”
Wallace began with the tweet that Twitter hid from users for violating its policy against “glorifying violence.” Trump wrote, “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” adding, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” In another tweet thread on Saturday, Trump threatened White House protesters with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons.”
“Now obviously the Secret Service has to protect the president,” Wallace said. “You’re not as old as I am or Cornel West but have seen racial tensions in this country. When you hear about ‘the looting starts, the shooting starts,’ when you hear about ‘vicious’ police dogs, is that kind of talk from the president of the United States constructive at this moment?”
“Well, those are not constructive tweets, without any question,” Scott replied, understatedly. The senator revealed that he had a conversation with Trump about “next steps” on Saturday morning. He said he told the president, “It helps us when you focus on the death, the unjustified, in my opinion, the criminal death of George Floyd. Those tweets are very helpful.” It was unclear who he meant by “us.”
Scott said he urged Trump to promote “non-violent protest” and “lead with compassion,” adding, “The tweets that I saw yesterday were far better.”
Among the tweets sent by Trump since his conversation with Scott are one criticizing the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis and another saying the NYPD “must be allowed to do their job” after a police SUV rammed into a group of protesters in Brooklyn.
But beyond attempting to push Trump in a less violent direction, Wallace wanted to know if he was actually able to condemn him to his face. “Did you speak truth to power?” the host asked. “Did you say to him, when you talk about thugs, when you talk about looting and shooting, when you talk about vicious police dogs, what did you say about that?”
“We talked about how there is a constructive way to have a dialogue with a nation,” Scott said, comparing it to the conversation after Charlottesville. “The president will listen if you engage him with the facts of the issue and then you ask him to focus on making progress as one nation under God. And I think his tweets yesterday were far more responsive after the conversation.”