It didn’t take long for President Donald Trump’s remarks about “shithole countries” to reverberate on cable news.
CNN reported the president’s words—essentially confirmed by the White House—unbleeped, offering a warning of sorts for viewers about the offensive language describing immigrants from Haiti and Africa. The Daily Beast’s own editor in chief, John Avlon, was the first the call the remark “straight-up racist” on The Lead with Jake Tapper, but many others echoed that sentiment in the following hours.
CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin and Jim Acosta, along with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and others, all called Trump’s comment “racist” Thursday afternoon. On MSNBC, that word was used by Republicans like host Nicolle Wallace and former Jeb Bush adviser Michael Steel along with Coons’ Democratic colleague Richard Blumenthal.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the whole “shithole countries” controversy played very differently on Fox News.
It started with a tweet from prime-time host Tucker Carlson, who let it be known where he stood by giving two options. “A: El Salvador isn’t a ‘shithole,’ so they don’t need 17 years of Temporary Protected Status, and migrants from there should be sent home immediately,” or “B: El Salvador is, in fact, a ‘shithole.’” In response, one commenter offered a third option: “You’re a racist.”
The attitude on Fox News’ The Five was similar. “I think it’s either fake news or if it’s true, this is how the forgotten men and women in America talk at the bar,” Jesse Watters said. “This is how Trump relates to people.”
“If you are in a bar in Wisconsin and you are thinking they are bringing in a bunch of Haiti people or El Salvadorians [sic] or people from Niger, this is how some people talk,” he continued. “Is it graceful? No. Is it polite or delicate? Absolutely not. Is it a little offensive? Of course it is. But you know what? This doesn’t move the needle at all. This is how Trump is. He doesn’t care. He shoots from the hip. And if he offends some people, fine.”
Juan Williams, the sole “liberal” on the show, suggested to Watters that if Trump said the same thing about white people, Watters would have a very different reaction. We know that would be true for Tucker Carlson.
“I wouldn’t say that,” co-host Greg Gutfeld added of Trump’s comment. “I don’t think he should say that.” But, he continued, “You’ve got to ask why can’t citizens stay in their country and fix their country? Why is it that they can’t do that? How do you describe a country where it’s impossible for you to fix it?” He then joked that he’s lived in apartments like that and called them “that word,” adding, “Everyone has lived in an ‘s-hole.’”
As of early evening, there was one Fox commentator who was willing to condemn the president’s comments outright, and paradoxically, it was the same one who got Trump in trouble earlier in the day with a Fox & Friends segment that prompted him to go against his own administration on the FISA Act.
“I’ve known him for 30 years. I know him well and like him and admire him, but this is a new low,” Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Special Report with Bret Baier. “The language, the racial implications are reprehensible and he deserves the criticism he’s going to get.”
But even after that denouncement, Napolitano couldn’t help but highlight the positive for Trump. “The flip side is a lot of his supporters will agree with that tone and elected him,” he added, “because he uses, from time to time, that tone, and they will cheer him on.”
Those supporters include his friends on Fox.