CNN anchor Jake Tapper ended a combative Sunday interview with Trump campaign senior adviser Lara Trump by pressing the presidential daughter-in-law for openly mocking Joe Biden’s well-known stutter, prompting a tense exchange over the Democratic nominee’s mental fitness for office.
At the top of CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning, Tapper noted that he had attempted to book members of the White House coronavirus task force, senior White House officials, or the heads of the CDC and FDA to discuss the administration’s middling efforts to combat the pandemic.
But the White House declined all requests, so a resigned Tapper then welcomed on Trump.
The veteran anchor immediately kicked off his interview by bringing up the president’s Saturday Michigan rally, which featured attendees chanting “Lock her up!” at Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. This despite Whitmer having been the target of an alleged violent kidnapping plot by far-right extremists.
“I guess they said she was threatened,” the president dismissively said of a Democrat he has often singled out for special enmity. He also appeared to agree with the chant, nonchalantly adding: “Lock them all up.”
Tapper went in early and often.
“Don’t you think the president should tone it down when talking about people who have literally had threats against their lives in this very, very heightened time?” Tapper wondered aloud, pointing out Whitmer’s team has said violent rhetoric towards the governor escalates every time Trump does this. Whitmer also tweeted to the same effect right after Trump made his remarks Saturday.
But Lara Trump deflected by saying she also receives threats on social media, prompting Tapper to say “I condemn it right now” and he would tell any Democratic politicians to tone it down if they were adding fuel to the fire. He then pressed her again on whether her father-in-law should turn the temperature down.
“He wasn’t doing anything, I don’t think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all,” Trump replied. “He was having fun at a Trump rally. And quite frankly, there are bigger issues than this right now for everyday Americans.”
“So I think people are frustrated and, look, the president was at a rally,” she continued. “It’s a fun, light atmosphere. Of course he wasn’t encouraging people to threaten this woman.”
Tapper quickly shot back, “I don’t think ‘lock her up’ is fun.”
The two then engaged in a heated back-and-forth throughout the rest of the interview, with Trump repeatedly side-stepping Tapper’s pointed questions on issues such as Team Trump’s dismissive attitude towards mask-wearing and the president’s last negative coronavirus test. That prompted Tapper to grow increasingly frustrated with her evasiveness and reliance on Trumpian talking points.
Bringing up Biden’s stutter, Tapper first highlighted a moment from the Democratic National Convention in which 13-year-old Brayden Harrington recounted how Biden helped him with his own stutter, contrasting that with footage of Trump ridiculing the ex-veep for struggling to “get the words out.”
“How do you think it makes little kids with stutters feel when they see you make a comment like that?” Tapper followed up.
Trump, however, asserted that she never knew the former vice president had long suffered from a stutter—an excuse used by other Trump allies in the past—before repeating the right-wing smear that Biden is suffering from “cognitive decline” and that was what she was talking about.
“I think you were mocking his stutter and I think you have no standing to judge somebody’s cognitive decline,” Tapper shot back.
“I’d think the Trump family would be more sensitive to people who don’t have medical licenses and diagnosing politicians from afar,” he continued, as Trump tried to talk over him. “Plenty of people have diagnosed your father-in-law from afar. I’m sure it offends you. You don’t have any standing.”
Trump tried to claim she wasn’t diagnosing Biden, but instead feels it is “concerning to a lot of people” to watch Biden struggle on stage, causing the CNN anchor to finally call an end to the interview.
“I’m sure it was from a place of concern [for Biden],” he deadpanned. “We all believe that.”