Former Gov. Mike Huckabee began well enough when he joined Judge Jeanine Pirro for Fox News’ special broadcast Saturday night to discuss the violent incident at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
But then, the Arkansas Republican rushed to Donald Trump’s defense on the incident, becoming one of the few prominent officials to excuse the president’s failure to directly call out the white supremacists who gathered on Friday and Saturday.
“I don’t know what they expect the president to do,” Huckabee said of Trump’s critics. “At the time he made the comment, the driver of the car had not even been identified.”
Huckabee was appearing hours after a driver plowed a group of counter-protesters before fleeing the scene. It was widely viewed as an act of domestic terrorism and Huckabee didn’t hold back in his condemnation of the act.
“I have got a special repulsion to white supremacists and it’s part because I’m white, it’s part because I have seen this evil and hateful attitude that elevates some people above others,” said Huckabee, the father of Trump’s White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“I don’t know of anyone who is doing anything other than condemning the violence and condemning the very spirit of white supremacy,” Huckabee added.
In fact, by the time Huckabee spoke, Trump had still not explicitly admonished white supremacists for Saturday’s incident, choosing instead to condemn “many sides” for the violence. The president still hasn’t revised his initial statement and even Pirro, who defends the president with so few reservations that The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah once compared her to North Korean propaganda, had to acknowledge that Trump was taking heat from Democrats and Republicans alike.
“What do you say to people who say the president wasn’t specific enough, he wasn’t hard enough?” Pirro asked Huckabee. “Are these Trump haters who just will look for any reason to dump on the president?”
Huckabee responded with a touch of incredulity.
“[W]hat is he supposed to say?” he said. “Is he supposed to do what Barack Obama used to do and jump to a conclusion, and make a decision about something, like he did in Ferguson, Missouri, which turned out to be totally untrue? The president has to be careful.”
Huckabee said that Trump “condemned” the fact that a “coward” had driven into a crowd of people. “What else is he supposed to do at that point?”
Trump has not always been “careful” in jumping to conclusions in the immediate aftermath of apparent terror attacks. He called a violent incident that occurred in the Philippines a “terrorist attack” even though officials there later deemed it a robbery. He similarly rushed to decry terrorism after attacks in London and Paris. If anything, Saturday was an aberration. Rarely, if ever, has Trump been this “careful” after violence occurs that he assumes has been committed by Muslim extremists.
And while Huckabee accused President Obama of rushing to judgement after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, the former president was actually criticized for waiting too long to address the situation there, something he acknowledged in an interview the following year.
“When Ferguson happened, there was a gap between how quickly we could pull together a police task force, recommendations. And so in that lag, it feels as if I haven’t spoken to the moment as effectively,” Obama said. “I suspect that if I were to do it over again, there might be something I could say that would’ve crystallized it more effectively.”