Huckabee Sanders says different: What in the world did Donald Trump say about those neo-Nazis? About those white supremacists, the ones who chanted those anti-Semitic slogans?
What in the world did Donald Trump say? Last Friday night, on the PBS NewsHour, Mark Shields offered his account. For the tape and the transcript, click here.
Michael Gerson had already criticized the way House Democrats responded to remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar—remarks which many people had described as anti-Semitic.
Shields agreed, in part. "I'm not in any way defending or rationalizing what I think the congresswoman from Minnesota has said rashly," the genial, highly-paid journalist said. Soon after, he added this:
SHIELDS (3/8/19): The Democrats had to confront [Omar's remarks]. There's no question about it. But, I mean, we're talking about a president, Judy—let's be very blunt about it—who, when the white supremacists marched through the streets of Charlottesville with torches, saying, "Jews will not replace us," said there's good people on both sides.That was Shields' account of what Trump said. In Shields' account, when the white supremacists marched through the streets of Charlottesville with torches, saying, "Jews will not replace us," Trump said there were good people on both sides.
I mean, so this is— If you want to see anti-Semitism—
GERSON: And we should condemn him too. I'm for that.
"If you want to see anti-Semitism," there it was! So Shields rather plainly said.
At this point, it might be wise to establish a small bit of chronology. The ludicrous people who marched through the UVa campus emitting the ludicrous chant quoted by Shields did so on Friday evening, August 11, 2017.
The statement by Trump which Shields slightly misquoted was made four days later, on Tuesday, August 15.
Trump's remarks that day were made during a 23-minute presser by Trump in the lobby of Trump Tower. This constituted Trump's second live statement about the events in Charlottesville. Beyond that, the White House had already issued two other written statements in Trump's name.
"You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides," Trump said at one point during the August 15 presser. This statement has been quoted, or shown on tape, again and again in the past week, with reference to his typically demagogic claims about alleged anti-Semitism on the part of Democrats.
"You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides," Trump said on August 15. For people who want to be fair and even reasonable in their assessments of what Trump said, the question would be this:
Were the white supremacist neo-Nazis one of the two "sides" to which Trump referred in that statement? Was he saying that there were "very fine people" within that group?
That would be the obvious question. Is that what Trump said and meant?
To Shields, the answer rather plainly seemed to be yes, and Gerson rushed to agree. Then too, we had Jim Acosta and April Ryan, carrying the banner of CNN in Monday's "quarterly briefing" by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
In yesterday's report, we showed you the bulk of that exchange. We'll post the basic transcript again, this time including Sanders' response to Ryan:
ACOSTA (3/11/19): The president, after Charlottesville, saying that there are "very fine people on both sides" in Charlottesville, essentially suggesting that there are very fine people in the Nazis.Acosta and Ryan each quoted from Trump's August 15 presser, in which he made the statement about "very fine people on both sides."
HUCKABEE SANDERS: That's not at all what the president was stating, not—not then, not at any point. The president has been incredibly clear and consistently and repeatedly condemned hatred, bigotry, racism in all of its forms, whether it's in America or anyone else, and to say otherwise is simply untrue. April?
RYAN: ...That's kind of along what I was asking. Since the president did say that in Charlottesville, some "very fine people on both sides," has he, in your opinion, or has he or us [sic], cause I don't remember it, condemned the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville for their actions against the Jewish Americans there?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president has condemned neo-Nazis and called them by name, which is what we are asking Democrats to do when they see this same type of hatred.
According to Acosta, Trump was "essentially suggesting that there are very fine people in the Nazis" when he made that widely-cited remark.
"That's not at all what the president was stating," Huckabee Sanders said.
Ryan, who only works from memory, eschewing the use of transcripts or tape, then asked Huckabee Sanders if Trump has ever "condemned the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville" for their conduct there.
According to Huckabee Sanders, yes he has! "The president has condemned neo-Nazis and called them by name," she said.
Ryan, who only works from memory, has no recollection of any such statement. But is it possible that Huckabee Sanders' statement could be right?
Tomorrow, we'll start assessing that question. That said, we want you to remember what we are, and what we aren't, trying to do this week.
We aren't trying to evaluate President Donald J. Trump. We aren't trying to decide if his remarks about Charlottesville were as perfect as our remarks were. We aren't even trying to say if his remarks were adequate.
We won't be evaluating Donald J. Trump in what follows. Instead, we'll be evaluating the nation's upper-end journalists, as we've done for twenty years at his site.
We'll be evaluating the statements made by Shields and Acosta and Ryan. Also, by Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett, whose accounts of What Trump Said we reviewed in yesterday's report.
We'll also evaluate the NewsHour's Nick Schifrin, who spoke on last Thursday night's program. Hosting a segment about this recent firestorm, Schifrrin said this about that:
SCHIFRIN (3/7/19): Jeremy Ben-Ami, I want to bring up President Trump. You mentioned him before.Rather plainly, Schifrin seemed to say that Trump was referring to white supremacists when he made his remark about "fine people on both sides." Is that a fair and reasonable assessment of what Trump said and meant?
In Charlottesville, when white supremacists chanted "Death to Jews" there, the president said there were "fine people on both sides," and more recently suggested activist George Soros, who's Jewish, might have funded the campaign—or the caravan, rather—coming up from Mexico.
Is that accelerating anti-Semitism?
Did Donald Trump say there were very fine people among the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville? Did he say there were very fine people among the Nazis and/or neo-Nazis there?
In the course of the past week, the airwaves have spilled with well-known journalists saying that that's what Donald Trump said. In fairness, though, we've seen these people engage in group misquotation before.
We've seen such tribal behavior before. Has this familiar type of group misstatement occurred again this time?
Tomorrow: One brave pol was willing to denounce neo-Nazis by name!