IN SEARCH OF WHAT TRUMP ACTUALLY SAID: A storm of critical paraphrase!


Assessing what journalists said:
Last week, Rep. Ilhan touched off a firestorm with her remarks about—well, with her remarks about whatever her remarks were about.

We won't be discussing Rep. Omar's remarks this week. We'll be discussing one part of the mainstream press corps's reaction to the ensuing storm.

As part of that ensuing storm, Donald J. Trump began to declaim about the alleged anti-Semitism of Those People, the ones in the Democratic Party, the bad people found Over There.

This involved typical bullsh*t from Trump, and mainstream reaction was swift. Especially on CNN, cable hosts and cable pundits began assailing Donald J. Trump for his own alleged anti-Semitism.

Especially on CNN, hosts and pundits referred to some of Trump's remarks in the wake of the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. Trump had betrayed his true colors at that time, these hosts and pundits said. For one example, consider a presentation on Anderson Cooper's CNN show during last Friday's 9 PM hour.

Max Boot, an anti-Trump conservative, declared that Omar had engaged in "textbook anti-Semitism." He then criticized Democrats for "hesitating to call out one of their own."

You can assess that view as you wish. After Boot had had his say, Cooper proceeded to talk about Donald J. Trump:
BOOT (3/8/19, 9 PM hour): Well what Congresswoman Omar said, Anderson, is really, to my mind, textbook anti-Semitism, because she was saying that people who support Israel are pledging loyalty to a foreign country.


Unfortunately, Democrats are being just as tribalistic as Republicans and they're hesitating to call out one of their own.

COOPER: And in fact, giving President Trump an opportunity to turn the tables and be the voice calling out anti-Semitism, which is obviously—I don't know if "ironic" is even the right word, but obviously stands in stark contrast to what he said after Charlottesville about there being good people "on both sides," talking about neo-Nazis.

BOOT: Exactly, the Democrats are giving Donald Trump, of all people, an opportunity to posture as an enemy of bigotry. Which is ridiculous because, as you were pointing out, the Charlottesville marchers who were saying "Jews will not replace us," those are the people that Donald Trump was praising as "some very fine people."
It couldn't be starker than that! According to Boot, Trump had explicitly said that there were "some very fine people" among the Charlottesville marchers who have been widely seen on videotape chanting, "Jews will not replace us."

Meanwhile, according to Cooper, Trump was explicitly talking about "neo-Nazis" when he made his widely-quoted statement about there being good people "on both sides."

It couldn't be much more explicit than that! Trump had said there were "some very fine people" among the pitiful, crackpot neo-Nazis who staged a pitiful, crackpot march through the campus of UVa, chanting their crackpot slogan.

This march was held on the evening of Friday, August 11. The marchers have been widely seen on videotape chanting their pitiful crackpot slogan. According to Cooper and Boot, Donald J. Trump had then gone out and said there were fine people among them.

It couldn't be much starker than that—but did Donald J. Trump really say that? Did he really say that there were "very fine people" among the people who marched through the UVa campus chanting that idiot slogan?

We'll be trying to answer that question all week. That said, the claim was widely voiced last week, on CNN and PBS though not, it would seem, on MSNBC.

Indeed, Cooper had advanced a version of the claim at the start of last Friday's 8 PM hour, one hour before his session with Boot. On this occasion, Cooper had actually played the videotape of the slogan-chanting marchers, then moved to his stark assessment of what Trump had said:
COOPER (3/8/19, 8 PM hour): There's plenty to criticize about the Democrats' response to one of their own member's comments, and we're going to get into that shortly. But, Keeping Them Honest, it is more than a little rich to see the president criticize anyone for not condemning anti-Semitism when he had such a hard time condemning this:

CHARLOTTESVILLE MARCHERS (videotape): Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not—

COOPER: White nationalists and neo-Nazis, in public, marching in Charlottesville, chanting that and other Nazi-era slogans, "Jews will not replace us," at a weekend of protests that ended with a white supremacist ramming his car to a crowd of counter-protesters and killing a young woman.

TRUMP (videotape) You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group, excuse me. Excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did.

COOPER: "Very fine people on both sides." Which could mean he needs glasses. That's one possibility. The other is, maybe anti-Semitism doesn't really move the needle for him unless he's attacking political points.
To watch this segment, click here.

Cooper seemed to say, rather directly, that Trump had said that there were "very fine people" among those neo-Nazi anti-Semites. He played the tape of the neo-Nazi march and said Trump had spoken well of some of them.

Did Trump really say that there were fine people among those crackpot marchers? CNN's Erin Burnett had said the same thing the night before, even more explicitly. She too played the videotape of the slogan-chanting marchers:
BURNETT (3/7/19): President Trump slamming House Democrats for not officially condemning Congresswoman Ilhan Omar over her criticism of Israel that has been widely condemned as anti-Semitic...

OK, now, there is a point, but there is also this point. That comment is coming from a person who said there were good people in this group.

CHARLOTTESVILLE MARCHERS (videotape): Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!

BURNETT: So presumably some of those are good people. Joining me now are Alice Stewart, Van Jones, and Max Boot, author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."

Perhaps that was among the reasons, Max.

BOOT: That was a big one.

BURNETT: Right, I know, Charlottesville. Van, look, (INAUDIBLE) is not always the best way to look at the world. However, we just saw what was said there. The president said there were good people on both sides.
According to Burnett, Trump had explicitly said that there were good people among the blatantly anti-Semitic (and idiotic) marchers.

Variants of this claim were all over CNN by the end of last week. And sure enough! By yesterday afternoon, a variant of the claim was presented to Sarah Huckabee Sanders—presented by a journalist who, as our "journalists" may tend to do, was relying on memory alone:
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.

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, cause I don't remember it, condemned the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville for their actions against the Jewish Americans there?
To watch the full presser, click here. This exchange comes near the end, at the 29-minute mark.

CNN reporter Jim Acosta said that Trump "essentially suggested," by his remarks, that there are very fine people "in the Nazis." Working from memory rather than transcripts, CNN contributor April Ryan then said much the same thing. She left it to others to check the transcripts to see what Trump had said.

Tomorrow, we'll start by noting what Sanders said in reply to Ryan. And all week long, we'll examine the question of what Donald J. Trump really said.

Before closing for the day, let's get clear on what we won't be doing this week:
We won't be judging the adequacy of Donald J. Trump's remarks in the wake of Charlottesville. Believe it or not, we won't be assessing Donald J. Trump at all! (Nor will we be guessing at the possible length of Manafort's upcoming sentence.)

Instead, we'll be assessing the performances of Cooper and Burnett, and of Acosta and Ryan, not to mention Mark Shields' performance on last Friday's NewsHour. In short, we'll be assessing the journalists, as we've done at this site for the past twenty years.

We'll be asking if our journalists have been making accurate statements about what Donald Trump said. As we do, we'll ponder this related anthropological point:

In the end, especially at times which are fraught, how rational are we "rational animals," including those found Over Here?

Tomorrow: As stated by Mark Shields


  1. Yeah, Bob, that was one of the best works of your goebbelsian liberal mass-media, obviously.

    But this is just one episode.

    The anti-Trump, anti-working-people goebbelsian smear campaign is being played non-stop, day-in and day-out, for the rest 2+ years.

    And trust me, Bob, all this is perfectly rational. Globalist ruling class is trying to reverse the result of the 2016 election, and restore its control over the country, and over the west in general.

    1. Ha ha ha.
      Captain Shit-for-brains, here, is trying to gaslight us into believing the Establishment Elite pumping more toxins into our land, air, and water to make more profits is pro-working people.
      In Mao's defense, he's so turned on by Republican bigotry, his trolling is suffering.

    2. Not happening. I can't stand Trump and can't wait to vote for him again.

    3. That's true. 2020 is over. Trump will steamroll whoever easily. Dems need to think about 2024 - and how idiotic that are to lose elections to people like Donald Trump. My god. Just think about that. They can't beat even beat Donald Trump!!! That's how out of touch and irrelevant they have become. Thanks Obama.

    4. 5:56,
      As someone who isn't paid by corporate America to pretend Trump voters aren't turned on by his bigotry, I concur about Trump's re-election.

  2. If Trump hadn't been retweeting White Supremacists and calling himself a "Nationalist" and using the "America First" slogan and saying racist things at his own rallies, someone might believe he was actually referring to other good people when he made his statement about Charlottesville. But he has done all of those things.

    Somerby's point is not believable. This isn't a matter of Trump being maligned by fake news. Trump is a bigot and he never misses an opportunity to show love to his Pepe loving followers.

    1. Who could argue with that logic?

    2. Not you, 11:50, apparently.

  3. Is Somerby actually going to try to pretend that Charlottesville was not a "unite the right" march, but was in support of Southern statues? Is he then going to suggest that Trump was saying that the good people were the ones who were trying to maintain the historical heritage of the South, and not the ones chanting about Jews? The Trolls have been suggesting that for months. It makes no sense whatsoever that in the face of clamoring for a presidential statement condemning the violence in Charlottesville, Trump would talk about statue-loving Southerners instead of coming out and making a clear statement against the right-wing violence against protesters. The context wasn't about statues, it was about haters who drive a car into a crowd. When Trump issues a statement of support by talking about good people on both sides, he encourages violence on the right. Unite the right wasn't about statues. It wasn't about the good old South. It was about taking back the country and uniting with forces of the alt-right who were mobilizes in Europe as well as the USA.

    Somerby will not be able to pull this one off because the facts are too obvious. That was true at the time Trump made his ugly statement and people still remember. Somerby needs to stop this shit and fold up this blog. Trump doesn't need another Russia-funded apologist trying to dilute opinion on the left.

  4. Trump's exceptional support for Jews is glaringly obvious. Welcoming a Jewish son-in-law. (My father-in-law did the opposite.) Welcoming his daughter's conversion and his Jewish grandchildren. Putting his Jewish daughter and son-in-law in high administrative White House positions. Exceptional support for Israel, e.g.
    -- recognizing Jerusalem as its capitol
    -- UN actions and statements
    -- faulting Palestinians for not seeking peace

    1. Trump put his daughter and son-in-law in high administrative positions because they promised to use private servers for government work. Their Jewishness is beside the point.

    2. An interesting theory, but they don't vote.

    3. Those who believe in a woman's right to choose (as opposed to big government Conservatives), also vote for Democratic party politicians.

      The cop killers are members of the NRA, fighting the tyranny of the government. They vote for Republicans.

    4. I find hard to believe that anyone could be so zombified as to vote based on this fake federal "right" to abortion on demand.

      Y'know, especially these days, when all kinds of contraceptives are readily available, that would be sick, really.

    5. That's nothing, Mao.
      In a nation where adults have consenting sexual relations on a daily basis, Republicans voted for a self-admitted sexual predator for President. Now, that's sick.

    6. Normal people, even your fellow Puritans, dembot, don't confuse politics with sanctimony.

  5. “we'll be assessing the journalists, as we've done at this site for the past twenty years.”

    That is indeed how TDH started. If you look way back to the beginning, TDH found time then to occasionally critique the journalists from Fox News, since they are arguably part of the mainstream media. Now, not so much. But that’s ok. His choice.

    But he has also spent a lot of time over the past twenty years attacking liberals, and not just liberal (or pseudoliberal) journalists.*

    It would be useful for a supposedly progressive media critic to look now and then at the way progressives or Democrats are treated by the right wing press, and dissect the narratives they create to try to undermine people like AOC, Pelosi, or even Rep. Omar, to name a few. But Somerby continues to focus almost exclusively on the way Trump is discussed by the non-right-wing press. Again, his choice.

    Perhaps this is the pivot that Somerby has been hinting at for some time, going back to his original purpose. That would be a welcome change from his liberal-bashing and his musings about Harari vs Aristotle or his attempts to portray Gödel or Bertrand Russell as out-of-touch elitists or crackpots.

    *These are the kinds of statements I am talking about:
    “white liberals don’t care about black kids.”
    That was back in 2011 (“A BASIC LACK OF SKILL: Rachel and Lawrence hate black kids!

    FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2011”


    If you read this post, you will see he is not just talking about “career liberals” (whatever that means, “Rachel and Lawrence” presumably). Kevin Drum had done a post about education, and Somerby noticed Drum’s post got a “predictably small number of comments”, and one of the comments was “cynical and uninformed”, and hence, by Somerbian logic, “white liberals don’t care about black kids.” This is not about *the journalists*, no matter how you try to twist it.

  6. Bugt what was the Charlottesville march about? It was very explicitly to protest the removal of statues honoring racist traitors who made war against the United States in the name of Slavery. That doesn't mean every participant was a Nazi or "neo." Many were perhaps deluded fools. But "fine people?" No Way.

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