Right-wing media figures immediately jumped to President Donald Trump’s defence on Monday after critics described his condemnation of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia on Monday as too little, too late.
Trump initially refused to denounce white nationalists and neo-Nazis by name at a protest in Charlottesville this weekend, instead condemning the “many sides” he said contributed to the violence.
Breitbart News focused its criticism on reporters and media outlets, publishing a piece Monday afternoon titled “Mainstream Media Complain: Trump’s Condemnation of Charlottesville Racist Groups Not Good Enough.”
“Trump’s condemnation did not satisfy the mainstream media, some of whom rushed to criticise Trump for not delivering that explicit condemnation as quickly or as passionately as they believe he ought to have done,” wrote Joel B. Pollack, who opined on Sunday in a separate column that the media criticism of Trump’s initial statement “is further proof that the media have abandoned their own supposed principles in the service of a political agenda.”
A number of prominent right-wing pundits on Twitter also blamed what they saw as hypocrisy from the left and some reporters.
Reacting immediately to the speech, Fox News host Harris Faulkner blasted anyone who would criticise Trump’s statement.
“I would say this about the president’s critics as a whole: If nothing will quiet them, than they don’t have America in their sights,” Faulkner said. “They don’t care about us. They don’t care about Americans. And shame on them. They need to step aside and let justice be done. Because if there is going to be justice, it’s going to take all of us together.”
“This is what the American people get frustrated with,” Fox News reporter Abby Huntsman added moments later. “When you hear a statement like that, and you’re watching it in your home, and you’re trying to digest the hate that happened, wondering how this is still possible in 2017, that this speech will still be criticised, that it will be politicized, that we will debate this for who knows how long after.”
While Trump was condemned by Republicans and Democrats alike for his failure to initially explicitly condemn the white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville, following his initial statement on Saturday, some of his strongest media supporters defended him by criticising the media coverage of the event.
Though much of the airtime on Fox News on Saturday was blanketed by straight-news coverage, on Sunday, several Fox News hosts and analysts applauded Trump for calling out “all sides” who protested in Charlottesville, though he made no rhetorical distinction between white supremacists and counter-protesters.
On Sunday, “Fox & Friends” weekend host Pete Hegseth said Trump “nailed it” by calling out both sides, saying that “there’s always a grievance underneath that’s worth talking about.”
“He said, ‘We are all Americans first,'” Hegseth said.
“And if we see ourselves through that lens, then it unites us as opposed to dividing us, which, frankly, the left and others have done for so long by saying, ‘No, I see you as a gender or a race or a class,’ and the Balkanization creates division. We love our country. We love our god. We love our flag. And we are proud of our country. That to me is a unifying message that people should be drawn to as opposed to criticise.”
On “Fox & Friends” on Monday, conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza applied the argument from his new book “The Big Lie” to the situation, saying that the Democratic Party “invented white nationalism, and invested black nationalism,” though, as the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel pointed out earlier this month, D’Souza often offers a revisionist history of the party that ignores the arguments of modern Republican and Democratic political parties.
Other Fox anchors initially defended Trump’s statement.
On Sunday, host Jesse Waters declared James Alex Fields — who allegedly purposefully rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters — “a political terrorist and a bigot,” and called neo-Nazis “despicable people.”
But the host applauded the president for taking a “big picture perspective of hatred in America,” and compared white nationalists to Black Lives Matter protesters, a loosely organised movement that have protested racially-biased policing and law enforcement.
“The left is quickly taking advantage of a tragedy to smear the President of the United States as a racist responsible for death,” Watters said. “Black Lives Matter and Antifa have more connections to the Democratic Party than white supremacists have to the Republican Party. Left-wing radical groups have terrorised this country over the past several years, shooting police officers, rioting in the streets and assaulting innocent civilians. Has the Democratic Party leadership condemned left-wing violence? Not so much.”
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