A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
The fact that it was not surprising did not make it any less disturbing. After President Trump assailed Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar at a North Carolina rally Wednesday night, his crowd of supporters broke into a chant, shouting in unison, “SEND HER BACK!” Then, as Kaitlan Collins reported on-air, Trump “paused a moment to let that chant grow some momentum.”
The reactions were swift. Former Obama speechwriter and “Pod Save America” host Jon Favreau called it “one of the most chilling and horrifying things I’ve ever seen in politics.” And former Jeb Bush aide Tim Miller tweeted, “I’d say to my friends in DC going along with Trump. Imagine how this video of the President leading a white mob in a ‘Send Her Back’ chant targeting a black refugee is going to look in your kids’ high school government/history classes.”
At the end of his program, Chris Cuomo summed things up succinctly: “Trump says he wants to ‘make America great again.’ But what he means is ‘make America hate again.'”
It wasn’t just the mention of Omar that drew scorn from the crowd on Wednesday night. The mention of the other four Democratic congresswomen drew jeers from Trump’s supporters. According to WSJ, the mention of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib “drew a deafening round of boos and shouts of ‘traitor’ and ‘treason’ from the crowd.”
Omar quotes Maya Angelou
Responding to the chant that broke out at Trump’s rally, Omar quoted Maya Angelou, tweeting, “You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.” Omar later added on Twitter, “I am where I belong, at the people’s house and you’re just gonna have to deal!”
>> Related: On Wednesday morning, “The Squad” appeared on “CBS This Morning” for an interview with Gayle King, reacting to Trump’s attacks and denouncing them as a “distraction.”
Maddow: Trump’s racist outburst could be “new normal” until election day
Opening her show on Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow told her audience, “It has been another ‘can you believe it?’ day in news.” After filling in viewers on the chant that broke out at Trump’s rally, Maddow offered an unsettling thought: It’s “possible this is the new normal for the next year and a half.” She suggested Trump’s re-election strategy might just be to “stoke the outrage any way” he can, in an effort to galvanize his base.
Over on Fox..
While hosts and guests on other networks expressed shock at what happened, things were of course different on Fox. I tuned into Laura Ingraham’s program, and heard her excitedly exclaim, “The president was on fire!” And earlier in the evening, Tucker Carlson hosted a guest who bizarrely claimed the term “people of color” is a “racist term.” Truly an alternative news universe…
Snapshot of America
Perhaps one of the better snapshots of our dystopian state of current affairs comes via the Merriam-Webster. On Wednesday night, the dictionary tweeted, “Tonight’s top searches, in order: racism, socialism, fascism, concentration camp, xenophobia, bigot.”
Coverage set to enter day five
Often, with the chaotic news cycle, it can be hard for stories — even the explosive ones — to stick. That has not been the case with the racist comments Trump has directed at the four minority congresswomen. On Thursday, coverage of the comments will enter day number five.
Trump “views his attacks on the four congresswomen of color as an unbridled political success,” CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins reported on Wednesday. Indeed, Trump told reporters he’s “not relishing the fight” but is “enjoying” it. He later even called the Daily Mail’s David Martosko to boast about it, insisting he was “winning the political fight” and “winning it by a lot.”
“When is Donald Trump going to stop embarrassing his friends, let alone the whole country?” That’s not a quote from a liberal MSNBC host reacting to this week’s racist comments from Trump. And it’s not from a Democratic presidential contender.
No, that is actually a direct quote from Rupert Murdoch four years ago Thursday. At the time, Trump had insulted John McCain on the campaign trail during the Republican primary race, claiming the Arizona senator was only a war hero because he had been captured as a prisoner of war. Murdoch didn’t stand for it, and turned to Twitter — which he no longer uses — to blast Trump.
Murdoch’s tweet is a good reminder of how much things have changed over the past four years. Back in 2015, before Trump cemented his takeover of the Republican Party, Murdoch and his news organizations were more willing to call Trump out when he crossed the line.
For instance, after Trump’s comments on McCain, Murdoch’s New York Post blasted Trump with a blistering front page cover the next day. “DON VOYAGE!” it read, calling Trump “toast” after leveling the insult at McCain. Bill O’Reilly, then the biggest star at Fox, grilled Trump over the comment, repeatedly pressing him to “admit” it “was a mistake.”
Compare that to how Murdoch’s outlets have covered Trump’s racist comments. Fox’s opinion stars have defended Trump’s comments, even at times laughing them off. It’s even possible Tucker Carlson’s commentary on Rep. Ilhan Omar led to Trump’s racist outburst.
And instead of the Post blasting Trump on the cover for the comments (the newspaper never did), Tuesday’s edition of the front page zeroed in on the “far left” congresswomen.
>> It’s a small case study, but underscores quite a difference in how Murdoch’s media organizations handled Trump’s McCain comments back in 2015 vs his racist comments in 2019…
In any other news cycle…
Impeachment was a big story on Wednesday, but it was only one of many big stories — which is a bit nuts. To be clear, Trump was not impeached, but a Texas Democrat was able to force a House vote on whether to take up impeachment articles against him. A little more than 40% of the Democratic caucus (95 Democratic representatives) voted to move it forward.
That’s big news. In any other presidency, it’s hard to imagine it not being the clear dominant story. And while it was covered Wednesday, it felt like the vote just came and went, as if it was just a normal course of business. It’s yet another example of how numb we have become to the bonkers news cycle in which we find ourselves living.
— Disney’s live-action remake of “Lion King” hits theaters for Thursday evening showings…
— CNN will hold a live drawing on “AC360” that will decide the lineup of the next Democratic presidential debates…
— Jonathan Swan is in conversation with Tim Alberta at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC. They will talk about the transformation of the Republican Party…
— Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman will hold a party for their bestselling book”The Hill to Die On” at PayPal’s offices in New York City…