CBS’s Brennan Touts SPLC in Hitting Spicer from Left on Attempts to Link Trump to Anti-Semitism

After President Donald Trump spent a long weekend at Mar-a-lago, Sean Spicer held his first White House press briefing of the week on Tuesday. There, he faced a slew of questioning about a string of nationwide anti-Semitic crimes, including the touting of the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to suggest Trump’s led to a rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. 

CBS White House correspondent Margaret Brennan began her questioning by explaining that she wanted “to give you a chance to respond to something cause I think the President's remarks and your clarification about where he stands on anti-Semitism is clear.”

Brennan referred to Trump’s denunciation of anti-Semitism to MSNBC’s Craig Melvin, but she moved the goalposts with a statement from the Anne Frank Center suggesting Trump hasn’t done enough to stop the “cancer” of “xenophobia” in his administration:

But after that statement was made by the President, the Anne Frank Center released a pretty strongly worded one saying “these remarks while well received are a band-aid on the cancer within the Trump administration,” saying that there is whether blessed or otherwise, “a sense of xenophobia” within this administration. How would you respond to that?

Spicer responded by arguing that “the President has made clear since the day he was elected and frankly going back through the campaign, that he is someone who seeks to unite this country.” 

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He also admitted that he found it particularly intriguing that the President’s critics suddenly weren’t satisfied:

But I did — did it's ironic that no matter how many he talks about this, that it's never good enough. Today, I think was an unbelievably forceful comment by the President as far as his denunciation of the actions that are currently targeting towards Jewish community centers. But I think that he has been very clear — previous to this that he wants to be someone that brings this country together and not divide people[.]

Brennan interjected by turning to none other than the SPLC, which is proudly promoted by the liberal media even though it’s labeled conservative organizations as hate groups. 

“Southern Poverty Law Center said that the number of anti-Muslim groups in the U.S. has tripled between 2015 and 2016 — during the time of the campaign. Is this message in this administration, anti-Semitism’s not allowed, xenophobia’s not allowed, anti-Muslim sentiment within the administration, has the President has been forceful about that particularly issue,” Brennan wondered.

Spicer fired back, stating in part: “I think the President, in terms of his desire to combat radical Islamic terrorism, he understands that people who want to possess a peaceful position have every right under our Constitution.”

Later, MSNBC host and NBC News White House correspondent Hallie Jackson came back to the topic, asking Spicer if Trump’s “comfortable with his obligation as the leader of this country to deliver that kind of broad and forceful message” against anti-Semitism:

You said, though, that he has taken opportunities in the past. Last week, though, right? He had the opportunities to deliver a message to the American people about anti-Semitism. You made very clear he was not anti-Semitic and he was, in fact, insulted by that. But, as far as a broader message to American people, he declined to offer one. Is the President comfortable with his obligation as the leader of this country to deliver that kind of broad and forceful message to Americans and if so, why didn't he do the forceful message sooner in the case of these attacks?

Here are the relevant portions of the transcript from February 21's White House Daily Briefing:

White House Daily Briefing
February 21, 2017
1:57 p.m. Eastern

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sean I want to give you a chance to respond to something cause I think the President's remarks and your clarification about where he stands on anti-Semitism is clear. But after that statement was made by the President, the Anne Frank Center released a pretty strongly worded one saying “these remarks while well received are a band-aid on the cancer within the Trump administration,” saying that there is whether blessed or otherwise, “a sense of xenophobia” within this administration. How would you respond to that?

SEAN SPICER: I think it's — look, the President has made clear since the day he was elected and frankly going back through the campaign, that he is someone who seeks to unite this country. He has brought a diverse group of folks into his administration, both in terms of actually positions and people he has sought advice of. And I think he has been very forceful with his denunciation of people who seek to attack people because of their hate, because — excuse me, because of their religion, because of their gender, because of the color of their skin. And there is something he is going to fight and make very, very clear that he has no place in this administration. But I did — did it's ironic that no matter how many he talks about this, that it's never good enough. Today, I think was an unbelievably forceful comment by the President as far as his denunciation of the actions that are currently targeting towards Jewish community centers. But I think that he has been very clear — previous to this that he wants to be someone that brings this country together and not divide people, especially in those areas, so I saw that statement. I wish that they had praised the President for his leadership in this area and I think that, hopefully, as time continues to go by, they recognize his commitment to civil rights, to voting rights, to equality for all Americans. 

BRENNAN: Sean, Sean. 

SPICER: Yeah. We are starting early with the two questions. 

BRENNAN: Sorry. Sean, Southern Poverty — I think you’ll want to respond to this. Southern Poverty Law Center said that the number of anti-Muslim groups in the U.S. has tripled between 2015 and 2016 — during the time of the campaign. Is this message in this administration, anti-Semitism’s not allowed, xenophobia’s not allowed, anti-Muslim sentiment within the administration, has the President has been forceful about that particularly issue? 

SPICER: I think the President, in terms of his desire to combat radical Islamic terrorism, he understands that people who want to possess a peaceful position have every right under our Constitution. But if you come here and want to express views that intend to do our people, our country harm, he is going to fight it aggressively, whether it's domestic acts that are going on here or attempts from people abroad to come into this country. So, there is a difference between preventing attacks and making sure that we keep this country safe so there is no loss of life and allowing people to express themselves in accordance with our First Amendment. Those are two very, very different, different, different things.
(....)

2:24 p.m. Eastern

HALLIE JACKSON: The second question is on the anti-Semitic — anti-Semitism comments that you referenced from the podium, the President made very clear. You said, though, that he has taken opportunities in the past. Last week, though, right? He had the opportunities to deliver a message to the American people about anti-Semitism. You made very clear he was not anti-Semitic and he was, in fact, insulted by that. But, as far as a broader message to American people, he declined to offer one. Is the President comfortable with his obligation as the leader of this country to deliver that kind of broad and forceful message to Americans and if so, why didn't he do the forceful message sooner in the case of these attacks? 

(....)

2:25 p.m. Eastern

JACKSON: I'm asking if he is comfortable with his role as the person who needs to be delivering a broader message to America. Not denouncing, which he did do today.

Censorship Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Judaism CBS NBC MSNBC Video Government & Press SPLC Southern Poverty Law Center Anne Frank Anti-Semitism Margaret Brennan Hallie Jackson Sean Spicer Donald Trump
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