Never Satisfied: CNN Lambastes Trump for New Charlottesville Remarks

Seconds after President Trump’s Monday remarks finally calling out the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists by name, CNN hosts and panelists made clear that there was nothing Trump could have said that would have satisfied them, excoriating him for not going far enough and announcing “policy in terms of addressing this.”

Inside Politics aired during and immediately after the President’s statement and Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev got the first crack, slamming Trump for not doing “outreach to people not white or who might feel that they were on the victimized end of the message that the protesters were carrying.”

“I think that’s a criticism that will probably continue beyond today. He said a minimum of what he need to say but there were a lot of questions as he left the room you heard being shouted out,” Talev added.

CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju conceded that at least Trump didn’t use his now-infamous “many sides” line from Saturday and condemned the hate by name, but also had concerned:

The question, we talked about earlier, what does he do now? What does he do when he’s off script? What does he do when he’s asked directly about this? Does he get defensive? Does he spread out the blame? That's going to be the big question going forward. This is not the end of this test. Probably the beginning.

More along the lines of Talev in terms of outrage, The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser stated that he “seem[ed] defensive in starting with the economy” and added with a tone of disgust that “he was very clearly reading a statement that had been well crafted by his advisers, but it did strike me, same as Margaret.”

“Sort of the minimum what he needed to do. Inserting some of those phrases and things that you expected him to do earlier without the outreach to some groups that probably feel victimized at this point,” Viser concluded.

This fear and dread of how Trump would react to future events dominated the rest of the discussion prior to the 1:00 p.m. Eastern mark with a few exceptions. Host John King framed the debate not by his own opinions, but what other people were supposedly saying: “There will be a debate whether it was genuine, whether he was forced to do it, whether he means it. We’ll see that in the follow-through.” 

King unloaded moments later about Trump to White House correspondent Sara Murray:

I don't know there's an answer to this. But what is it about this President that he knew what the country was waiting for? He knew what politically he had to do. Why does he need the windup? Why does he need to walk in and brag about the economy before he gets to the point? Why can't he just walk in the room and, I’m just back in Washington, I just met with my Attorney General and the FBI director, let tell you about Charlottesville and then make the denunciation of these groups that he should have done Saturday. Why?

CNN’s Wolf took over at the top of the hour, featuring even more meltdowns. Political director David Chalian seemed in pain that Trump need to be “give[n]...credit for finally getting out there and making very strong remarks” before quickly dismissing them.

Chalian went onto behave as if Monday never even happened, hinting that Trump had ceded moral presidency authority:

[B]ut don't do it without asking the question what have we learned fundamentally about this President in this episode? About his initial instincts? Can you sort abdicate the moral authority of the presidency on Saturday and get it back on Monday with a makeup statement. I think that's the question that we should be asking. So, while, this may now check the boxes for some of his Republican critics in his own party, for others to say, yes, this is what we looked for here. I don't think it erases the question of, why was this not his initial instinct on Saturday? 

Chief political analyst Gloria Borger strongly agreed, also going as if Trump’s remarks never took place: “What is the test of leadership here? The test of leadership is having moral clarity, I believe, in the moment, when something like this occurs. Again, you have to say, yes, he gave the right statement days later.”

Perhaps most egregious was senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, who thought it would be pertinent to give the hateful neo-Nazi David Duke more media credibility and suggested that Trump’s remarks failed to go far enough:

I think, also, incumbent on this President, I think, in a way it hasn't been necessarily on others to really separate himself from white supremacists, right? If you listen to what white supremacists have said, David Duke, for instance, he has essentially has said he sees Donald Trump as a fellow traveler, as someone in word and deed articulates the kind of America that white supremacists want to see. So, I think it's incumbent upon this president to disavow them, essentially say that white supremacists and Nazis, and neo-Nazis don't speak for him or the kind of America he wants to create. The so-called idea of American being great, well neo-Nazis have no part of that America that Donald Trump says he wants to create. He didn't really do that. 

Henderson ended her first set of comments by demanding that the President do more besides simply, you know, allow the Department of Justice plus local and state law enforcement to do their jobs in the numerous investigations that have already been launched:

I think we also have seen from this President, when he see as threat, right? He sees a threat for instance in illegal immigrants voting and he set up a commission to look into that. When he talks about illegal immigrants creating — he set up a hot line. Right? To look into that. There isn't much policy at this point in terms of addressing this. The DOJ is certainly looking into it, but any kind of full-scale investigation into this, we haven't seen that.

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Borger was also triggered by the President briefly talking about the economy, which he had originally planned to dedicate his time to on Monday. She complained that it “struck in the wrong way” and that the economic focus could have been “a separate address” because “this is a moment for us to sit and reflect and maybe we're going to have a commission that's needed as Nia talks about.”

“Maybe we need more public conversation about this and as your President, let me talk to you about what I'm thinking about and what we are doing, and then at some other point perhaps later today talk about trade policy and et cetera, et cetera. I mean, I think honestly, this deserved, particularly since it was a very detailed statement, this deserved its own address from the President to the nation,” she suggested.

These meltdowns by CNN analysts and commentators include Hulu, Safelite Auto Glass, and Trivago.

Here’s the relevant portions of the transcript from CNN’s Inside Politics and CNN's Wolf on August 14:

CNN’s Inside Politics
August 14, 2017
12:45 p.m. Eastern

MARGARET TALEV: It was important to say some of those key lines that he said. I'll note one thing he didn't do was a lot of outreach to people not white or who might feel that they were on the victimized end of the message that the protesters were carrying. I think that’s a criticism that will probably continue beyond today. He said a minimum of what he need to say but there were a lot of questions as he left the room you heard being shouted out. 

MANU RAJU: And he didn’t, of course, saying on many sides, which was what got him in trouble Saturday. He did not place the blame on many sides, did very clearly said, the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, are repugnant, as he said, everything we hold dear as Americans. The question, we talked about earlier, what does he do now? What does he do when he’s off script? What does he do when he’s asked directly about this? Does he get defensive? Does he spread out the blame? That's going to be the big question going forward. This is not the end of this test. Probably the beginning.

MATT VISER: And he did seem defensive in starting with the economy. By the way, the economy's great, and then let me address this thing that I have to address, you know, because I didn't address it two days ago. You know, so, and he was very clearly reading a statement that had been well crafted by his advisers, but it did strike me, same as Margaret. Sort of the minimum what he needed to do. Inserting some of those phrases and things that you expected him to do earlier without the outreach to some groups that probably feel victimized at this point.

(....)

JOHN KING: There will be a debate whether it was genuine, whether he was forced to do it, whether he means it. We’ll see that in the follow-through. 

(....)

KING [TO SARA MURRAY]:  I don't know there's an answer to this. But what is it about this President that he knew what the country was waiting for? He knew what politically he had to do. Why does he need the windup? Why does he need to walk in and brag about the economy before he gets to the point? Why can't he just walk in the room and, I’m just back in Washington, I just met with my Attorney General and the FBI director, let tell you about Charlottesville and then make the denunciation of these groups that he should have done Saturday. Why?

(....)

CNN’s Wolf
August 14, 2017
1:08 p.m. Eastern

DAVID CHALIAN: Right. Well, to Gloria's point, as I said on Saturday, hoping to blur the lines. That is not what he said Saturday, that’s why he had to go give this statement today. I mean, here is the — that was a really, really strong statement against what happened three days after the fact. Imagine a reality, Wolf, if he'd given that statement Saturday, what all of us around the table would be saying about the President's remarks? The fact — so give him his credit for finally getting out there and making very strong remarks, but don't do it without asking the question what have we learned fundamentally about this President in this episode? About his initial instincts? Can you sort abdicate the moral authority of the presidency on Saturday and get it back on Monday with a makeup statement. I think that's the question that we should be asking. So, while, this may now check the boxes for some of his Republican critics in his own party, for others to say, yes, this is what we looked for here. I don't think it erases the question of, why was this not his initial instinct on Saturday? 

GLORIA BORGER: And it wasn't his instinct on Saturday. I mean, we have to look at Donald Trump and say what was his instinct on Saturday to do? His instinct to say, on both sides. 

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Right. 

BORGER: And now as they're trying to reboot, clean it up, whatever you want to call it, this was a strong statement. And so you have to ask yourself the question. What is the test of leadership here? The test of leadership is having moral clarity, I believe, in the moment, when something like this occurs. Again, you have to say, yes, he gave the right statement days later. 

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Right and what did it take to get him there? Right? I mean, these days and days of condemnation from Republicans, and real outrage at his both sides kind of framing on Saturday. I think, also, incumbent on this President, I think, in a way it hasn't been necessarily on others to really separate himself from white supremacists, right? If you listen to what white supremacists have said, David Duke, for instance, he has essentially has said he sees Donald Trump as a fellow traveler, as someone in word and deed articulates the kind of America that white supremacists want to see. So, I think it's incumbent upon this president to disavow them, essentially say that white supremacists and Nazis, and neo-Nazis don't speak for him or the kind of America he wants to create. The so-called idea of American being great, well neo-nNazis have no part of that America that Donald Trump says he wants to create. He didn't really do that. I think we also have seen from this President, when he see as threat, right? He sees a threat for instance in illegal immigrants voting and he set up a commission to look into that. When he talks about illegal immigrants creating — he set up a hot line. Right? To look into that. There isn't much policy at this point in terms of addressing this. The DOJ is certainly looking into it, but any kind of full-scale investigation into this, we haven't seen that.

(....)

WOLF BLITZER: You know, Gloria, he opened up his statement with a few sentences about how strong the U.S. economy is right and then made the transition to his meeting with the FBI director, the Attorney General, and went into a strong statement — a very strong statement condemning the Ku klux Klan, white supremacist and neo-Bazi groups. Some saying why did he need to open with rhetoric about the strong economy? 

BORGER: You know, what struck me in the wrong way as well. I must say. I think this is sort of a moment for the country and the President needs to recognize that, or should recognize that, and start out by saying, look, this is something that needs to be addressed here and I would argue that — that you can address the country on this in a — in a separate address, and say, this is a moment for us to sit and reflect and maybe we're going to have a commission that's needed as Nia talks about. Maybe we need more public conversation about this and as your President, let me talk to you about what I'm thinking about and what we are doing, and then at some other point perhaps later today talk about trade policy and et cetera, et cetera. I mean, I think honestly, this deserved, particularly since it was a very detailed statement, this deserved its own address from the President to the nation.


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