Tapper Grills McGrath About Losing House Race, Comparing Trump’s Election to 9/11

Amidst the liberal media’s Beto-like treatment for Kentucky senatorial candidate Amy McGrath (D) and NBC’s hit piece against McGrath's opponent, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, CNN’s The Lead host Jake Tapper didn’t follow in lockstep on Tuesday, pressing McGrath on her long odds and her gross analogy comparing the 2016 election to September 11, 2001.

Even though he only got three questions in, Tapper made clear he wasn’t going to behave like those on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Andrea Mitchell Reports earlier in the day, first pointing out to her that “Trump won Kentucky by 30 points in 2016” and so “what makes you think you can beat McConnell” when she had lost a 2018 House race in a blue wave.

 

 

After McGrath seemed into imply that McConnell has ensured that the President’s campaign promises about drug prices, infrastructure, and jobs haven’t happened, Tapper pressed on the reality that such a stance would come across as “a pro-Trump Democrat.”

McGrath offered a lengthy answer about getting married, raising a family, and being tired of political dysfunction, so time was running out. Fortunately, Tapper made the last question count by bringing up her bizarre 9/11 analogy (click “expand”):

TAPPER: So I can understand, certainly, while you're talking about how you understand why Kentuckians voted for Donald Trump in such overwhelming numbers, but it has been pointed out that you once compared the feeling you had when President Trump was elected to the feeling you had on 9/11. Won't that undermine the pitch, you think? 

MCGRATH: Well, what I was talking about was the fact that nobody really expected President Trump to win and I was talking also about the entire 2016 cycle. Many of us were spurred into action by what happened in 2016, the labeling of each other as, they're all communists, or they're all this or they're all that, and the fake news. The divisiveness of our country was something I had never seen before. You know, my husband is a Republican. I'm a Democrat. We took stock of that after the election, and we said, you know, where are we as a country? And that way, it was the same thing, for me, was — was looking at that tragic event and taking stock of, where are we as a country? So that's what I was saying and I can see why, you know, folks might be upset about that, but that's what I was saying. 

Things didn’t exactly improve for her camp hours later on Erin Burnett OutFront as the NBCNews.com story about McConnell’s ancestors owning slaves was thoroughly dismantled by former McConnell aide and CNN political commentator Scott Jennings.

Jennings argued that McConnell “wasn’t trying to make a joke” in pointing out that he’d be just as guilty of owing reparations as Barack Obama would be based on his family history. Jennings then added to Boykin’s dismay (click “expand”):

JENNINGS: No, he wasn't trying to make a joke. He was trying to point out that there has been long standing bipartisan and frankly biracial opposition to the idea of paying reparations in this country. Keith and I have something in common, we both worked for politicians that oppose reparations. I, of course, as you noted, worked for Mitch McConnell and so did Keith's boss, Bill Clinton, who long opposed reparations. Also luminaries from the civil rights movement like Bayard Rustin opposed reparations. So it's not as though this is a Republican view. This is a wide spread, widely held view across both parties and across many people in white and black America. Mitch McConnell was not making a joke. He was punting this hot garbage of a storage into the sun, which is exactly where he deserves to go. 

BOYKIN: Hot garbage of story? 

JENNINGS: This was a gotcha story and it was ridiculous to be brought up. 

BOYKIN: The hot garbage of a story? 

JENNINGS: And the logic behind the story, the logic behind the story if applied to other issues would tie Democrats up in Gordian knots and I don't think it's a road they want to go down. 

Jennings later doubled down, pointing out that “what Mitch McConnell was saying was that we have made great steps in trying to repair race relations in this country which I agree with Keith are still terrible” as “[r]ace relations in this country and economic disparities faced by African-Americans are still not acceptable.”

Addressing Boykin’s argument that McConnell doesn’t want the government to do anything to further help African-Americans, Jennings fired back that McConnell and the GOP believe in “economic prosperity for everyone in this country” and further drive down the unemployment rate for all races.

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s The Lead on July 9, click “expand.”

CNN’s The Lead
July 9, 2019
4:40 p.m. Eastern

AMY MCGRATH: I sat at this table, and I wrote a letter to my senator, telling him I wanted to fly fighter jets in combat, to fight for my country, and that women should be able to do that. He never wrote back.

JAKE TAPPER: That senator that didn't write back was Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the letter writer is his likely 2020 Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and one of the first women to fly a combat mission in the FA-18 fighter jet. She's going to run to unseat McConnell in Kentucky. It's a state he has served for more than three decades. McGrath lost a close race for the House last year, but proved to be a prolific fundraiser. She was recruited to run for this seat by Chuck Schumer and others.  Amy McGrath joins me now. Lieutenant Colonel, thanks for — thanks for joining us. I guess the first question I have is, President Trump won Kentucky by 30 points in 2016. He is going to be on the top of the ticket next year. You lost a House race in a Democratic wave season. You came close, but you didn't get across the finish line. What makes you think you can beat McConnell in what will probably be a more difficult environment? 

MCGRATH: Mm-hmm. Well, you're right to say that Senator McConnell is a very formidable foe. I think, if you think about why Kentuckians voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, bring back jobs, do big things in infrastructure, do things like bring down drug prices and a lot of these things are being halted by Senator McConnell. For example, you know, drug prices, President Trump has said this is his priority. He said the current system is very, very unfair and this is important for Kentucky. Kentucky has the second highest per capita spending on prescription drug medication, over $2,000 a year. 

TAPPER: Mm-hmm. 

MCGRATH: And who's stopping President Trump from doing this? Senator McConnell, because he's bought off by big pharma. I mean, he gets $1.2 million in campaign cash in his last election. 

TAPPER: Yes. 

MCGRATH: It's not rocket science. This is what's happening and a lot of Kentuckians know this. 

TAPPER: So, this pitch that you're saying right now, what you said earlier today, prompted The Louisville Courier-Journal, one of your home state papers, to say that you seem to be casting yourself as a pro-Trump Democrat in ways, saying McConnell’s the reason that a lot of things Trump promised to Kentuckians hasn't happened. Is that a fair depiction? 

MCGRATH: You know, I would say that I understand why the voters in Kentucky voted for Donald Trump. They are tired of the swamp. They are tired of the dysfunction. Frankly, voters in Kentucky really don't like both political parties. They think that's part the problem and folks like Senator McConnell, who have been around for 34 years, are not the answer and I think many Kentuckians are seeing that and that was a lot of the appeal of Donald Trump. He was an outsider and so I think that's what I'm trying to say. I'm an outsider too. I'm not someone who ever believed I was going to be a politician, Jake. I just wanted to serve my country.

TAPPER: Right. 

MCGRATH: I had this dream. I wanted to fly fighter jets and that's what I did and along the way, I met my husband, a Navy pilot, and we got married. We have three kids and it's amazing, but we both looked at each other over the last three years, like many Americans and many Kentuckians, and we have said, hey, we need better leaders in this country. and there's no better example of that than in Kentucky. 

TAPPER: So I can understand, certainly, while you're talking about how you understand why Kentuckians voted for Donald Trump in such overwhelming numbers, but it has been pointed out that you once compared the feeling you had when President Trump was elected to the feeling you had on 9/11. Won't that undermine the pitch, you think? 

MCGRATH: Well, what I was talking about was the fact that nobody really expected President Trump to win and I was talking also about the entire 2016 cycle. Many of us were spurred into action by what happened in 2016, the labeling of each other as, they're all communists, or they're all this or they're all that, and the fake news. The divisiveness of our country was something I had never seen before. You know, my husband is a Republican. I'm a Democrat. We took stock of that after the election, and we said, you know, where are we as a country? And that way, it was the same thing, for me, was — was looking at that tragic event and taking stock of, where are we as a country? So that's what I was saying and I can see why, you know, folks might be upset about that, but that's what I was saying. 

TAPPER: Alright, Lieutenant Colonel Amy McGrath, and thank you for your service. Good luck out there on the campaign trail. 

MCGRATH: Great to have you.

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront on July 9, click “expand.”

CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront
July 9, 2019
7:16 p.m. Eastern

ERIN BURNETT: So, Keith, what's your reaction to McConnell comparing himself as a fellow descendant of slave owners which, of course, was widely reported about the former President as well as Mitch McConnell? 

KEITH BOYKIN: I think Mitch McConnell's statements are offensive, inaccurate and hypocritical. It's offensive to mock a serious discussion about reparations and accommodating what took place for African-Americans with a joke about President Obama. It's an accurate because it misrepresents President Obama's feeling behind his opinion.  He believed that it would be politically difficult to accomplish. He also believed that it might be a little difficult in terms of policy matter to administer and President Obama still supported the concept of helping African-Americans, but he felt that maybe the best way to do it was to take a universal approach instead of a specific approach.  Whereas Mitch McConnell just says, “Let's not do anything to help black people at all.” And I think that's a totally different approach and finally, let me just say this, I think that it's also hypocritical, because just last month, Mitch McConnell was saying that Barack Obama was reparation somehow for slavery. The idea that one black president would be responsible for erasing 400 years of segregation and slavery and racial discrimination and systemic racism was an outrageous statement then and this just compounds that. 

BURNETT: So Scott, was he trying to be funny or make light of it or was he trying to make the point that it's impossible to pay reparations because even the first black president would be paying them or receiving them or what? 

SCOTT JENNINGS: No, he wasn't trying to make a joke. He was trying to point out that there has been long standing bipartisan and frankly biracial opposition to the idea of paying reparations in this country. Keith and I have something in common, we both worked for politicians that oppose reparations. I, of course, as you noted, worked for Mitch McConnell and so did Keith's boss, Bill Clinton, who long opposed reparations. Also luminaries from the civil rights movement like Bayard Rustin opposed reparations. So it's not as though this is a Republican view. This is a wide spread, widely held view across both parties and across many people in white and black America. Mitch McConnell was not making a joke. He was punting this hot garbage of a storage into the sun, which is exactly where he deserves to go. 

BOYKIN: Hot garbage of story? 

JENNINGS: This was a gotcha story and it was ridiculous to be brought up. 

BOYKIN: The hot garbage of a story? 

JENNINGS: And the logic behind the story, the logic behind the story if applied to other issues would tie Democrats up in Gordian knots and I don't think it's a road they want to go down. 

BOYKIN: Three hundred and 50 years of slavery, 50 years —

BURNETT: Hot garbage of a story, Keith? 

BOYKIN: — 350 years of slavery and 50 years of segregation is not hot garbage of a story. This is — this is America's original sin and we still have not wrestled with this. We still have not come to terms with it. 

(....)

7:20 p.m. Eastern

BURNETT: I mean, let me ask you, Scott, this is not the first time that your former boss, McConnell, has invoked Obama. He clearly does it specifically because he thinks it makes the point when he's talking about reparations and the issue of this country's African-American history. Here is in June.

MITCH MCCONNELL [on 06/18/19]: We've tried to deal with our original sound of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We've elected an African-American president. 

BURNETT: Scott, do you think he makes a mistake though in saying, “Okay. Well, now we've had an African-American president, so everything's fine." That kind of feeling of it just can be that simple and that easy is deeply offensive to many people as Keith points out and also not reflective of overall country. 

JENNINGS: It's not that simple because that's not what he said. What Mitch McConnell was saying was that we have made great steps in trying to repair race relations in this country which I agree with Keith are still terrible. Race relations in this country and economic disparities faced by African-Americans are still not acceptable, but the idea that transferring by one economists account, $6 trillion to $14 trillion of wealth from one race to another, that that's going to make race relations better in this country, I think is a fantastical idea and it's exactly why Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, civil rights leaders, Mitch McConnell, and maybe 70 plus percent of Americans know that reparations is not a good idea. It's not going to happen and it is not the right way to bring the races together. 

BOYKIN: And that's in this characterization of what the discussion is about and part of what the proposal is in Congress right now is to study the issue, to figure out what is the best way to move forward, what's the best way to determine what how to administer, what reparations would look like and those are questions that need to be studied., but Mitch McConnell was shutting down the conversation and we still have these disparities and what is the solution for Mitch McConnell to deal with that? 

BURNETT: I just want to ask, Keith, does he have a point when he raises President Obama and he points out that he is of both African-American and white descent? On the white side there may have been slaveholders. I mean doesn't he raise a point there? 

BOYKIN: President Obama’s father was African. He wasn't a descended African-American slaves. 

BURNETT: Well, that's right. So, so, so that is a separate point, but I mean I'm saying if he's also the descendant of white slave holders, is he then a payer of reparations even though his skin looks black? Is that the point Mitch McConnell is making, right? Is that it's virtually impossible to figure out who pays and who receives, that's the point he's making. 

BOYKIN: Well, the point that I think is true is that there is complexity in the issue of reparations. Nobody is denying that and the issue is how do we deal with this? We still have disparities. Black people are still treated differently from white people in the society. So do we say, “Oh, it's too difficult to fix it and we’re not going to bother to do anything about it.” Whereas President Obama's solution was instead of focusing on a race-specific approach, let's have a general approach where we deal with jobs. We deal with healthcare. We deal with educational inequalities by providing all of these things to everyone. Mitch McConnell's approach is exactly the opposite. Let's do nothing. Let's take government out of it. That's exactly the opposite of what President Obama was talking about. 

BURNETT: Scott, I'll give you the final word. Does Keith have a point that Mitch McConnell is using this 

JENNINGS: No, look. No, he doesn’t —

BURNETT: — not to have a substantive conversation about the issue but to kiss it off? 

JENNINGS: because he's saying Mitch McConnell's — he’s saying Mitch McConnell’s approach is to do nothing. Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party's approach is to have economic prosperity for everyone in this country and as you pointed out, Erin, unemployment rate for African-Americans is lower right now than it has ever been and it's getting better. We have more job openings in this country than people looking for work. African-Americans are benefiting on the republican policy and that's the way we'll make this country better for everybody. 

BOYKIN: You still does not resolve the issue, the black unemployment rate has doubled the white unemployment rate has been so as long as we've been recording this data. That's unacceptable to continue that.

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2020 Congressional 2016 Presidential 9/11 NBCNews.com CNN The Lead Erin Burnett OutFront Video Keith Boykin Jake Tapper Mitch McConnell Amy McGrath
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