In a glowing softball interview on Monday with third-party Utah congressional candidate Jim Bennett, son of the late Senator Robert Bennett, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell eagerly set up the former Republican to explain why he left the party and how the GOP had “failed” him.
Bennett was happy for the chance to slam Republicans: “Ronald Reagan used to say he didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him, and I feel the same way about the Republican Party. The Republican Party is now the party of Trump, which is a party that I didn’t want to be associated with anymore.”
Mitchell followed up: “Now you talk about the Republican Party, in what way do you think the Republican leaders – let’s say Mitch McConnell, the Speaker, Paul Ryan – how have they failed you as a Republican?” Bennett ranted: “Well, the entire party has failed me, I think, by uniting behind a president who is unfit to hold the office.”
Later in the friendly exchange, Mitchell wondered: “And what is your message to other Republicans who have been, many people say, either rolling over or are only quietly protesting, maybe not going along with the president on all of his initiatives, but not taking stands?” Speaking to Utah voters, Bennett pleaded: “...you don’t have to go along with the party of Trump. You can come along with a centrist moderate party, the United Utah Party, that represents what you believe and who you are.”
The biased segment was brought to viewers by GEICO, Panera Bread, and Fixodent.
Here is a full transcript of the August 8 interview:
12:39 PM ET
ANDREA MITCHELL: When former Republican Utah Senator Bob Bennett was in the final days of a battle with pancreatic cancer last May, he expressed to his son, Jim, one very specific dying wish from his hospital bed. The senator wanted to apologize to all Muslims on behalf of the Republican Party for what Donald Trump, the candidate, was saying. Bob Bennett told his family he wanted to see Muslims treated with kindness and not ostracized.
Today, Jim Bennett is carrying out his father’s political fight. A long-time Republican, Jim left the party shortly after Trump was nominated. He’s now running as a third party candidate in Utah’s special election to fill the congressional seat vacated by Justin Chaffetz. In June, Bennett sued state officials to get on the November ballot with his new political party, United Utah Party. And last week he won that battle after a federal judge ruled in his favor.
Jim Bennett joins me from Utah. Jim, it’s great to see you, thank you so much. Tell me about the legal battle and why you left the Republican Party.
JIM BENNETT: Well, the Republican Party – Ronald Reagan used to say he didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him, and I feel the same way about the Republican Party. The Republican Party is now the party of Trump, which is a party that I didn’t want to be associated with anymore.
But with regard to the legal battle, I went and tried to file according to the deadlines for the special election and the state threw up every possible road block to keep me off the ballot. And we had to take this to court and we were confident that the law was on our side and a federal judge agreed with us.
MITCHELL: Now you talk about the Republican Party, in what way do you think the Republican leaders – let’s say Mitch McConnell, the Speaker, Paul Ryan – how have they failed you as a Republican?
BENNETT: Well, the entire party has failed me, I think, by uniting behind a president who is unfit to hold the office. You look at the fact that you have both houses of Congress united with one party and yet they’re on track to be the most unproductive Congress in 140 years. So the Republican Party has demonstrated that it’s incapable of overcoming the divisions within it’s own party. And I want to get back to Washington and demonstrate that it’s important to solve problems, not just please your party.
MITCHELL: What is you path to victory in a state – tell me about your district – but in the state, Donald Trump won with 45% of the vote in a three-way race, so the opposition to Trump got divided and he won.
BENNETT: And a third party candidate got 22% of that vote.
BENNETT: There’s a local polling firm here in Utah that conducted a poll after our party was formed and before I had announced my candidacy, asking, would you be willing to consider a candidate from the United Utah Party? And the answer was 63% of people in Utah said they would. That included 39% of Republicans. I think in the era of Trump, people are looking for an alternative, and there are a lot of people like me who have felt like they don’t have a political home in either of the two major political parties. And so that’s one the reasons why we created the United Utah Party and we saw this special election as a great opportunity to introduce this party to the people of the state.
MITCHELL: And is your plan – let’s say you’re successful in this special election, is your plan to try to run candidates in other congressional districts?
BENNETT: Well, our plan is to be a viable party in the state of Utah, where the Democarts have essentially given up and the Republicans are so arrogant they think they can do whatever they want. We want to be not necessarily the third party, but the second party. And we began this prior to the special election, we began creating this party, and we plan to be around long after the special election is over. We’re in this for the long haul. We want to recruit candidates for state office and for local office and we want to recruit candidates for federal office as well.
MITCHELL: Did you ever talk to your father about getting into politics, following in his footsteps?
BENNETT: Not really. In fact, I thought that my political career was over after he lost his election in 2010, I thought I was done. And this new party and the unique political environment in which we found ourselves is what dragged me back in.
MITCHELL: And what is your message to other Republicans who have been, many people say, either rolling over or are only quietly protesting, maybe not going along with the president on all of his initiatives, but not taking stands?
BENNETT: Right, well, my message is, you have a new home, particularly – at least this is a message to Republicans in Utah – is you don’t have to go along with the party of Trump. You can come along with a centrist moderate party, the United Utah Party, that represents what you believe and who you are.
MITCHELL: Well, Jim Bennett, just on a point of personal privilege, I knew your father well, I covered him in the Senate, and we all miss him. Miss him in public life and I know it’s a profound loss for all of you. But thanks for being with us today.
BENNETT: Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity.
MITCHELL: You bet.