In the wake of President Trump’s wild press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower, the Big Three Networks put extra focus on Trump, along with questions about how he views race in the United States. So come Wednesday, NBC Nightly News aired a report where they sat down with a self-described white nationalist to hear him sing the praises of the President. In contrast, CBS Evening News held a small focus group where they spoke with three Republican women, two black and one white, who defended Trump.
“After the President's remarks, white supremacists have come out of the shadows to cheer his message, viewing it as a validation of their own racist beliefs,” announced NBC Anchor Lester Holt as he led into the segment.
Reporter Jacob Soboroff interviewed William Johnson, a white nationalist who lived in California. “And do you believe that Donald Trump saying things like that will ultimately bring America closer to your goal of a white ethno-state,” Soboroff asked him.
Soboroff let Johnson ramble on about how the only solution, in his mind, to America’s racial problems was segregation and about how he believes Trump would aid in meeting his “racial goals.” “Would you all be here today and as emboldened as you are today without Donald Trump,” Soboroff quickly followed up. Johnson told the reporter that he’d been “emboldened” long before Trump, 35 years according to him.
What Soboroff failed to mention was that the Trump campaign had denounced Johnson and his beliefs during the 2016 Election. Johnson was accidentally selected as a California delegate and then removed from the position when the error was discovered.
On the other hand, CBS Reporter Mark Strassmann wanted to know what average Trump supporters were thinking and not the racist fringe.
According to all three of the women, none of their support had wavered since Charlottesville. And when it came to his reaction to the violence there: “No, I don't look at him as, you know, my pastor or my moral leader. I look at him as the leader as it relates to governmental issues,” Janelle Jones, one of the black women told Strassmann.
“No. It's history. I wasn't born back then. You wasn't, either. So why is that affecting us? If anything, we should grow and learn from it,” said Lucretia Hughes, the other black woman when asked about what she thought of Confederate statues and monuments.
Strassmann asked them to explain their support of the President despite all the criticism he had received post-Charlottesville. “I think for myself, period. Nobody's going to tell me what to think or how to think. I'm not gullible and I'm not blind,” Hughes boldly stated. “It's my decision if I'm going to support someone or not. Not go by what other people has to say.”
“I honestly don't think we will see this issue of racial divide addressed until we remove identity politics out of the political process,” added Jones.
It’s a fair question to ask: Was all of the media attention the white nationalists were getting playing any role in helping them to get energized? Well, it could be argued here that Soboroff’s interview with Johnson gave him a national platform for him to preach his twisted worldview.
NBC Nightly News
August 16, 2017
7:11:13 PM Eastern
LESTER HOLT: After the President's remarks, white supremacists have come out of the shadows to cheer his message, viewing it as a validation of their own racist beliefs. Including some here in California, a part of America that you might least suspect. NBC's Jacob Soboroff has more on that.
[Cuts to video]
JACOB SOBOROFF: The Southern Poverty Law Center says California has more hate groups than any other state, even in Los Angeles, where white nationalist William Johnson was elated with President Trump's press conference.
DONALD TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it. And you don't have any doubt about it either.
WILLIAM JOHNSON: He is the most honest president since George Washington and the cherry tree.
SOBOROFF: Just watching all this, and hearing Trump say all that, you got visibly excited.
JOHNSON: Yes. That is an honest man saying what he believes in his heart.
SOBOROFF: And do you believe that Donald Trump saying things like that will ultimately bring America closer to your goal of a white ethno-state?
JOHNSON: Well, I think that America needs to take a different direction, whether it needs to come into my direction, I don't know. We have a festering racial problem that's only going to get worse. I think the only solution is separation. But there may be another solution and Donald Trump is going to, I think, bring us -- help us overcome the racial divide. I think that he will encourage fair-minded deep-thinking people to realize that separation is the only way we can achieve racial goals.
SOBOROFF: Would you all be here today and as emboldened as you are today without Donald Trump?
JOHNSON: Well, I've always been emboldened. I've been emboldened for 35 years but the rank and file American is becoming more emboldened.
SOBOROFF: To join your cause?
JOHNSON: To be proud of their heritage. Whether it's white, whether it's confederacy. Whatever it is. To be proud that you're white and to group together and want to support white issues.
[Cuts back to live]
SOBOROFF: President Trump claims he has disavowed people like Johnson, but Johnson says that is exactly the group Trump has energized. What's next? The white nationalist says the murder in Charlottesville will temporarily set back his movement until it emerges stronger than ever before and he credits the President for that. Lester?
HOLT: Fascinating conversation, Jacob, thank you.
CBS Evening News
August 16, 2017
6:41:3o PM Eastern
ANTHONY MASON: With the President under fire, Mark Strassmann checked in with some Republicans who voted for him. Janelle Jones, Ellen Diehl, and Lucretia Hughes.
[Cuts to video]
MARK STRASSMAN: Has your support for Trump lessened one bit?
LUCRETIA HUGHES: Absolutely not.
ELLEN DIEHL: Not at all.
JANELLE JONES: No.
STRASSMAN: Not one bit?
JONES: No, I don't look at him as, you know, my pastor or my moral leader. I look at him as the leader as it relates to governmental issues.
DIEHL: We're not looking for somebody charming. We're looking for a man who knows how to turn things around, and he's got a track record of turning things around.
STRASSMAN: When you saw Charlottesville what, did that say about where we are as a country?
DIEHL: It wasn't necessarily a completely black-white issue, but I think that the media is turning it into a black-white issue. It's definitely a left-right issue, but it's left fringe and right fringe.
STRASSMAN: The confederate statues don't bother you?
HUGHES: No. It's history. I wasn't born back then. You wasn't, either. So why is that affecting us? If anything, we should grow and learn from it. Just like Martin Luther King said: ‘You don't judge people by the color of their skin. You base that on their character.’
STRASSMAN: How do you explain what your support is for a president, given the criticism that he's had on this race issue?
HUGHES: I think for myself, period. Nobody's going to tell me what to think or how to think. I'm not gullible and I'm not blind. It's my decision if I'm going to support someone or not. Not go by what other people has to say. And to me, what I've and what I love, I'm not-- he's not going to lose my support anytime soon.
JONES: I've been a Republican before Donald Trump. I will be a Republican afterwards. I honestly don't think we will see this issue of racial divide addressed until we remove identity politics out of the political process.
[Cuts back to live]
STRASSMAN: These Republican women say if a president deserves blame for making racial tensions worse, it's Obama, not Trump for the identity politics they say Democrats have practiced for last eight years. Anthony.
MASON: Mark Strassman, thanks.