CNN Panelist Condemns President Trump for 'Expressing Admiration for an Authoritarian'

During an appearance on CNN's New Day Monday morning, panelist John Avlon said that President Trump's joke suggesting that he should try becoming President for life like China's Xi Jinping proved that he was "expressing admiration for an authoritarian."

In front of a crowd of supporters, President Trump weighed in on the Chinese Parliament’s decision to end term limits, saying “Don’t forget China’s great and Xi is a great gentleman. He’s now President for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”



The media did not see any humor in President Trump’s comments. According to CNN political analyst John Avlon, “You can deliver it like Shecky Greene but it’s still expressing admiration for an authoritarian and this is the biggest story in the world we’re not talking about.” He went on to cast President Trump’s actions as “demeaning to our democracy.”

Speaking of expressing admiration for authoritarians, the media and the left have repeatedly expressed admiration for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, the textbook definition of an authoritarian. While covering President Obama’s visit to the communist country during his final year in office, New Day co-host Chris Cuomo wore a shirt given by Castro to his father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, as a gift. While reporting in Cuba, Cuomo seemed to romanticize the idea of the communist regime, arguing that the intention was to “truly make everyone equal – not at the lowest level, not by demoralizing everyone; but lifting everyone up.”

Half a century into this communist experiment, when will the media and the left finally admit that it has been a massive failure? Let’s also not forget about President Obama’s decision to attend a baseball game with Castro’s brother, Raul, who took over as Oppressor-in-Chief of the Cuban people in the wake of his elder sibling’s deteriorating health. The former President earned himself a lot of negative publicity as he chose to do “the wave” while terror struck in Brussels.

While the media hammered President Trump for his controversial remark, they have routinely given liberals a pass when they make equally controversial comments. When President Obama made his infamous “guns and religion” comments when first running for President nearly a decade ago, CNN analysts defended the comments as “factually accurate”, even if they were “inartful.” Panelist Jack Cafferty even went as far to compare disaffected rust belt voters to economically insecure “folks like that in the Middle East” who “go to places like al Qaeda training camps.” One can never stress enough the left’s distaste for the folks who live on Main Street, USA.

The media will continue to play up the narrative that a dangerous dictator lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 


CNN New Day


06:16 AM


ERICA HILL: China’s parliament is voting on a measure that would end term limits, effectively making Xi Jinping President for life, a position that certainly got the President’s attention here.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Don’t forget China’s great and Xi is a great gentleman. He’s now President for life. 


(Laughter and Applause)


PRESIDENT TRUMP: President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.


HILL: Let’s bring back now CNN Political Analysts John Avlon and David Gregory. John Avlon shaking his head at that. You know, he’s making a joke, John.


JOHN AVLON: You know what, you can deliver it like Shecky Greene but it’s still expressing admiration for an authoritarian and this is the biggest story in the world we’re not talking about. The world’s biggest strategic competitor appointing him leader, appointing himself, you know, leader for life. And that is a huge deal for the direction this century is going. And for the President to joke about it, joke about it admiringly off the record with supporters, basically, is demeaning to our democracy when the President of the United States does that. It is not, you can’t simply write it off as a joke. It’s something a lot trickier. You know, someone said humor is about that vicinity between someone’s aspirations and their limitations. If that’s where his head and heart goes, that’s not a good sign.


CHRIS CUOMO: David Gregory, you be the judge. John Avlon and I were arguing about this this morning in our capes getting our makeup, like men. And the, my point was, look, I get it. But he was joking, as, as Erica introduced this. And is this taking a joke too far and opening yourself up to criticism of, you know, not just being a snowflake but, you know giving the President a hard time where he doesn’t deserve it? You decide.


AVLON: You decide.


DAVID GREGORY: Yeah, I, I mean, I come out a little softer than John does on this. I think it was a joke.


CUOMO: So I win then? What he’s saying is, I win. Continue.


AVLON: Let the man finish his sentence.


CUOMO: All right, I’m sorry. No, that’s enough. Let’s go to another topic. 


GREGORY: But here...I do, what I do agree with is the idea that yeah, I mean, he was joking here. We can appreciate that. But we’ve seen in very serious moments all of this admiration for strong men and here’s, I think, a larger point. You know, we’ve seen someone who was better prepared for the job, who had a stronger team around him, and here I’m talking about President George W. Bush, who I think history will show misread Putin from Russia in the beginning and what the consequences of that were. And what I worry about in Trump is someone who is woefully unprepared for the office and comes in making pronouncements about leaders showing his naivety about them, that I think can be exploited and I think the relationship with China is a, is a perfect example right now and I think that’s the window that we get into here and it could play out in other areas that are really damaging.


HILL: And well, and picking up on actually points that both of you made is this, of course, editorial in The New York Times today that is, that is questioning whether the President has a problem with democracy and pointing specifically to calling out some of those leaders as you’re pointing out too, David. But here’s part of that: “Mr. Trump was surely joking about becoming President for life himself. But there can be little doubt now that he truly sees no danger in Mr. Xi’s ‘great’ decision to extend his own rule until death.” Going on to say, “the craven reaction”, I think,  here’s really why it, where the meat of this lies, “in line with Mr. Trump’s consistent support and even admiration for men ruling with increasing brutal and autocratic methods”, and mentions Putin, mentions Erdogan, Duterte and so when we look at all of that, there is a question of, yes, this is making a joke. And it’s good that the President, over the weekend, we know that he’s still poking fun at himself, as John mentioned earlier. But is there a broader concern there even in terms of, as the Times brings up, the President not promoting democracy and its importance in the way that we have seen from past Presidents.


AVLON: This is not a freedom agenda administration folks. That’s not on the menu, and, and, you know, if in humor, you’re telling the truth at the heart of it. Imagine whether Obama would make this joke, imagine if W would make this joke, or Ronald Reagan. No, not really. Especially given the fact that China is moving in this authoritarian direction, especially given the fact that Trump really seems to admire instinctively these strong men around the world at a time when the world is moving away from liberal democracy toward soft authoritarianism. That’s why it’s serious. That’s why it matters. That’s why you can’t simply dismiss it as a joke.


GREGORY: No, and I think that John makes an essential point. I mean, imagine Reagan saying instead of tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev, maybe we’ll build our own wall. Maybe this is a pretty good idea. He would lose a certain amount of moral authority, which this President certainly doesn’t have. And I think that’s, that’s the key point, which is this, again, what we talk about so often on this program, what’s the role of the Presidency? What is the role of the President of the United States, no matter who he or she is, to set an agenda, to speak out for Democratic values? That’s what’s important and the President undermines that. Both when he’s serious and when he’s kidding because at this particular moment is an opportunity to stand up for American Democratic values, in the face of what China’s doing, not to make light of it.

Please support NewsBusters today! (a 501c3 non-profit production of the Media Research Center)

CyberAlerts CNN New Day CNN Chris Cuomo
Ryan Foley's picture