During Tuesday’s edition of The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, the eponymous host asked presidential historian Jon Meacham to address a tweet he sent out earlier in the evening. At 8:00 pm, an hour before President Trump delivered his Oval Office address to the nation, Meacham sent out the following tweet:
America should “build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven” against the flow of immigrants.--Georgia Gov. Clifford Walker, at a 1924 convention of the Ku Klux Klan, then a powerful force at a time of strain for the white working class.
Meacham concluded the tweet with the hashtag #PastIsPrologue, an obvious attempt to compare President Trump to a Ku Klux Klan sympathizer. O’Donnell argued that Meacham’s tweet proved that the “anti-immigrant wall concept has been around for a while,” attributing racist motives to anyone who supports securing the United States’ southern border with Mexico by building a wall.
After O’Donnell finished reading the tweet and talking about how it “struck” him, Meacham had a chance to elaborate further on his tweet. After talking about how Walker was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, Meacham trotted out the left-wing talking point asserting that America has been a racist country from the very start, talking about how “ferocious anti-immigrant sentiment...goes all the way back to 1798 when we passed the Alien and Sedition Acts.”
Meacham continued: “anti-immigrant sentiment ebbs and flows. Right now, it’s flowing. The interesting question is, to what extent is it genuinely flowing beyond the fevered precincts of the President and his base?” Had Meacham bothered to listen to the Oval Office address, he would have heard President Trump talk about how “America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation.”
That hardly sounds like “anti-immigrant sentiment” or talking points straight out of the KKK playbook. At no point during this exchange did Meacham or O’Donnell attempt to make any distinction between legal immigrants and illegal immigrants.
Meacham predicted that the government shutdown will come to an end when Republican politicians realize that “the Fox News world in which so much of the right wing lives is not, in fact, where the country is in 2018.”
A transcript of the relevant portion of Tuesday’s edition of The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell is below. Click “expand” to read more.
The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: Jon Meacham, you tweeted something earlier that really struck me and I’d like the country to consider it. We’re going to put it up as I read it. You said “America should ‘build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven’ against the flow of immigrants. Georgia Governor Clifford Walker, at a 1924 convention of the Ku Klux Klan, then a powerful force at a time of strain for the white working class.” And Jon, the anti-immigrant wall concept has been around for a while.
JON MEACHAM: Sure has. Walker was a Georgia politician who had not been a member of the Klan and had lost a gubernatorial election so he joined the Klan and he won. He gave that speech at a Klanvocation, they called it in Kansas City in ‘24. Remarkable period. 1924, as you know, was the Democratic National Convention. It drove the convention to 103 ballots because there were something like 327 members of the Klan who were delegates to that convention and they couldn’t vote for this radical figure, Al Smith. Why? Because he was an Irish Catholic. And there was this ferocious anti-immigrant sentiment. Goes all the way back to 1798 when we passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. Anti-immigrant sentiment ebbs and flows. Right now, it’s flowing. The interesting question is, to what extent is it genuinely flowing beyond the fevered precincts of the President and his base? And that’s going to be the fascinating question as you and Ron were just saying when we see if there is a resolution, this particular moment. Will there be Republican politicians who will realize that, in fact, the Fox News world in which so much of the right wing lives is not, in fact, where the country is in 2018?