The “great debate” on Tuesday’s Cuomo Prime Time focused on Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s tweet condemning White House adviser Stephen Miller as a white nationalist and things quickly devolved into debating the meaning of the word nationalism, with host Chris Cuomo describing it as a “loaded term” and accusing Miller of having an “apparent affinity” for white supremacists.
Not surprisingly, liberal CNN political commentator Angela Rye completely agreed with Omar’s characterization of Miller while conservative political commenator Steve Cortes strenuously disagreed with her analysis. Cortes described Miller as an “American nationalist,” pointing out that “whiteness has nothing to do with it. America is not a race.”
He added that nationalism is “pride in this country and…shared values in our Constitution, tolerance, free enterprise, (and) the rule of law.”
In response to Cortes’s definition of “nationalism,” Cuomo asked: “How is that different than patriotism?” And after Cuomo's “loaded term,” Cortes pushed back but Cuomo reiterated that he saw the term as “very loaded.”
Cortes said it was important to use the term nationalism as an “antithesis to globalism,” an idea which Cuomo described as “isolationism.” Cortes rejected that, expanding his definition of nationalism: “We will not let the United Nations run America, just like people in France who are nationalists will say……we will not let Brussels run Europe.”
Eventually, the conversation turned back to Miller. Cuomo accused the White House adviser of having “an apparent affinity for people who are part of ugly movements” before trashing his statement on the New Colossus poem on the Statue of Liberty; describing it as “suspiciously similar to what you hear from a Spencer, from what you hear from a Duke.” Cuomo’s reference to David Duke effectively implied that he agreed with Omar’s characterization of Miller as a white nationalist.
Cuomo then asked Cortes: “Why does he use language like that? Why does he espouse principles that often are found in the mouths of people who believe ugly things about diversity?”
As Cortes tried to answer those questions, Cuomo and Rye ganged up on Cortes by bringing up President Trump’s statement about Mexicans during his campaign announcement in an attempt to smear him as a racist.
Towards the end of the segment, Rye brought the conversation back to the semantic debate about “nationalism,” slamming the “idea of superiority” associated with the term.
Rye then ranted: “That is exactly why Donald Trump is compared to Hitler. It is exactly why Stephen Miller has been called a white nationalist, a white supremacist, a racist, someone who is xenophobic, someone who is hateful about Muslims, someone who is a very hateful individual who’s rooted his policy positions and debates in hate and fear-mongering.”
Okay then, Angela.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Tuesday’s edition of Cuomo Prime Time is below. Click “expand” to read more.
Cuomo Prime Time
09:22 p.m. Eastern
CHRIS CUOMO: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar condemned one of POTUS’s most trusted advisers, tweeting this. “Stephen Miller is a white nationalist. The fact that he still has influence on policy and political appointments is an outrage.” Miller is Jewish. Now, Omar’s remarks could have been spurred by reports of Miller’s connections to nationalist groups or certain relationships he has, his hand in harsh border policies, like family separation. But Republicans are now attacking her. You can’t…you can’t call someone Jewish a White nationalist. That makes you an anti-Semite. That’s their argument. That’s the start of tonight’s “Great Debate.” Angela Rye and Steve Cortes, thank you both. Angela Rye, you can’t call a Jewish guy a white nationalist. White nationalists hate Jews. And if you do it, you’re being anti-Semitic. Do you accept that criticism?
ANGELA RYE: I don’t.
RYE: Because Stephen Miller is a white nationalist. And he’s been one since before going into high school when he told one of his childhood friends, Chris, that they could no longer be friends because of his Latino heritage. Stephen Miller, if he’s not a white nationalist, has certainly trafficked in white nationalism since high school. He went on to Duke…doing the same things. He is a provocateur. He is behind many of the President’s most hateful policies. He’s undermined the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security by sending some of the things she was working on to conservative outlets. He is absolutely a white nationalist. He is absolutely fine with it. And there are people all over Los Angeles, where I’m sitting right now, who can demonstrate support for this from Exhibit A to Z. White nationalist he is, and that does not make Ilhan Omar anti-Semitic. It makes Donald Trump a troll because he knows what the people have been saying about her as of late, and he continues to divide, instead of trying to understand why people may see this senior adviser of his as a white nationalist.
CUOMO: Cortes, why does Miller being Jewish end the conversation for you?
STEVE CORTES: Well, you know, first, I have to say, Angela, I…I really find it almost laughable that you’re going to tell us that we should believe that he’s a racist because somebody claims that they heard it on the playground in Los Angeles 20 years ago.
RYE: Is that what I said?
CORTES: I mean that’s…that’s hardly evidence.
RYE: Is that what I said?
CORTES: Yeah, actually. It’s exactly what you said.
RYE: No. It’s…it’s actually…
CORTES: That’s hardly evidence.
RYE: It’s not what I said. Actually, it’s not what I said.
CORTES: Now, here’s the…
RYE: There was no mention of a playground.
CORTES: Here’s what’s important.
RYE: And furthermore that was one example…
CORTES: Here’s what’s…
RYE: …of citing it’s not new to him.
CORTES: …here’s what’s important.
RYE: He’s true to this. That’s what it means, Steve.
CORTES: Here’s, here’s what’s important. He is absolutely a nationalist. He’s an American nationalist, so am I, by the way, proud…very proudly so. Whiteness has nothing to do with it. America is not a race. And I would also point out that tolerating largely open borders, which is a situation we have in this country, is most problematic, is most dangerous for Hispanic Americans. So, my community, brown people in this country, are the ones who suffer the most from our permissive border policies. We’re the ones who have to deal with MS-13. When you look at the victims, for instance, they almost always have Hispanic surnames. We’re the ones who have to compete in the labor market against illegal immigrant labor in a totally unfair system. So, in actuality, defending America and defending our border not only defends all Americans, but it particularly protects minority Americans, who suffer the most.
RYE: Chris, can I just for a moment?
CUOMO: Please, go ahead, Angela.
RYE: I think it’s…I think it’s really important when we have conversations like this to ground them in fact. So, if it’s okay, Chris, I would love to understand what Steve’s desh…definition of nationalism is to him. Perhaps that may…
RYE: …be the root of our problem. We don’t understand it the same way. What’s your definition, Steve?
CORTES: Nationalism…American national, nationalism, specifically, is pride in this country and shared values, shared values in our Constitution; things like tolerance, free enterprise…
CUOMO: How’s that different than patriotism?
CORTES: …the rule of law. The rule of law. These are…this is nationalism because every country, look…and, by the way, to me, they’re synonymous largely.
CUOMO: Then why use it?
CORTES: They’re synonymous. But…but the left, the left has…
CUOMO: Why such a loaded term?
CORTES: …the left, it’s not a loaded term. The left has tried to…
CUOMO: Very loaded.
CORTES: …turn it into a loaded term. It’s only loaded when you attach white to it, okay? It is…
RYE: That’s not true.
CUOMO: When has it been used as a major political movement that it didn’t have white attached to it?
CORTES: Nationalism, by the way, it’s also…one reason nationalism is a correct term today, instead of just patriotism, is nationalism is the antithesis of globalism. Globalism says that we forego our sovereignty, that we subscribe to multilateral…
CORTES: …structures in the world and that America’s interests don’t necessarily come first. That’s globalism.
CUOMO: Isolationism is the…
CUOMO: …opposite of globalism.
CORTES: No, no, and no.
CUOMO: From a political philosophy…
CORTES: Nationalism is the opposite of globalism.
CUOMO: …from a political philosophy standpoint, it is.
CUOMO: Isolationism is the…
CORTES: No, I disagree.
CUOMO: …opposite of globalism.
CUOMO: You can disagree. You’re wrong.
CORTES: No. It’s not America alone. It’s…no, I’m not wrong.
CUOMO: You are wrong.
CORTES: …It’s not America alone. But it…no, I’m not wrong, Chris.
RYE: You’re wrong.
CORTES: It’s not America alone. But it is America first. And that is a definition of nationalism, of saying we will not let the United Nations run America, just like people in France…
CORTES: … who are nationalists will say we will not let Brussels run Europe.
CUOMO: No, no, no, look, I like that Angela wanted us to get on the same page in terms of what we’re thinking and why. I dig it.
RYE: Which we can’t.
CUOMO: I dig. No, no, no, look, I dig it. It’s important to hear.
CUOMO: That’s part of disagreement with decency. Here’s the problem…
CUOMO: …though to get it back to the record, okay? What Miller has done, his heritage, his religion, his blood aside, what he has done with his life gives him reasons for criticism, and an apparent affinity for people who are part of ugly movements that say the same things. For example, the rhetoric surrounding the travel ban, and what that was saying about Muslims in general, as opposed to specific ones, and how it was carried out initially, the reason it got kicked out of court; that was Miller. It got refined by lawyers. What he said about the New Colossus poem being added later, suspiciously similar to what you hear from a Spencer, from what you hear from a Duke.
CUOMO: Why does he use language like that, Steve Cortes? Why does he espouse principles that often are found in the mouths of people who believe ugly things about diversity?
CORTES: Look, Chris, again, I think it’s very important to…to define here that defending America’s borders is never about race. America is not a white country.
CUOMO: I’m telling you what he said.
CORTES: We’re…we’re, we’re an incredibly diverse country…
CUOMO: How do you defend those actions?
CORTES: …and a country that loves immigrants.
CUOMO: But he painted Muslims as generally offensive.
RYE: Not all immigrants.
CORTES: No. No, he did not.
CUOMO: He said things…
CORTES: Not now. No…
CUOMO: …that white nationalists say.
CORTES: Not…no, look, now you’re getting into supposition.
RYE: He literally…I mean even when you get past, even you get past Stephen Miller…
CORTES: The travel ban…the travel ban was about failed countries…
RYE: …how did Donald Trump announce his campaign? He rolled out his campaign saying that Mexicans were drug dealers and rapists. And as a brown…
CORTES: He did not say that.
RYE: …person’s…Yes, he did, Steve.
CUOMO: Yes, he did.
RYE: And as a brown person, I will never…
CORTES: No. He said among them…
CUOMO: He said they’re sending us rapists and killers and some…
RYE: And drug dealers.
CUOMO: …I assume…
CUOMO: …are nice people.
CORTES: Yes. And, look, I will…I will be the first to say, as I’ve said many times, I did not like his word choice in that speech.
CUOMO: Well then don’t defend it. Then don’t defend it.
CORTES: Hold on.
RYE: I know. And that’s, that…and that’s just it.
CORTES: No, but, no, but Chris…attack him for what he actually said not what he didn’t say.
CUOMO: I just told you what he actually said.
CORTES: For example…
RYE: I, I know what he actually said because…
CORTES: What he said is that among…
RYE: I was stunned.
CUOMO: No. It’s not what he said.
CORTES: …among people who come here…
CORTES: …among people who come here illegally…
CUOMO: He was making it general.
RYE: Let me tell you something.
CORTES: No, that’s not true.
CUOMO: The main part is the bad...
RYE: Let me tell you something.
CUOMO: ...part. You know it, Steve. Go ahead, Angela.
CORTES: I don’t.
RYE: Among…let me, let me say this. Among is…is…
CUOMO: You may not know it. But you should know it then. I reform my question. Go ahead, Angela.
RYE: Among your definition today, the first part of which I completely can align with, but not under nationalism, perhaps under patriotism, but also in your definition, among the many that you offered, was an idea of superiority. And I think that is exactly the problem. That is exactly why Donald Trump is compared to Hitler. It is exactly why Stephen Miller has been called a white nationalist, a white supremacist, a racist, someone who is xenophobic, someone who is hateful about Muslims, someone who is a very hateful individual who’s rooted his policy positions and debates in hate and fear-mongering because people are worried about losing their what? First position in the world. That is why Make America Great Again is so frustrating to so many of us. That is why white nationalism and white supremacy that we saw at the Charlottesville riots and protests were problematic when Donald Trump said there are good people on both sides.