A discussion about the citizenship question quickly got heated on Sunday’s edition of Fox News Sunday. While most of the panel seemed to agree that the presence of a citizenship question on the 2020 census was not unreasonable, Juan Williams, columnist for The Hill and liberal co-host of The Five, disagreed with their analysis. Williams made the argument that racial animus motivated the President’s decision to push for a citizenship question on the 2020 census, agreeing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s declaration that the goal of the citizenship question was to “Make America White Again.”
Before Williams weighed in, former Chief of Staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Josh Holmes painted the furor surrounding the citizenship question as another example of how President Trump “gets his political opposition to…to embrace a position that is so far out of the mainstream of the American electorate, it’s almost laughable.”
Polling demonstrates that the Democrats are “far out of the mainstream of the American electorate” when it comes to the citizenship question. According to a recent Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, 67 percent of voters, including a majority of Republicans, independents, and Democrats, support the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
Obviously, Williams is not part of that 67 percent. Echoing comments made by Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd last week, Williams implied that President Trump’s goal in adding the citizenship question to the census was to “intimidate or scare people who are here undocumented.” Host Chris Wallace pushed back on that argument, noting that the census asks questions about race, income, and gender but that did not stop Williams from going off the deep end.
After accusing the Trump administration of “stirring anti-immigrant fervor” in an effort to get illegal immigrants not to participate, Williams brought up Pelosi’s description of the citizenship question as “an effort to Make America White Again,” arguing: “I think that’s what’s going on.” Williams added “we know that Republican operatives wanted to depress this count in order to limit congressional districts that were run by Democrats.”
Williams is hardly the only cable news personality to use the debate over the citizenship question as an excuse to paint President Trump as a racist. MSNBC regular Jason Johnson cited the citizenship question as well as the President’s “overall plan” to demonstrate “hostility to non-white people in America.”
Williams failed to acknowledge that the census would still count everybody in the country, including illegal immigrants, it would merely make note of the number of non-citizens in the country the same way it makes note of the race, gender, and various other characteristics of the people residing in the country. For all the talk about how President Trump wants to “intimidate or scare people who are here undocumented,” it looks like Pelosi, Williams and Johnson are doing a pretty good job of doing that themselves.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of Fox News Sunday is below. Click “expand” to read more.
Fox News Sunday
CHRIS WALLACE: Let’s talk about another issue, and that is the census, which got a lot of attention. The President seemed to flip on the census. He had been pushing very hard to put a question on the census questionnaire, “are you or are you not a citizen?” He backed off that, here was Mr. Trump’s defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Not only didn’t I back down, I backed up because anybody else would have given this up a long time ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Josh, did the President back down? Did he cave? Which is what a lot of his conservative supporters say he did.
JOSH HOLMES: Well, in terms of what he’s trying to accomplish, he didn’t cave because he’s now going through the departments to try to gather this information from a separate process.
WALLACE: Which incidentally was suggested over a year ago and he turned down at that time.
HOLMES: Sure. I…I think his hands were tied because obviously the conducting of the census itself requires this questionnaire to be out there and to begin almost immediately if you’re going to have to get this in place to actually count the citizens, we know that no matter what he would do if he tried to put a question on that questionnaire, it would’ve been locked up in court for months, so in order to do the…the census itself, he had to…he had to do this. One thing I think he did succeed on, which I…I find it amazing how every time he does this, he was able to get the entirety of the Democratic Party to somehow take a position that it is irresponsible and inappropriate to count the number of Americans living in this country. I don’t know how he does it, but literally almost every time he takes a position, he gets his political opposition to…to embrace a position that is so far out of the mainstream of the American electorate, it’s almost laughable.
WALLACE: Well, let me…you, you look troubled about this, Juan. I mean, the fact is…
JUAN WILLIAMS: I am…I am baffled by what Josh just said.
WALLACE: Well, no, no. But I mean I just talked to Congressman Lujan…
WALLACE: …the top Hispanic in the, the Congress, and he seems to think that there’s something wrong with asking a question on the census, “are you a citizen or not?” I think to most Americans, that seems like a pretty reasonable question.
WILLIAMS: Well, first, to Josh’s point, I think everybody wants everyone to be counted, that’s the point, not to intimidate or scare people who are here undocumented…undocumented status, that they’re not counted. What the Constitution, what the founders said was an enumeration of the population. That’s everyone. But I think what we…
WALLACE: But is it…is it unreasonable to…as part of that…
WILLIAMS: It’s not un…
WALLACE: …Wait. They…we ask a lot of questions in the census…
WALLACE: …about race, about…about income, about gender. What’s wrong with asking citizenship?
WILLIAMS: Nothing. In fact, it’s on the long form. What we’re talking about is the short…
WALLACE: No it isn’t. No, it isn’t on the long form.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, it’s on the long form. I think there has been historically, there has been in the past a question about…
WALLACE: There is one for the one that goes up to 3 million people.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, that’s…
WILLIAMS: …what I’m talking about.
WALLACE: Yes. Okay.
WILLIAMS: Okay. So but on the short form, not. And I think this is an effort by this President and this administration as part of stirring anti-immigrant fervor to say to…to the immigrant population, don’t participate. If you participate, there’s a risk to you, to your family. Nancy Pelosi said this week “this is an effort to Make America White Again.” I think that’s what’s going on because we know that Republican operatives wanted to depress this count in order to limit congressional districts that were run by Democrats and the Supreme Court said the…
WALLACE: Let me bring Josh back in.
WILLIAMS: …the Consti…the Commerce Department’s rationale for doing this was contrived.
HOLMES: Juan, I think it’s beyond irresponsible to suggest the asking of whether or not you’re an American citizen is somehow racist and has roots in trying to exclude people of color from the census.
WILLIAMS: You should look at the documentation put out by Republicans that said just that, Josh.
HOLMES: No. Look, this is a pretty straightforward issue and my point was it is amazing how this President can get folks, Juan, like you, who are eminently reasonable on a whole range of issues, to embrace, embrace a discussion that actively says we should not know how many Americans live in this country. That is a…
WILLIAMS: I want everybody, I want everybody counted so I want not only Americans, every…because what the Constitution and the census is about is how many people live here.
JANE HARMAN: The Supreme Court didn’t say never. The Supreme Court said the way this was being handled was contrived. There will be a chance, if the Trump administration wants to handle it responsibly, for them to come back in ten years, oh, my God, not…Trump won’t be President, but for people who want to do this to come back in ten years and do this responsibly if…if there’s a good goal in mind.
HOLMES: And, I and I…
HARMAN: No one is saying it is terrible to know who’s a citizen and the President’s executive order directing something that was happening…that’s been happening for a year, which is having the departments collect information or share information they already have on who the citizens are is…is a valid order.
WILLIAMS: That was a face-saving maneuver by a President who folded.
WALLACE: Okay, I’m glad we settled that. All right, panel, we have to take a break here.