CNN's Tapper, Brinkley Compare Trump to 'Demagogues' Like Huey Long and George Wallace

July 19th, 2019 3:07 PM

CNN host Jake Tapper devoted a large amount of Thursday’s edition of The Lead to covering the chants of “send her back” that erupted during President Trump’s rally in North Carolina the night before when he brought up Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a refugee from Somalia who is now an American citizen. Tapper and his guests used the chants as an excuse to paint President Trump as a racist and compare him to segregationists Huey Long and George Wallace.

Tapper began by citing the “send her back” chants and the controversial tweets that preceded them as an example of President Trump’s “tactic of using racist appeals to incite and excite his supporters.” President Trump did not respond to the crowd during the rally but indicated his disapproval of the chant multiple times on Thursday.

Later, the CNN host attempted to summarize President Trump’s 2020 campaign strategy for his audience: “no more dog whistles, just naked racism; telling American citizens who are a different color to go back where they came from.” Tapper was trying to reinforce the narrative that President Trump’s criticisms of the so-called “Squad” are based solely on their skin color and not on their constant criticisms of America as a horrible place and/or anti-Semitic comments.



During an interview with California Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris, Tapper gave her the floor to trash President Trump, eagerly asking for her thoughts on his comments. Tapper did not ask her to weigh in on some of Congresswoman Omar’s “controversial comments,” which he admitted Omar had made at the top of the show.

After talking about how “demagoguery and division is not a new tactic in American politics,” Tapper asked CNN presidential historian David Brinkley if there was “any historical precedent that comes to mind” regarding the “send her back” chant. Brinkley responded by saying “not to this degree, where a President is that angry and that bitter.”



Brinkley cited the “colonization society…trying to ship free blacks out of the United States” back to Africa as well as the anti-immigrant Know Nothing Party of the 1850s as examples of precedents that paved the way for President Trump. According to Brinkley, “we thought when Joe McCarthy got censored and destroyed in the 1950s and George Wallace sort of disintegrated after the Civil Rights Acts…that maybe…we had gotten this out of…our bloodstream.”

Brinkley proceeded to imply that the election of President Trump proved that America had not gotten racism out of its bloodstream before arguing that “we put him in the league with demagogues, Huey Long and George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Strom Thurmond, but those people ran kind of third-party activities.” He then suggested that President Trump is even more dangerous than those people he mentioned because “they never really got the pulse of the United States.”

If CNN really cared about combating racism, they would not have given a platform to white nationalist Richard Spencer; as they did earlier in the week. It seems like they care more about painting President Trump in a negative light than anything else.

A transcript of the relevant portions of Thursday’s edition of The Lead is below. Click “expand” to read more.


The Lead With Jake Tapper


04:01 PM


JAKE TAPPER: Welcome to The Lead. I’m Jake Tapper. We begin today with the Politics Lead. This afternoon, we got a combination of two of President Trump’s more indecent characteristics, his willingness to lie to the American people, and his tactic of using racist appeals to incite and excite his supporters.


CROWD: Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!


TAPPER: “Send her back,” they chanted. Now, you know the backstory. The President launched attacks on four Democratic Congresswomen of color earlier this week, attacks that even Republican members of the House and Senate called racist. The President suggested that those four Congresswomen should go back to the countries where they came from, though three of the four were born in the United States and all four are American citizens. Last night, it all went one precipitous step further, when the President and the crowd focused on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who has made controversial comments herself, though the President’s lies about what she has said and demonizing of her prompted results last night that were so shocking, even some of the meekest and least critical Republicans in the House of Representatives voiced their discomfort, if not horror and revulsion. So, this afternoon, President Trump suddenly claimed that he disagreed with those ugly chants.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I’m not happy about when I hear a chant like that. And I’ve said that, and I’ve said it very strongly.


TAPPER: And the President told a demonstrable lie, a lie that he started speaking very quickly so as to end that chant.


REPORTER: Why didn’t you ask them to stop saying that?

TRUMP: Well, number one, I…I think I did. I started speaking very quickly. It, it really was a loud…I disagree with it, by the way, but it was quite a chant. And I felt a little bit badly about it. But I will say this. I did…and I started speaking very quickly.


TAPPER: That’s a naked lie. When the chant started, President Trump stopped talking. He let the crowd go, and he did not resume until the chant died out on its own, but don’t take my word for it. Take a look at the tape.


TRUMP: Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds.

CROWD: Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!


TAPPER: 13 seconds. For 13 seconds, the President of the United States stood there as a crowd of supporters screamed that he should send an American citizen, a woman who fled Somalia as a child refugee, now a member of the U.S. Congress, back to Somalia. This is all part and parcel of the President’s 2020 reelection strategy. No more dog whistles, just naked racism; telling American citizens who are a different color to go back where they came from. It’s a campaign tactic we need to be aware of as a tactic, notwithstanding the obvious immorality of bigotry.


04:17:15 PM

TAPPER: And we’re back with our Politics Lead. President Trump now claiming that he tried to stop the chants of “send her back” ringing through last night’s Trump rally, even though evidence is that he did not; as he slammed Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a U.S. citizen to came…who came to the U.S. as a refugee, fleeing war-torn Somalia when she was a child. Joining me now on the phone is Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris of California. Senator, thanks so much for fitting us in between your busy campaigning. President Trump today is now claiming that he tried to stop those chants, and even though he didn’t try to stop those chants, he’s also saying that he disagreed with them. What do you make of it all?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: I just think they’re empty words, Jake. You know, the…the chant was created not by the crowd, but by the President’s tweets, and…and that’s obvious. It’s, it’s…you know, it’s really not a debatable point, and I think it’s just…it is clearly not a sign of real leadership. I think you…you have mentioned it. Your guests have mentioned it. Contrast it with…with a real American leader like John McCain, who during the, the, the campaign in 2008, he…he stood up, he spoke up. He was…you know, he understood as an American hero that the voice of someone who wants to be, much less is the President of the United States, must be a voice…voice that is about elevating discourse, that is about speaking to our better selves. And this President just keeps finding new lows. And you know, I would like to say it’s shocking, but at some point, it’s…it’s sadly predictable. But it just keeps getting worse.

TAPPER: What was your response to the rally? I assume you were not watching it live and somebody must have brought you images of it. What…

HARRIS: Yeah, I heard about it.

TAPPER: What…what was your response?

HARRIS: Well, it’s just…I mean, first of all, look, there’s…it’s the same thing. He obviously is working out of a playbook that he, he, he used to get elected, right? And…and again focusing on the negative, focusing on…on divisions. And, you know, look…you know what I think is great? I think what is so great about today is you contrast what he did at that rally with what the Democrats just did in passing out of the House a $15 minimum wage. And I think that this is… these are the kinds of thing that the American people will be aware of, and they will see, which is one group is trying to put money in people’s pockets, meanwhile this President is busy trying to sow hate and division among us. And, you know, this is…and what he is doing…I’ve been traveling our country. I am campaigning, I am spending a lot of time in…in the beautiful diversity of America, and I will tell you something. This does not make people feel good. They don’t like it. It is not reflective of who they are and what’s in their hearts. And, you know, this is the other thing about real leadership. Real leadership should be some reflection of where people actually are. You know, we can disagree about policies and issues, but this is a fundamental point, which is who we are as Americans, our identity as Americans; in terms of our compassion for each other, in terms of valuing that out of many come one.


HARRIS: This guy doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get it.

TAPPER: You’re the…the child of a, of a…an Indian immigrant, and a Jamaican immigrant. Has anyone ever said anything like “go back where you came from,” to…to you, or to your sister, or to your parents?

HARRIS: Of course. Yes. And, I…you know, I was just…I was just at an event in Iowa two days ago, in Davenport, Iowa. And it was when all of this was fresh. And…and I…you know, like many of us, were upset about it, we were shocked that it happened. And I asked the crowd, just spontaneously…I said who, who, who here has heard that? And a number of hands went up and it’s not just the children of immigrants or immigrants. It’s African-Americans, you know, that’s the whole go back to Africa thing? This is not new. This is part of the, the…he is reviving dark chapters. He is, he is reviving those moments that have not been the best but, in fact, have been the worst of who we are. And I’ll tell you, Jake…

TAPPER: Uh-huh.

HARRIS: …when at that event, I brought this up, part of what compelled me to speak the way I did is the person before me who spoke was a woman who talked about how this was making her children feel.


HARRIS: And…and…and…and that again, we want to talk about the measure of a leader. When you make children afraid, you are not a good person. You are not a good person. And that’s what this President continually does. So, he…his, his, his words create a moment where there’s a chance, God only knows what that creates in a…on a school ground. We just saw recently what it created in some convenience store in Illinois.

TAPPER: Uh-huh.

HARRIS: People take…they take cues from the President because the President has a powerful microphone.

TAPPER: Yeah, Senator…

HARRIS: Whoever he or she may be, and it must be used in a responsible way. Not like this.

TAPPER: Senator Kamala Harris calling in from the campaign trail. Thank you so much; appreciate your time.


04:27:22 PM

TAPPER: President Trump’s racist tweets against four Democratic Congresswomen of color are a sign of his 2020 campaign strategy, sources tell CNN. And, of course, demagoguery and division is not a new tactic in American politics, though in the modern era, it is new for a President to do so perhaps in such a blatant way. In the 1960s, Alabama Democratic Governor George Wallace tried to stop integration.


GEORGE WALLACE (D), FORMER ALABAMA GOVERNOR: I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.


TAPPER: Before that, in the ‘40s and ‘50s, Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy smeared innocents in a lie-fueled anti-communist crusade.


JOSEPH MCCARTHY (R), FORMER WISCONSIN SENATOR: One communist on the faculty of one university is one communist too many.


TAPPER: Then go all the way back to 1915, when Democratic President Woodrow Wilson held and attended a White House screening of “Birth of a Nation,” a movie that glorified the Ku Klux Klan. But, of course, can demagoguery and division work today as well as it has in the past? I want to bring in CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. Professor Brinkley, thanks so much. When you hear President Trump tell those Congresswomen of color to go back where they came from, when you hear the crowd chant “send her back,” is there any historical precedent that comes to mind?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Not to this degree where a President is that angry and that bitter, and particularly not in the 21st century. You know, we go back in…as a presidential historian, you know, James Madison in 1817, had a colonization society trying to ship free blacks out of United States back to Lib…Liberia and Africa. We had a Know Nothing Party in the 1850s that was fiercely anti-immigrant. Millard Fillmore, a former President, was a member. They won governorships in states like Maryland and Maine. One can go on and document all of this in U.S. history, but we thought when Joe McCarthy got censored and got destroyed in the 1950s and George Wallace sort of disintegrated after the Civil Rights Acts, and he seemed to be a rear guard action figure, that maybe…that we had gotten this out of our…our bloodstream. After all, we had a two-term African-American President in Barack Obama, but birtherism has led to this kind of “send them back” rhetoric of the President. And it’s a…a dark stain on our national character.

TAPPER: Now, going back some…some ways. Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic President, once called segregation a benefit. He defended slavery, saying slaves were happy and well-cared for. He re-segregated the government. Is there a difference between what Wilson’s comments were and using race to get yourself elected?

BRINKLEY: Well, Wilson was from Virginia and he…even though he was of a, you know, a President of Princeton University, New Jersey governor, he knew how to play the race card to get votes, and that’s what he was doing when he wrapped himself around the KKK back there. As you know, you…with your David Duke interview, when you asked President Trump about it, a lot of these white citizen council, white supremacy groups adore Donald Trump, and he refuses to distance himself from them. We saw it at Charlottesville, and we saw it this week with the famous tweet against the so-called “squad” and the fact that a President is doing this is just mind-boggling. We put him in the league with demagogues, Huey Long and George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Strom Thurmond, but those people ran kind of third-party activities. They never really got the pulse of the United States. Donald Trump is our President, and it is awful late in the 21st century to be doing “go back to where you came from” cards to a nation filled with new waves of recent immigrants.