After CNN historian David Brinkley compared President Trump on Thursday to “demagogues” like Huey Long and George Wallace, CNN global affairs analyst and Washington Post columnist Max Boot called Trump a demagogue on Friday’s CNN Tonight and accused him of “bringing fascism to America,” an idea that even far-left CNN political commentator Van Jones pushed back on.
The conversation focused on President Trump’s “racist tweets directed at the four congresswomen of color” known as “the squad.” Host Don Lemon asked: “Is he making it crystal clear, Max, that he is racist?” Boot responded that “he is definitely making it crystal clear to anybody who has not drunk the Kool-Aid, Don, that he is a racist.”
Throughout the segment, the liberals panelists did their best to paint the so-called “squad” in the best possible light. Boot trashed “the lies that he’s telling about these women” with regards to their support for al-Qaeda and anti-Semitism.
Apparently, Boot and his fellow liberals forgot that Omar once mentioned that a professor pronounced the phrase “al-Qaeda” with an intense emphasis while complaining that “you don’t say ‘America’ with an intensity, you don’t say ‘England’ with the intensity. You don’t say ‘the army’ with the intensity.” While Omar’s comments about al-Qaeda might not qualify as an endorsement of the terrorist group, it’s not exactly something one would find mainstream or even acceptable.
When CNN political commenator and former Ted Cruz aide Alice Stewart got the rest of the panel to admit that Omar has a checkered past with anti-Semitism, they still defended her and the rest of the “squad,” including Jones, who reiterated that President Trump’s claims about the Congresswomen were “lies and they’re lies based in…in racial intolerance.”
Lemon actually read aloud the definition of the word demagogue before asking Boot: “In your view, who does that sound like?” Boot responded: There’s no question, I mean, I don’t know how you can dispute that Donald Trump is a demagogue, he is a hate monger and he is really bringing fascism to America.” Naturally, that echoed what Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) told friends in the press corps as she left the U.S. Capitol building on Thursday.
After recycling the comparison of Trump to George Wallace, Boot suggested that Trump’s “vilification of the opposition” was ludrcious that “they want to destroy America.” Boot obviously lacks self-awareness; just seconds later, he described President Trump as “a very grave threat to the future of our country.”
To his credit, Jones pushed back on Boot’s use of the word fascism: “I think he’s using some authoritarian tendencies here...I wouldn’t use the term fascist at this point so I just wanted to say...from my point of view, he’s doing a lot of stuff that’s bad, I just wouldn’t go that far.” When even Van Jones argued that he had gone too far, Boot should have had a moment of self-reflection about the severity of his Trump Derangement Syndrome.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Friday’s CNN Tonight is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN Tonight With Don Lemon
10:15 p.m. Eastern
DON LEMON: President Trump back to his old defiant tone today about his racist tweets directed at the four Congresswomen of color, backing away from his claim just yesterday that he was unhappy with the “send her back” chant at his rally on Wednesday; instead calling the crowd incredible patriots. Let's discuss now with Van Jones, also Max Boot, the author of The Corrosion of Conservatism and Why I Left the Right, and Alice Stewart. Alice, I changed your name in the tease there, I called you Alex, but sorry about that.
ALICE STEWART: That’s okay, Don. That’s okay.
LEMON: As much as I talk to you, I should know your name, right? Good evening, everyone. So, I want to first, Van, let’s start with this, right? Because I have to tell you this has been bothering me all day as I’ve been listening to the President give these statements. You know, he did it at the White House today and he keeps saying these Congresswomen are anti-Semitic. There was one who made controversial comments and apologized and said she would learn from it. Then he said, they have been calling America garbage. That is not…if you look at the fact check. She said… about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she said that the country has gone so far in the wrong direction that people shouldn’t be satisfied with moderate policies that are merely ten percent better from garbage. That’s not calling the country garbage.
VAN JONES: No. And…and frankly, she was criticizing Democrats.
LEMON: She was criticizing Democrats.
JONES: She was actually, she was actually, she was actually calling her own party…
LEMON: So why…he continues…but he just…he said the same thing over and over and over and over. And it was just a lie, a lie, a lie, a lie.
JONES: Well, you know, if you tell a lie enough times it becomes a truth.
JONES: And it’s…yeah, gaslighting. You just tell a lie. So, he’s saying these horrible…she’s saying these horrible things. If you…one of the things I think is quite remarkable about the so-called squad, if you…if you listen to them, I tell…I tell liberals all the time, actually listen to Donald Trump’s speeches; not just the sound bites. Listen to the whole speech so you have a sense of what is going on. If you listen to what these young women are saying, they are growing in office. They are reaching out to white workers; they are reaching out to…to the, to white working class. And…and Ilhan Omar has forged an alliance with Jewish people in her district and she’s working very closely to try to repair some of that damage and to…and to bring forward a peaceful message. So, he’s not, so he’s frozen them in time with a false narrative and is talking about people, you know, he’s lying about what they said. But we’re now ignoring the fact that these young…these young women, these incredible young leaders are actually growing in office and doing exactly what we want them to do. If you say something wrong, apologize and do better.
JONES: That’s what they’re doing.
LEMON: That’s what you’re supposed to do.
JONES: That’s not what he’s doing.
LEMON: That’s not what he’s doing.
JONES: That’s not what he’s doing.
LEMON: Is he making it crystal clear, Max, that he’s racist?
MAX BOOT: He is definitely making it crystal clear to anybody who has not drunk the Kool-Aid, Don, that he is a racist. But I’m very glad that you’re focusing in on the…the lies that he’s telling about these women. Because you know, we tend to focus on his racist statements about “go back where you come from” and the chants of “send her back.” But you’re absolutely right that he’s kind of smuggling in these lies and he keeps repeating them and even by debunking them, we’re repeating them and almost spreading the narrative for him; which is that that these women hate America, they think that Israel is evil, they support Al Qaeda. These are all lies. And I…I have to say, I mean, I have a lot of disagreements with the squad. They are well to the left of where I am, where I think most voters are. I do think that Ilhan Omar has been guilty of anti-Semitic statements and I have, you know, problems with some of the things that they advocate. But there is zero evidence that they “hate America.” Trump is just making that up. And as Van was just saying, just through sheer repetition, he is making a lie part of our discourse and that is very troubling.
LEMON: Alice, why is he telling lies on…on these women? Why is he trying to change the narrative?
STEWART: Let’s just make one point clear in terms of being factually accurate here. Between these four Congresswomen who have…have done a lot for their issues and their policies, they have made anti-Semitic statements. One of them actually did walk it back but they have made anti-Semitic statements. So that is factually accurate. And that is something…
LEMON: So what’s…but what are, what are the anti-Semitic statements?
STEWART: …that the President has pointed out.
LEMON: People say that, what is the…what’s the anti-Semitic statements? Because I have seen the anti-Semitic tweets by…or the ones that were controversial from Ilhan Omar. But I don’t…I don’t see any other anti-Semitic statements from any of the other women?
LEMON: And she’s apologized and said that she’s…
JONES: Ayanna Pressley?
LEMON: …learning. So, what are the other…what are the other anti-Semitic statements?
STEWART: Well, they’ve…they’ve talked about those that, that support…they…those that support people of Israel or the Jewish people; it’s all about the Benjamins. They’ve made a series…
JONES: No, that’s one…that’s not they.
LEMON: That’s the same one that I’m talking about.
JONES: That’s not they. That’s…that’s Ilhan Omar. And she was talking about AIPAC. And…and she, she stepped in it and she realized it sounded like she was going that old Jewish slur that, you know, Jews are using their money in a negative way. She walked that back. But that’s one. I think it’s really unfair. Ayanna Pressley, you’re going to say that she’s anti-Semitic? That makes zero sense at all. I mean, if you look, Rashida Tlaib? So, again, this idea that you just throw it out there. But then when you poke into it, it turns out it’s back to two tweets. And those are tweets that Ilhan Omar has walked back. And I do think she deserves credit, Ilhan, for listening to her own Jewish constituents and then reaching out to Jewish Congress members and now working for peace. So, if you can’t make a mistake on a tweet and then be forgiven and do better, then why do you have a President who does…makes the same mistakes on Twitter every day, never apologizes and does worse? So, I just…I just think it’s not fair…not fair for us to fall for these kind of tricks.
STEWART: But I think it’s important…the only issue is not about the anti-Semitic statements. It’s not about that. It is the overall policies and the President has mentioned this a few times. I wish he would focus more on the real issue here is their policies. And the overall…their far-left policies that are really emblematic of the Democrat Party now.
STEWART: Their socialist policies, the Green New Deal, the late term abortion, the free college for all. And their overall policies…
JONES: None of those…none of those are proof that she…
STEWART: … that these four represent are emblematic of the Democratic Party and that is what the President certainly should focus on.
JONES: Listen. There’s a…Look, there’s a…there’s a wing of the party that likes that some of stuff. There’s a wing of the party that likes it a little bit less. But none of that is proof that anybody hates America or that anybody ever said America is garbage or that anybody hates Jewish people. So, again, I…I, I don’t mind having these debates and arguments. I’m on the left side of this party. I’ll defend all those ideas when you talk about health care for everybody and…and doing better on the environment. But, you know, this is not what the President’s talking about. And…and the part of the thing that’s so weird to me is that the President could…he’s got a barrel of good stuff he could reach into. In fact, his criminal justice stuff with the First Step Act, about 3,000 people came home today from the federal prisons; 91 percent black. We’re not talking about any of that stuff because he goes over to the nasty barrel, scrapes the bottom of that barrel, comes up with splinters and we got to talk about that for a week. So, I don’t understand what this President is doing. But it…but to me, you know, we are now in a position where we have to just call…call it like it is. These are lies and they’re lies based in…in racial intolerance. And it’s wrong.
LEMON: Max, I want you to weigh in here because this is the definition of a demagogue here, “a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.” In your view, who does that sound like?
BOOT: Well, there’s no question. I mean, I don’t know how you can dispute that Donald Trump is a demagogue, he is a hate monger and he is really bringing fascism to America. I mean, what he is doing is unconscionable. I mean, he is sometimes compared and I’ve compared him to people like George Wallace or Lester Maddox. But remember, George Wallace and Lester Maddox, they did not become President. We have never had a President like this going back unless you go back to somebody like Andrew Johnson as, I think has been cited as…as our most racist previous President. This is really unprecedented. And…and it’s not just the racism. It’s also the vilification of the opposition; saying, they hate America, they want to destroy America. These are things that we have not heard from previous Presidents. This is way over the line. This is really undermining the norms of our democracy. And this is going to be a very grave threat to the future of the country; especially if Trump wins reelection; which is very possible.
LEMON: I got to go, Van.
JONES: Look, I think this he’s using some authoritarian tendencies here, I think he…
JONES: I wouldn’t use the term fascist at this point so I just wanted to say like, like, from my point of view, he’s doing a lot of stuff that’s bad. I just wouldn’t go that far.
LEMON: That’s got to be the last word. Sorry, I’m out of time. Thank you, all. I appreciate it.