White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders launched a spirited defense Thursday afternoon of President Trump’s tweets earlier in the day attacking MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski over an alleged plastic surgery procedure.
Huckabee Sanders was doing her job, performing for a president she knew was watching. But she got lots and lots of things wrong as she attempted to defend something that is simply indefensible.
I picked 7 things that Huckabee Sanders said that didn’t pass the smell test. They’re listed below.
1. “I think the American people elected somebody who’s tough, who’s smart, and who’s a fighter.
Last time I checked, the definition of “tough” wasn’t “cyber-bullying a TV show host via Twitter.” What Trump did is the opposite of being tough; it’s bullying, plain and simple. Tough people don’t go around talking about how tough they are or trying to prove it. Toughness is about resilience. It’s about getting knocked down and getting back up. it’s about taking the high road. It’s not about tweeting about alleged face-lifts.
2. “Look, the American people elected a fighter. They didn’t elect somebody to sit back and do nothing.” “He fights fire with fire.”
Let’s talk about a real fighter: Floyd Mayweather Jr. (This is not to say Floyd is much of a role model either.) Using his fists is Mayweather’s job, but you don’t often read about him taking random fights. Why? Because it’s literally the definition of “punching down.” Fighters fight when they have to. Punching every person on the street who says something to you doesn’t prove what a good fighter you are.
3. “The President in no way form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence.”
Full quote: “The President in no way form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence.”
Repeatedly at his rallies during the campaign, Trump would insinuate – and sometimes more – that he’d be thrilled if one of his supporters got physical with people protesting. At a rally in February 2016 in Iowa, Trump said this: “There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience. So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell— I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.” So…..
4. “He was simply pushing back and defending himself.”
It’s not entirely clear what exactly Trump was reacting to on “Morning Joe” on Thursday. But whatever it was, his tweets weren’t an example of defending yourself. Defending himself would be to note that, say, the criticism that he isn’t stable is outside the bounds of political discourse and inappropriate. What Trump did – offering an ad hominem attack on Brzezinski – is entirely offense-playing. He’s attacking her on personal grounds.
5. Trump can’t be expected to be held to a higher standard
Sanders was asked twice if the president should be held to a higher standard and she answered, “I don’t think you can expect someone to be personally attacked day after day, minute by minute, and sit back.”
OF COURSE HE CAN. He is the president of the United States. As such, he represents more than 300 million people in the most prominent democracy in the world. He is not some private citizen offering a series on inappropriate remarks about women. He is not a cable TV show host. He is the leader of the free world. His salary is paid by taxpayers. He is the symbol of the US both domestically and across the world. He reaps immense power and prominence from that role. And with those things come real responsibility.
Take it out of the context of the presidency and Trump. Think of me. I have an amazing platform via CNN. I get to write about politics. I get to talk about them on TV. Lots and lots of people disagree with me – in VERY personal terms – every single day. Should I respond to every single one with an equally nasty reply? Of course not. The prominence my job affords me also comes with the responsibility to be better than to punch back every time someone punches me. And, to repeat: I AM NOT THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
6. “I think the President would love for us all to focus on the legislative agenda a whole lot more.”
There’s no better way to see exactly what Trump cares about than his Twitter feed. It’s literally just the president, a phone and social media. And so, when he tweets about Mika Brzezinski’s looks, it’s sort of hard to ignore that. In fact, it would be journalistic malpractice to do so. He is the president of the United States. If Trump wanted the media to focus on, say, Kate’s Law, or the Senate health care bill, he would tweet more about them and not at all about hosts of cable TV. He has the power to set the agenda. He’s the president. (Yes, I know I keep making that point, but it’s important!)
7. “He’s not going to sit back and be attacked by the liberal media, Hollywood elites.”
Donald Trump is Donald Trump’s biggest enemy. He is the one tweeting. He is the one calling the health care bill “mean.” He is the one repeatedly contradicting the narrative his aides are pushing on the firing of Jim Comey or the Russia investigation or healthcare. The media covers what the president says. That’s a part of our job. Sure, blaming the media will work for Trump’s most loyal supporters who think all journalists have horns and tails. But that doesn’t make it right.