Corey Lewandowski, the man who managed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for more than a year and who still serves as an unofficial adviser to the President, did something breathtaking during an interview on Fox News Channel Tuesday: He scoffed at the plight of a 10-year-old with Down syndrome.
And no, I am not kidding. You can watch the clip here but here’s a quick summary: Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas notes that a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome was separated from her mother due to the “zero-tolerance” policy instituted by the Trump administration at the border. Lewandowski dismissively says “Womp, womp.” Petkanas rightly goes nuts.
Here’s what Lewandowski is saying: I don’t want to hear your sob stories about kids being separated from their parents. The parents broke the law. The end.
In a statement Wednesday, US Customs and Border Protection noted that the girl’s separation from her mother was in relation to a smuggling operation, not the “zero-tolerance” policy.
So while Petkanas was wrong on the reason, there’s no indication that Lewandowski knew that – either in the moment or in a subsequent appearance hours later.
Lewandowski had a chance to clean up Tuesday night’s mess during another Fox appearance Wednesday morning.
He, um, didn’t.
Here’s what he said instead, with thanks to CNN’s DJ Judd for the transcription:
“An apology? I owe an apology to the children whose parents are putting them in a position that is forcing them to be separated. We owe an apology to Jamiel Shaw and Brian Terry and Kate Steinle’s family who have allowed those individuals to be killed by illegal aliens. The American people owe an apology to those people. When you cross the border illegally you have committed a crime and there is accountability for committing crimes and there should be.”
Lewandowski’s comments – and his refusal to apologize for them – are gross. Classless. Unfeeling. But not entirely out of step with how the President and his senior advisers have dealt with their self-created crisis over the separation of families at the southern border.
Trump himself has offered little in the way of compassion, choosing instead to spend his rhetorical energies blaming Democrats for the crisis (an attack not borne out by the facts) and insisting that Congress alone can fix this problem (an attack not borne out by the facts).
Department of Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen has also offered little in the way of compassion, holding a press briefing on Monday night in which she repeatedly made clinical arguments about the necessity of enforcing the law and claimed she hadn’t seen any of the pictures of children being held in cages. I mean, really?
Here’s what Lewandowski, Nielsen and Trump seem to miss: You can support the rule of law. You can believe we need to tighten the borders. And you can understand that children being separated from their families is simply inhumane and not the sort of country that we want to be.
These two sentiments are not mutually exclusive. The law is never just the law. Discretion is built into the law. Turning this into a dry debate over policy misses the mark. Mocking people affected by this policy change is remarkably callous.
Lewandowski seems unwilling or incapable to take ownership of that fact. In a tweet Wednesday, he tried to pivot away from his ugly sentiment by – wait for it – blaming the media. Here’s his tweet:
“Lots of Fake News today. I mocked a liberal who attempted to politicize children as opposed to discussing the real issue which is fixing a broken immigration system. It’s offenseive that the MSM doesn’t want to talk about the fact these policies were started under Obama.”
Nope. Watch the clip. It’s very, very clear who Lewandowski is making fun of.
Lewandowski said it for a simple reason: He believes it. Which is pretty awful.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to incorporate the Wednesday statement by US Customs and Border Protection.