After Donald Trump publicly defended racist activists, to the delight of prominent white supremacists, the White House hoped the president's Republican allies would rally to his defense. That clearly didn't happen.
Last week, bookers and producers for a variety of news programs -- including colleagues of mine at MSNBC -- reached out to dozens of GOP officials about appearing on camera to defend Trump's comments, and Republicans simply weren't interested. That continued yesterday: in an exceedingly rare sight, there were no elected GOP officials on any of the Sunday shows.
In an interesting twist, when ABC News' "This Week" asked the White House for a spokesperson willing to appear as a guest, officials directed the show's producers to, of all people, Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and a member of the White House's Evangelical Advisory Board. Falwell was one of the few people to defend Trump last week, and he did so again yesterday with ABC's Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: [Trump] said, there were "very fine people" on both sides. Do you believe there were very fine people on both sides?
FALLWELL: He has inside information that I don't have. I don't know if there were historical purists there who were trying to preserve some statues. I don't know. But he had information I didn't have. And I believe that he spoke what was...
RADDATZ: What made you think he knew that...
FALLWELL: I think he saw videos of who was there. I think he was talking about what he had seen, information that he had that I don't have.
This is a curious line of defense. On Friday, Aug. 11, tiki-torch-wielding activists were filmed chanting, "Jews will not replace us." Other participants at that Charlottesville rally were photographed making a Nazi salute. Trump said of these activists, “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”
Were we supposed to "believe" him because, as Falwell put it, Trump has unique "information" about these activists' motivations? From Falwell's perspective, does the president have some kind of special insights into what the torch-wielding racists were thinking?