White House Chief of Staff John Kelly made headlines again this week, following a Fox News interview in which he did fresh damage to his credibility. Asked, for example, whether he’s prepared to apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), about whom Kelly recently told a false story, Donald Trump’s chief of staff replied, “Oh, no. No. Never. Well, I’ll apologize if I need to. But for something like that, absolutely not. I stand by my comments.”
In the same interview, Kelly, while explaining his reverence for history, argued that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.” It wasn’t long before historians, scholars, and people who know what they’re talking about explained just how wrong Kelly’s assessment was.
In a press briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked, “Does the White House at least acknowledge that the chief of staff’s comments are deeply offensive to some folks, and historically inaccurate?” She replied, “No.”
And while that wasn’t surprising – this isn’t a White House that acknowledges mistakes – something else Sanders said struck me as especially notable. From the official transcript:
“I think the fact that we keep trying to drive – the media continues to want to make this and push that this is some sort of a racially charged and divided White House.”
I’m afraid it’s a little late from Trump World to express discomfort with the “racially charged” label.
This is, after all, a rather unique presidency. Donald Trump’s rise to political power was fueled in large part by his role championing a racist conspiracy theory about the nation’s first black president. As a candidate for public office, Trump went after Judge Gonzalo Curiel because of his ethnicity, hesitated when asked to denounce David Duke, and equated Mexican immigrants with rapists.
As a president, Trump has pushed several versions of a Muslim ban, defended some racist activists as “very fine people,” and launched a prolonged feud with athletes engaged in a silent civil-rights protest.
Now, the president’s chief of staff is describing the cause of the Civil War in a decidedly ahistorical way.
If there’s a “racially charged” narrative surrounding this White House, it isn’t “the media” that created it.