Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was among the Republicans offering mild rebukes in the wake of Donald Trump dining with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, but the senator apparently thought it was necessary to add a dash of media criticism to his comments. NBC News reported:
“No, the meeting was bad. He shouldn’t have done it,” Graham said. “But again, you know, there’s a double standard about this kind of stuff. And I don’t think it’ll matter in terms of his political future, but I do believe we need to watch who we meet with. We shouldn’t give oxygen to people who think this way.”
The fact that Graham described the dinner as “bad” arguably helped the senator clear a very low bar, but it was his reference to “a double standard” that struck me as notable. Where, exactly, is this double standard?
As it turns out, the South Carolinian explained what he meant, telling reporters on Capitol Hill yesterday, “You know, when Democrats hang out with Farrakhan, y’all don’t ask these questions.”
A reporter reminded the Republican that former Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan hasn’t maintained a high public profile for “a long time.” It was at that point that Graham nevertheless argued that there’s “a double standard about this kind of stuff.”
In other words, as far as the GOP senator is concerned, Trump did something “bad,” but journalists should be equally vigilant about covering Democratic leaders who engage in similar misbehavior.
The problem with such an assessment is that the double standard doesn’t exist in reality.
By any credible measure, there is no prominent analog for Fuentes on the left. We are, after all, talking about a notorious Holocaust denying racist who’s called for the imposition of a dictatorship in the United States. Graham wanted to find a liberal equivalent, so he turned his attention to Farrakhan — who maintained some modicum of political relevance in the 1990s.
But whether the Republican lawmaker intended to do so or not, Graham ended up proving an important point.
“[W]hen Democrats hang out with Farrakhan, y’all don’t ask these questions,” he said. This might be a more compelling observation were it not for the inconvenient fact that prominent Democratic leaders don’t hang out with Farrakhan.
Graham’s argument stands out precisely because it makes Trump look worse, not better. If a former Democratic president, and the frontrunner for the party’s presidential nomination in the next election cycle, had dinner with a fringe crackpot, that would be highly controversial. If that former Democratic president responded to the controversy by refusing to denounce the fringe crackpot and/or his disgusting ideas, that would make the situation considerably worse.
And therein lies the point: This has not happened. Indeed, it won’t happen. Democratic leaders kept Farrakhan and his cohorts at arm’s length three decades ago, and party leaders continue to keep their distance from radicals now. In contrast, Trump not only dined with two notorious bigots, he's also failed entirely to denounce their hate.
The double standard that Graham whined about is a mirage, not because reporters are biased, but because Democrats know not to do what Trump has done.