Sadly, another terrorist attack has taken place in New York City. This tragedy has taken the lives of eight innocent victims and injured a dozen more. At times like these Americans are called upon to unite against such senseless brutality and to come together in support of those affected. It's a manifestation of the strength and resolve that we have to endure and prevail.
However, it is also sad that Donald Trump doesn't share these principles. The President's first reactions to the carnage were blathering assertions that what had just happened in America can't happen in America. But what he later sought to convey, after having slept on it, was even more repulsive. In a series of brazenly political tweets, he declined to criticize the terrorist or the extremist views that inspired him. Instead, Trump lashed out at fellow Americans in Congress. Specifically, Senate Minority Leader (and the representative of the state that was attacked) Chuck Schumer and Democrats in general:
It's nauseating that Trump appears to be more upset with Sen. Schumer than with the terrorist. What's more, he is predictably misrepresenting the truth. The Diversity Visa Lottery program was supported by Schumer as an amendment to the Immigration Act of 1990. That bill passed in the Senate by a whopping 89 to 8 vote and was signed into law by George H.W. Bush. It was also supported by some notable Republicans including Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and current Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Funny, Trump didn't attack any of them.
Something else Trump left out was that in 2013 a bipartisan group of senators, including Schumer, proposed to eliminate the Diversity Visa program. Known as the "Gang of Eight," they offered a compromise immigration reform bill that would have ended the lottery. The bill was killed by conservative Republicans in the House.
Trump's comments fly in the face of his response to last month's terrorist attack in Las Vegas. After that horrific mass murder Trump and the GOP were aghast that anyone would talk about solutions to gun violence. And after the murder in Charlottesville, Virginia, by neo Nazis, Trump declared that he couldn't talk about it until he had the facts. But just a few hours after the attack in New York, while the investigation was still in progress, Trump was already pushing his partisan agenda and lying about his political foes.
Not surprisingly, it's easy to figure out where Trump got these talking points. He was obviously watching Fox News. In the hours following the attack, Fox News hosts and pundits were pushing their biases out onto the airwaves. And their stridently anti-Muslim bigotry was on full display. Here are some examples:
- Tucker Carlson: It seems obviously tied to immigration, why is the country unwilling to have that conversation, to face that?
- Pamela Geller on Hannity: The fact is Muslim immigration means more Islamic terrorism. It's just that simple.
- Laura Ingraham: Why must we take the risk, knowing that we can't tell if an Islamic individual is going to be radicalized?
- Zuhdi Jasser on Tucker Carlson Tonight: [Americans] are in denial if we don’t believe that nonviolent Islamism is a precursor to militant Islamism.
Trump's TV was typically tuned in to Fox and Friends. That's where he got the Schumer connection, which was not even confirmed at the time. Co-host Steve Doocy said so when he stated that:
"According to Mark Levin, and I looked online, and there are a bunch of websites that say that Chuck Schumer was one of the sponsors. We have not independently confirmed that through our brain room yet."
Let's just set aside the dubious assertion that Fox News has a "Brain Room." The network was admittedly disseminating rumors in order to blame political adversaries for a terrorist attack. And that was enough for Trump to regurgitate it and give Fox News credit. Doocy's colleague, Brian Kilmeade, contributed to this deliberate disinformation. Undoubtedly, this is the first time Trump had connected the visa lottery to the attack:
"All right, let's talk about how he got here. He applied to a lottery system, the diversity visa program [...] And congratulations, you win the lottery and then eight people are run over in this case eventually down the line because of this."
For the record, the Diversity Visa Lottery program was not a free pass to American citizenship. Recipients had to be vetted by all of the same criteria as any other immigrant applying for entry. They are also subject to the same requirements and waiting periods. Kilmeade's description was patently dishonest and purposefully misleading.
The fact that Trump relies on the disinformation and lies of Fox News is appalling and dangerous. They clearly don't have the credibility to be the foundation for government policy. But Trump puts more faith in them than he does in the intelligence agencies he oversees. This morning he called his own Justice Department "a joke and a laughingstock." The result is ignorant policies that are infused with noxious racism and bigotry. Not to mention the corrosive division that is sown by a President who regards his political opponents, and the media, as worse than our nation's real enemies.
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