PragerU Spreading Absurd Lies About Trump's 'Very Fine People' In Charlottesville
Donald Trump grossly defended white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. We all remember it. It was so objectively awful even average white uncles across the nation were offended, which is why their king and presidential candidate Joe Biden decried Trump's "both sides" BS in his campaign launch video. Biden isn't one for controversial stances unless it's about segregationists.
Charlottesville is a sticking point for conservatives. They must think it's worse than all the countless other racist things Trump has done. Biden at least thinks it's a compelling example for white moderates of Trump's moral unfitness. Maybe this is why the right keeps re-litigating Charlottesville. Right-wing fake university PragerU released a video today called "The Charlottesville Lie." The "lie" CNN commentator Steve Cortes exposes is not Trump's absurd claim that there were "very fine" people on both sides of a Nazi rally. No, the "lie" is the "fake" media's claim that Trump said anything so obviously racist and terrible. We simply didn't see what we saw or hear what we heard. Also, there are five lights. CNN should reconsider the non-fake paychecks it still sends Cortes.
This Cortesian version of events is that white supremacists held a white pride rally ostensibly to oppose the removal of a statue commemorating slave-owning traitor Robert E. Lee. As much as Lee sucks, he's sort of immaterial here. White supremacists could hold a white pride rally opposing the new
Star Wars movies (it'd be on brand). It's still a hate parade filled with Nazis.
Cortes claims an Antifa group showed up to rabble rouse. Conservatives hate Antifa but enjoy using the group of random assholes to smear peaceful protestors. Heather Heyer, the woman a white supremacist murdered at the rally, was not a member of Antifa. She was one of the many anti-Nazi counterprotestors. She was a hero who died showing that some Americans are better than the worst of us. If Charlottesville was really just Nazis versus Antifa, why would the president claim there were "very fine people" in either group?
Discussing Trump's awful press conference, Cortes describes the media as "antagonistic" and Trump as "combative," like he's a common Howard Cosell narrating a boxing match. The reporters were just doing their job, and there's no reason for Trump to be on the defensive when condemning neo-Nazis. That's the easiest moral battle to fight: Nazis suck. Move on.
Cortes argues that Trump condemned in no uncertain terms the neo-Nazis and only praised the "very fine people" who peacefully protested for and against the removal of Lee's statue. He quotes roughly three lines from Trump: "You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides." "(A) very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name." "I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists -- because they should be condemned totally." Curiously, he does not include the actual unedited video of Trump's racist diatribe. Let us help him with that!
REPORTER: (Inaudible) … both sides, sir. You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are the --
TRUMP: Yes, I think there's blame on both sides. If you look at both sides -- I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don't have any doubt about it either. And if you reported it accurately, you would say."
REPORTER: The neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest --
TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. They didn't put themselves -- and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group. Excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
REPORTER: George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.
TRUMP: George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his statues? Are we going to take down -- excuse me, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?
REPORTER: I do love Thomas Jefferson.
TRUMP: Okay, good. Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue? So you know what, it's fine. You're changing history. You're changing culture. And you had people -- and I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists -- because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.
Trump turned this press conference -- his first public statement after an innocent woman was murdered -- into a Lost Cause pity party. He went to great effort to distinguish "bad" white supremacists from, we guess, the "good" white supremacists who idolize slave owners. He even picked a "very fine" side and agreed with stupid bigots that removing Confederate statues is "changing history" (it is not). When Nazis march through the streets shouting, "You will not replace us!" it's hardly encouraging when the president later charges counterprotesters with "changing culture." It can lead white supremacists to the not unreasonable conclusion that they're all on the same side.
Midway through his revisionist history, Cortes seems to realize his argument is taking on water so he resorts to a desperate, shameless rhetorical Hail Mary. See, obviously Trump wouldn't praise Nazis because his daughter and her first husband are orthodox Jews. This is dumb, y'all. Strom Thurmond had a black daughter. Thomas Jefferson had equity in several of his black kids. We can't believe we have to keep saying this but a personal relationship with a member of a minority group doesn't render you physically incapable of holding prejudiced views against other members of said group. Louis Farrakhan -- the Louis Farrakhan -- once suggested his father might've been Jewish.
FARRAKHAN: I'm going to tell you something. You really want to know what I think? I think [my father's parents] were members of the Jewish community.... I believe that in my blood, and not in a bad way. Because when I was a little boy I used to love listening to the Jewish cantors in Boston. They had a program, and every week I would listen. I was struck by the cantor, and I've always loved the way they sing or recite the Torah.
Now, does that sound like the words of an anti-Semite to you? It should because Farrakhan is an anti-Semite, Trump is a white nationalist, and Cortes has wasted the time of all intelligent people. That's not his audience, though. He's speaking to the conservatives who don't like Trump that much but downright hate the "liberal" media. Cortes feeds the narrative that growing racial tension is the fault of "very bad" people on the other side whose sole goal is to make the president look bad. Trump enablers like to combine the "Big Lie" with the "Big Con." They freely confess to their marks that they've been lied to and conned. They just claim it's the other side who's doing it.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."