×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
August 16, 2017

On Monday, President Trump held a press conference to declare racism "evil" and to directly condemn "the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists." On Tuesday, Trump held another press conference, during which he snapped at reporters as he insisted that "both sides" were to blame for the deadly violence at Saturday's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In Trump's opinion, Tuesday's was the more successful of the two press conferences, Politico reported:

Trump, however, was in "good spirits" on Tuesday night, according to a White House adviser who spoke to him. The adviser said the president felt the news conference went much better than his statement on Monday, in which he declared that “racism is evil” and denounced certain hate groups by name. Aides had pressured Trump to deliver the statement after his initial remarks on Saturday — in which he blamed "many sides" for the fatal protests in Charlottesville — set off a firestorm.

The president was not alone in his pleasure at the news conference. Chief strategist Steve Bannon, whose nationalistic views helped shape Trump's presidential campaign, was thrilled with the remarks, according to a friend of Bannon. [Politico]

To be clear: The press conference the president thought "went much better" was not the one that at which he confirmed that "hatred, bigotry, and violence" have "no place in America," but the one that former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke heartily praised. Becca Stanek

6:41 a.m. ET
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The latest school mass shooting, and the vocal advocacy of student survivors at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has made enacting new gun restrictions a viable possibility for the first time in years. Not everyone is happy about that. In a discussion Wednesday about calls for stricter gun laws, first-term Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) offered an interesting rebuttal. "Yeah, well, obviously there is a lot of politics in it, and it's interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats, but the media doesn't talk about that either," Tenney told Talk 1300 Radio host Fred Dicker.

Tenney already has a Democratic challenger for November, state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, and he called the comments "disgusting" and "toxic." He urged Tenney to apologize, but instead she issued a statement Wednesday night saying she is "fed up with the media and liberals attempting to politicize tragedies and demonize law-abiding gun owners and conservative Americans every time there is a horrible tragedy."

The people who perpetrate "these atrocities have a wide variety of political views," Tenney clarified, adding that her comments were "about the failure to prosecute illegal gun crime," and she "will continue to stand up for law-abiding citizens who are smeared by anti-gun liberal elitists." Tenney did not explain why she thinks "anti-gun liberal elitists" would care about the party affiliation of mass shooters, when what they really want is fewer military-style weapons for any civilian. Peter Weber

5:46 a.m. ET
Carlos Schiebeck/AFP/Getty Images

The Rev. Billy Graham, who died in his sleep on Wednesday morning at age 99, will lie in repose under a revival-style tent for two days next week before being buried in a coffin made by inmates on March 2, said Mark DeMoss, spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham, known as "America's Pastor," was a counselor to American presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush, which was "a source of pride for conservative Christians who were often caricatured as backward," The Associated Press says. But when his good friend Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in disgrace, Graham was "devastated and baffled."

After being burned by Nixon, Graham "resolved to take a lower profile in the political world, going as far as discouraging the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a founder of the Moral Majority, from mixing religion and politics," AP reports, offering this 1981 advice from Graham: "Evangelicals can't be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle, to preach to all the people, right and left. ... I haven't been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will in the future."

Falwell did not heed Graham's advice — the Moral Majority, and the evangelical Christian power structure Graham made possible, became deeply entwined in Republican politics, but Graham had his lapses, too: He effectively endorsed Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, AP notes. Graham's son and heir, Rev. Franklin Graham, is one of President Trump's most stalwart supporters.

Billy Graham was "firmly committed to remaining bipartisan," but his "legacy of outreach across lines of race, class, and political party doesn't seem as resonant in contemporary evangelicalism," Emma Green says at The Atlantic. "His death marks the end of an era for evangelicalism, and poses a fundamental question: Will his legacy of bipartisan, ecumenical outreach be carried forward?" Peter Weber

4:47 a.m. ET

"The big story tonight continues to be the inspiring activism of children," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show, pointing to the big student protests and walkouts in Florida, D.C., and around the country to demand action on gun control. He played some of the stirring and angry messages to lawmakers from students who survived the Parkland school shooting, and when the camera cut back, he was on the phone. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch all of that, I was reading on Twitter about how all millennials are lazy and entitled," Colbert deadpanned.

"It's hard not to be inspired by these kids, but some people have managed to do it," Colbert said, teeing up the various conspiracy theories about the Parkland students, starting with CNN contributor Jack Kingston's theory that George Soros is puppet-mastering the kids. "Jack, teenagers are pretty good at planning big gatherings by themselves," Colbert explained. "I mean, didn't you ever go to a party in high school... oh. Oh, never mind." He turned to sarcasm for the slur that the students are "crisis actors": "That's right, we're all being taken in by the dazzling theatrical performances of high school actors," illustrating his point with a theater-nerd joke — several, actually.

It isn't just internet cranks spreading these conspiracies, Colbert sighed, pointing to Donald Trump Jr. before shifting to a critique of "DJTJ" touring India.

The Late Show elaborated on that Don Jr. critique with a Bollywood-style number, "The Dance of the Greasy Son."

Meanwhile, President Trump keeps tweeting about Russia, Colbert said, reading Trump's Wednesday morning tweet asking why his predecessor, Barack Obama, didn't stop Russian election meddling, why Democrats aren't being investigated, and urging people to "ask Jeff Sessions!" Colbert noted that Trump could just call his attorney general himself from his Twitter phone, explained to Trump how investigations work, and showed other ways Trump is trying, and failing, to one-up Obama. Peter Weber

2:59 a.m. ET

Team USA beat Canada in the Olympic women's hockey finals on Thursday in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in a thrilling 3-2 shootout after a hard-fought game that had ended 2-2 even after a 20-minute overtime. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson fired in the game-winning shot past Canada's Shannon Szabados, and when U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney blocked the potential equalizing shot from Canada's Meghan Agosta, the U.S. women won their first gold medal since 1998, and their second ever. Canada had won the women's hockey gold in the past four Winter Olympics.

Canada led near the end of regulation time, before Monique Lamoreux-Davidson — Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson's sister — tied the score 2-2. Before Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson's game-winning shot, Americans Gigi Marvin and Amanda Kessel had scored, as had Canadians Agosta and Melodie Daoust. It was the first time the women's hockey gold medal had ever been decided in a shootout.

The U.S. is now in 4th place with eight golds and 21 total medals, behind Norway (33 medals), Germany (24 medals), and Canada (22 medals, 9 golds). Peter Weber

2:28 a.m. ET

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) participated in a CNN town hall in Sunrise, Florida, on gun violence and school shootings Wednesday night, and it was not a particularly friendly crowd.

Rubio actually announced some new positions on gun rights. "I absolutely believe that in this country if you are 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle, and I will support a law that takes that right away," he said. He backed "a gun violence restraining order" in which a parent or caretaker petitions authorities to prevent family members from buying guns or take guns away. Rubio said he's "reconsidering" his opposition to limiting magazine clip size because "while it may not prevent an attack, it may save lives in an attack."

Still, people who lost loved ones in the Parkland shooting grilled him. Fred Guttenberg, who's daughter was one of the 17 people killed in the shooting, told Rubio his comments over the past week have been "pathetically weak" and asked him to support a ban on assault rifles. (Rubio argued such bans don't work because people find loopholes.)

Cameron Kasky, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, asked Rubio if he would continue taking donations from the NRA. (Rubio said the NRA and other donors "buy into my agenda.")

Rubio was booed a lot, but Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told the audience that Rubio showed "guts" by coming to the forum, when President Trump and Gov. Rick Scott (R) — Nelson's possible 2018 opponent — declined invitations.

Finally, Rubio said that, unlike Trump, he does not support arming teachers. "The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that are armed with a weapon is not something that, quite frankly, I'm comfortable with," he said. He might want to borrow a line comedian Jimmy Kimmel tried out Wednesday night: "Can you imagine if teachers are allowed to guns to school and not peanut butter?"

1:22 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, word came that "President Trump might be supporting a ban on bump-stocks and the strengthening of background checks — which is weird, right?" Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show. "Trump might do something good. You know you don't know how to feel about that." Maybe Trump is softening his opposition to gun laws because "he's watching the same kids we've all been watching over the past few days — survivors of the shooting" in Parkland, Florida, Noah suggested.

"Most people who see those kids are impressed by how articulate they are and they're inspired by their passion," Noah said, but others "think it's suspicious that these kids say they don't want to be shot in the face." He focused on that second group, swatting down their various conspiracy theories.

"Here's what I find funny about this whole debate," Noah said: "Most of the arguments boil down to one idea — teenagers are too young, too emotional, too inexperienced to talk about guns. But as soon as they turn 18, they can own as many of those bad boys as they want. And I guess in a way, this is now you know these students are having an effect: You've never seen gun advocates so desperate that they'd start attacking the victims of a mass shooting."

"There are always crackpots in situations like this who come out of the woodwork with this irrational, this paranoia-fueled nonsense — it happened after Sandy Hook, too," Jimmy Kimmel said on Wednesday's Kimmel Live. But it isn't normal for people like Donald Trump Jr. and NRA board member Ted Nugent to be "perpetuating this kind of stuff."

Kimmel asked viewers, especially Trump supporters, if they believe these students "are actors who are part of some kind of deep-state, left-wing conspiracy," and if the answer was yes, he had "some bad news": "You're crazy. You're a crazy person." If not, he said, "you can't just sit there and let these scumbags spread these lies about these kids." Peter Weber

12:08 a.m. ET

For about an hour on Wednesday afternoon, President Trump sat and listened as students, parents, teachers, and others directly affected by school shootings begged him to act before the next mass shooting. The participants in the White House meeting had ties to the shootings in Parkland, Florida; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; and Columbine High School in Colorado. They offered solutions including limiting assault rifle sales to people 21 and over, arming teachers and other school employees, ramping up mental health screening, and drilling students for active-shooter situations. "It's not going to be talk like it has been in the past," Trump told them. "Too many instances, and we're going to get it done."

Trump did not commit to any of the proposals, though he said "we're going to be very strong on background checks" and "we're going to go strong on age of purchase and the mental aspect." The proposal he seemed most enthusiastic about was arming teachers and coaches, an idea that got a mixed reception. Arming teachers "is an emotional response that we have heard before," Richard Myers, head of the law enforcement group Major Cities Chiefs Association, told Trump. "I don't know of any police chief who believes this is a good idea." The NRA, meanwhile, opposed raising the age limit for purchasing AR-15 and other assault rifles, on the grounds that doing so would deprive people 18 to 20 of "their constitutional right to self-protection."

The listening session was mostly polite and frequently emotional. "It's very difficult, it's very complex, but we're going to find the solution," said Trump, holding notes reminding him to say "I hear you" and ask participants about their experiences. "There are many different ideas. Some, I guess, are good. Some aren't good. Some are very stringent, as you understand, and a lot of people think they work, and some are less so." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads