In a viral clip after the arrest of alleged bomb-sender Cesar Sayoc Jr., Fox News mainstays Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith clashed about whether or not President Donald Trump bore any responsibility for the incident.
The confrontation came as the now-infamous van Sayoc owned was carried away by police — a procession which was being covered by helicopter.
“You just can’t ignore the politics of this, even if you wanted to,” Smith said at the beginning of his segment with Wallace.
“These are people the president has gone after rhetorically. These are people this guy targeted. It goes to the tone and tenor of the political discourse and the words that the president uses in his rallies.”
Wallace hit back, meanwhile, with a remark regarding the Steve Scalise shooter.
“I don’t think you can draw any particular link or any responsibility on the part of the president for this action,” Wallace said.
“I mean, as Sarah Sanders said and just repeated by (Fox News Channel White House correspondent) John Roberts, a Bernie Sanders supporter shot up the congressman at the baseball practice. Is Bernie Sanders responsible for that?”
“Nobody is saying he’s responsible,” Smith said. “The rhetorical discourse has devolved over time and the president says we need to unify. Some of that begins with the rhetoric, does it not?”
“It would certainly be good, but I think it’s separate and apart from the actions of this guy,” Wallace responded. “This is a twisted person.”
“I think that it’s really incorrect to hold the president either by implication or directly responsible in any way for the misdeeds of a person that is a psychopath,” he added.
“Nobody did that, Chris. Don’t say I did,” Smith said. “All I said is when the rhetoric gets loud, the crazies come out sometimes.”
Wallace, however, noted that trying to connect dots between “rhetoric” and violent criminality is improper — and the real problem.
“Let me just say, it’s a separate issue about the political rhetoric in this country and it’s unfortunate and I think it’s a very bad thing,” Wallace added later. “But I think it’s very dangerous to draw links between that and links of any sort between that and criminal activity.”
“History will decide what the rhetoric has done in this society,” Smith said.
“I’ll wait for history,” Wallace shot back.
Smith said he would wait for it, too, and closed out the segment.
Even before Sayoc was arrested, many wanted to speculate on what kind of responsibility the president might bear. Now that he’s been caught, that speculation hasn’t abated. It’s interesting how the media is suddenly interested in rhetoric causing violent acts — particularly since, one year after the Scalise shooting, they still won’t even mention Democrats as being complicit in that.
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