Fox News personalities Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace got into a verbal sparring match on the air Friday over the topic of President Donald Trump’s responsibility for politically-based violence. They could not agree about how much Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric in his rallies might have caused the “MAGA Bomber” to mail bombs to more than a dozen Democrats and Trump critics over the past week.
Smith started off the discussion by commenting on the fact that all of the people who had the pipe bombs mailed to them have been very critical of Trump, and Trump in turn has attacked them by name at his rallies.
“You just can’t ignore the politics of this, even if you wanted to,” Smith said. “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, however, made the argument that there is no direct connection between Trump’s words and the violent actions of Cesar Sayoc Jr., who was arrested and charged in connection to the mailed explosives.
When Sayoc was taken into custody authorities also impounded his van with stickers and decals supportive of Trump and attacking his critics. One of the stickers shows Hillary Clinton in the crosshairs of a rifle scope.
Sayoc also had posted selfie videos of him attending Trump rallies. Another photo he posted shows him wearing a MAGA hat at Trump’s inauguration in Washington in January of 2017.
To make his argument, Wallace mentioned the 2017 shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and three others at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.
“I don’t think you can draw any particular link or any responsibility on the part of the president for this action,” Wallace argued. “I mean, as White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said and just repeated by Fox News 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 replied. “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 replied. “This is a twisted person.”
After more “back and forth” conversation things got heated when Wallace accused Smith of holding the president responsible for Sayoc’s alleged actions.
“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,” Wallace reiterated.
“Nobody did that, Chris. Don’t say I did,” Smith insisted. “All I said is when the rhetoric gets loud, the crazies come out sometimes.”
“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 said 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 declared.
“I’ll wait for history,” Wallace replied.
“I’ll wait for it, too,” Smith said in ending the segment. “I hope you have a good weekend.”
Sayoc has been charged with five federal crimes and accused of sending packages containing explosive devices to at least thirteen public figures. Donald Trump has been charged with nothing. Yet history may indeed show that the ultimate responsibility for Sayoc’s actions may lie with the President of the Unites States.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.