A very contentious debate between Charles Krauthammer and radio talk show host Laura Ingraham turned to insults when she began to mock the conservative commentator for criticizing the president over his cantankerous media briefing Tuesday. The debate was moderated by Fox News' Bill Hemmer.
"I always like to think about it this way," Ingraham began, "is he advancing his agenda with what happened this afternoon? And I will say when you had Gary Cohn up there talking about how they're gonna hit the ground running on tax reform, we're ready, we spent the whole day — I was like wanting to hear more, more and more. That's great!"
"And we got sidetracked on this horrific event of the weekend," she said, "which he had made the subsequent statement about that was, I think really really good. I think he could have been clearly more specific on Saturday, but when he said 'we must love each other, show affection for each other, unite together and condemn that hatred, bigotry of the violence we saw,' that was so great yesterday!"
"I think today he's really torched about people conflating Trump support with white nationalists," she said. "You can see it and hear it in his responses, and I understand that, but he's not there to win every debating point. People want to see a calm president in the storm."
"I think today, I think he made some points that were factually right," she explained, "there was violence on both sides of that event on Saturday. Anyone who's watched the video could see it. But he's not there to win every point. He's there to calmly guide the nation through what at the moment is a very troubled time. And advance an agenda of economic empowerment, streamlining regulations, and keeping very optimistic and positive about the American spirit."
"When he does that I think it's very positive," she continued. "Today, I think he got caught in kind of the 'pundit trap' like he became a pundit. And what I think people want is Trump the president. When he does that, he's very powerful."
"To critique what he did today on the grounds that it distracts from the agenda," Krauthammer responded, "or it was a tactical mistake, I believe is a cop-out."
"What Trump did today is a moral disgrace," he concluded.
"What he did was he reverted where he was on Saturday," he explained, "and made it very clear that what he read on Sunday, was a hostage tape, clearly reading off a prompter, saying these denunciations by name of the KKK, et cetera, that wasn't Trump speaking, that was the aide speaking."
"The reason that was a moral disgrace was this," Krauthammer continued. "This generation for the last 50 to 60 years, all the modern presidents, you know you can all the way back you can say Woodrow Wilson was exempt, but beyond that, understood there was something unique about the history of slavery and racism in this country. That we had to cure this original sin. It was not cured by the Civil War as Lincoln had hoped because it was followed by a hundred years of state-sponsored oppression. It began to be cured with civil rights, equality of rights, and this generation of the last 50 or so years has done a splendid job in redeeming itself.
"What Trump is missing here is the uniqueness of white supremacy, KKK, and Nazism," he added. "Yes, there were bad guys on both sides — that's not the point. This was instigated, instituted, the riot began over Nazi riot — a Nazi rally. And the only killing here occurred by one of the pro-Nazi, pro-KKK people."
"But if you're looking for nuance from this president," Hemmer interjected, "he's not going to give you nuance. He's not gonna explain to you that..."
"I'm not asking for nuance," Krauthammer responded.
"... Some were legally, and you may not like what they're saying," Hemmer continued, "and it's hate speech, and you can disagree with it but we fought and died for it, it's protected...
"Racism is evil, those who engage in violence are criminals and thugs," Ingraham interrupted.
"I guess what Charles just said is Donald Trump doesn't mean that. Now if you're gonna say Donald Trump is a racist, or he's stupid, or he's some dumb troglodyte, whose just doing a hostage tape, I guess you can tell all our Fox viewers that," she continued.
"And I resent that you just said it was a cop-out what I said on this set," she added angrily. "To critique what he said today is what we were asked to do on this show tonight. I'm not gonna pass moral judgment on whether Donald Trump is, uh, you know morally on the same plane as you are, Charles. I'm sure you are a better person than he is.
"He had a moment today where he could have been calm and he could have gone through the facts of what happened again," she continued, "if necessary, and addressed the issue of the day which is to get this infrastructure going in this country. Getting caught in the trap of the left, which is what the media wants us to do, is not gonna help a single black person get a job, a single Hispanic person have a better life."
"We have to be honest about the evil of racism, and also honest about the evil of a far left that is trying to tear down both history and intimidate free speech in the country," she said. "That is not defending neo-Nazis, that is not defending white supremacists, it's stating a fact about antifa."
"I never said he was defending neo-Nazis," Krauthammer responded. "The point is we're not discussing jobs here. We're not discussing an agenda here. We're discussing the unique roll of a president of speaking for the moral conscience of a country. Going all the way back to Abraham Lincoln. We're not comparing him to me, we're comparing him to his great predecessors, and to the modern predecessors, who in occasions like this, rise to the occasion, speak on the behalf of Americans, and denounce unequivocally, the people..."
"Well he did that," she interrupted.
"Yes but then he tempered it all today, he undid all that," Krauthammer explained, "by saying, oh yes, he did it reading a statement yesterday, but what he really meant is that there was anger, violence, evil on both sides. That is missing the point of what is occurred here."
"Laura your opinion is leave the statement as it was made on Monday and let it go," Hemmer asked.
"I think he made, I think his statement yesterday was clear and strong," she responded, "and it was compassionate. I think he should have said it on Saturday. I have no idea why he didn't. But what has been going on in the media - it's not about the statues, it's not about people who are offended by the statues, you know it's about power and control."
"What's going on with the debate in this country," she continued, "people drive by these statues every day, most people don't even know what's on the statues. But now it's become a symbol. OK. Tear down all the statues, take them all down, that's what he said today. Now what? Are we gonna put people back to work? Great. But white supremacy - evil. Violence - evil. The murder, terrorism, what happened to that poor woman - evil. He's called it all out but it will never be enough for the people who despise him and his agenda."
"And there are people on the right," she added, "and people on the left, who do not want him to succeed no matter what. Did he make tactical mistakes? Yes he did."
"You said you have no idea why he didn't say it on Saturday?" Krauthammer said. "I'll tell you why he didn't say it on Saturday, which he made plain today. Because that's not what's in his heart."
"You can read a heart? Wow, you really are a Ph.D," she mocked.
"What he said yesterday was what he was reading off a prompter," he continued. "He had, he was not asked to do the press conference. His staff was shocked that he went into this."
"The reason he did it," Krauthammer concluded, "he has a point to make and he made it very clear to the country that what he believes and what he feels is what he said on Saturday, and not what he read two days later."
Trump began a political firestorm Tuesday when he attacked the media and blamed the left for the attack by what appears to be a white supremacist supporter that killed one woman and injured many more in Charlottesville, Virginia. The statements he made paralleled his original statement, but appeared to contradict a more measured 2nd statement that denounced the far-right for the attack.