On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace confronted White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney over the biggest story of the weekend; President Trump's tweets directed at Rep. Elijah Cummings and, more broadly, at the city of Baltimore.
Wallace dove directly into the Twitter controversy right away after introducing Mulvaney. Wallace showed the tweets, summarizing the attack, and then followed with some statistics about the district, including median household income. It was probably worth mentioning as caveat, but the median income of the insanely gerrymandered district isn't really relevant to whether or not there are deplorable conditions in a part of the district. In fact, if anything, that disparity should reflect poorly on the district, not, as much of the media has attempted to paint it, a net positive for Cummings or Baltimore.
In any case, he pressed on, asking Mulvaney "what is the president talking about?"
Mulvaney added to Wallace's statistics, saying he thinks Maryland, per capita, is the richest state in the U.S., but that nevertheless, "You still see pictures on the Internet of complete poverty in Baltimore, Maryland."
"What this is about though, is the president fighting back against what he saw as being illegitimate attacks about the border in the hearing this week," said Mulvaney, which is definitely what it was about.
Prior to sending his tweet storm, there was a segment on Fox & Friends making that exact point. The host and guest said that in the particular part of Cummings' district where they filmed the piles of garbage and found homelessness, addiction, and decay to be rampant, conditions were worse than the conditions Cummings made dramatic news objecting to during a border hearing.
"If you go online, you can see the questioning that Elijah Cummings did of Kevin McAleenan regarding the conditions at the border. Mr. Cummings saying that children were sleeping or sitting in their own feces, that's just not -- that's not right," said Mulvaney. "It's not accurate, born by the fact by the way that Mr. Cummings has not been to the border in recent memory, certainly not during this administration."
That's when the two turned to the issue of race and patterns of behavior by Trump.
"This seems, Mick, to be the worst kind of racial stereotype," Wallace said. He had to add "let me finish" as Mulvaney attempted to get in. "Racial stereotyping. Black congressman, majority black district -- I mean, no human being would want to live there? Is he saying people that live in Baltimore are not human beings?"
(Transcripts via Fox News)
MULVANEY: So, Chris, help me with this. When the president attacks AOC plus three, when he attacks "The Squad" last week, he gets accused of being a racist. When Nancy Pelosi does it a few days later, the left and many members of the media, not you in particular, I want to make that clear, come to Nancy's defense. How it couldn't possibly be racist. That she was simply attacking their ideas.
The president is doing the same. The president is attacking Mr. Cummings for saying things that are not true about the border.
I think it's right for the president to raise the issue of -- look, I was in Congress for six years. If I had poverty in my district like they have in Baltimore, if I had crime in my district like they have in Chicago, if I had homelessness like they have in San Francisco, and I spent all of my time in Washington, D.C. chasing down this Mueller investigation, this bizarre impeachment crusade, I'd get fired. And I think the president's right to raise that. It has absolutely zero to do with race.
Wallace pushed back.
WALLACE: You say it has zero to do with race -- there is a clear pattern here, Mick. The fact is that before his inaugural -- before his inauguration, the president tweeted about John Lewis, a black congressman that he should -- this is before his inauguration, he should spend time in his crime-infested district.
Then, two weeks ago, he goes after these four members of "The Squad," all women of color, and says they should go back to the crime-infested countries from which they come. Then he talks about Elijah Cummings and he says his district is rat and rodent-infested.
Infested. It sounds like vermin. It sounds subhuman. And these are all six members of Congress who are people of color.
The back-and-forth continued along those lines. The crux of it was probably right near the end.
"You're completely comfortable with him saying that this is a rodent-infested district and no human being would want to live there?" Wallace asked. "You're comfortable with that personally?
"Have you seen some of the pictures on the Internet?" said Mulvaney, not saying yes but obviously communicating his agreement. "Just this morning from the conditions in Baltimore, Maryland. Have you seen them?"
Before they moved on to the next subject, Mulvaney pointed out that the district, including the portions in those shocking videos and photos, have been "dominated for generations by Democrats."