Karl Rove and Juan Williams clashed on Sunday over President Joe Biden's harsh condemnation of Americans who support former President Donald Trump.
What is the background?
Speaking at a political rally last week, Biden claimed that "MAGA Republicans" are committed "to destroying America."
"The MAGA Republicans don’t just threaten our personal rights and economic security, they’re a threat to our very democracy," Biden charged. "They refuse to accept the will of the people. They embrace political violence. They don’t believe in democracy."
Biden also told attendees at a Democratic National Committee event that adherents to "MAGA philosophy" are embracing "semi-fascism."
"What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy. It’s not just Trump," Biden said. "It’s the entire philosophy that underpins — I’m going say something — it’s almost like semi-fascism, the way in which it deals."
What happened between Rove and Williams?
Williams tried to defend Biden's accusations by noting they came after Jan. 6, suggesting that the context of Trump's refusal to accept the 2020 election results and the subsequent U.S. Capitol riot are justification for Biden's remarks.
"I think if people behave that way, then they can expect to be called semi-fascist — fascists — because it’s anti-democratic action," Williams said. "You are acting against the Constitution of these United States," William said. "I think, and without being dramatic, that’s how democracy dies. They were trying to undermine, to subvert this Constitution."
Williams reinforced his position by pointing to Biden purportedly differentiating between "conservative Republicans" and "MAGA Republicans."
Rove, however, did not buy it and rebutted Williams' defense by using Biden's own words from his inaugural presidential address to prove Biden is dividing America — not healing it.
"He was not talking about the people who assaulted the Capitol. He was attacking the entire party," Rove corrected "This was not in keeping with what the president promised us."
Rove then proceeded to recite Biden's words.
"'My whole soul is in it,' he said in his inaugural, 'bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation.' That was after Jan. 6," Rove noted. "'We must see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We should treat each other with dignity and respect.' He was not treating his political opponents with dignity and respect."
Williams immediately took umbrage with Rove.
"But Karl," Williams interjected, "he clearly, clearly was speaking to — he said clearly 'I'm not talking about conservative Republicans.'"
"No, he didn't say that," Rove fired back. "Those words never passed his lips."
So who is right?
The transcript of Biden's remarks show that Rove is right and Biden did not say he was not referring to "conservative Republicans."