White nationalist demonstrators walk through town after their rally was declared illegal near Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Republicans are reluctant to defend Donald Trump's Charlottesville statements on TV

Even Fox News hosts can't find any Republicans to defend Trump on his show

Matthew Rozsa
August 17, 2017 4:20PM (UTC)

Republican Party leaders are finding themselves in a damnable bind. On the one hand, many of them recognize that President Donald Trump's defense of the alt right has dealt a serious blow to their party's political brand. At the same time, they can't exactly denounce their own ostensible leader, at least not without running the risk of alienating his right-wing base.

Avoiding commentary altogether seems to be the most popular response to this dilemma.


On Wednesday, Fox News host Shepard Smith told viewers that he had tried to book Republicans to defend Trump's recent press conference and had no takers.

"Our booking team — and they're good — reached out to Republicans of all stripes across the country today. Let's be honest, Republicans don't often really mind coming on Fox News Channel. We couldn't get anyone to come and defend him here because we thought, in balance, someone should do that," Smith said.


He added: "We worked very hard at it throughout the day, and we were unsuccessful. And of those who are condemning the president's condemnable actions, I've not heard any prominent leaders, former presidents, members of the House or the Senate use his name while speaking in generalities."

NPR's "Morning Edition" told a similar story through their Twitter account.

To be fair, there was one Republican willing to stand up for Donald Trump — and for Confederate statues in general. That would be Corey Stewart, a state senate candidate from Virginia who tried to equate antifa protesters with the white supremacists marching. Unfortunately, he was on CNN, and host Kate Bolduan was having none of it.



While many Republicans have been willing to condemn the white supremacists themselves, however, comparatively few have had the courage to directly take on Trump himself. Despite their reluctance, however, Trump has been more than willing to lash out at those Republicans who have spoken out against what happened in Charlottesville, including Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.


It remains to be seen whether they, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will see their approval ratings take a hit by incurring Trump's enmity.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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