An anchor from President Donald Trump’s preferred news network this week claimed the president’s name-calling and bullying of political rivals was okay because it was funny.
The comment comes one day after Trump mocked House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and as threats of violence against Trump’s opponents and the media continue to grow.
The president on Thursday night called Schiff “sick” for highlighting the documented ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, taunting him and naming him “little pencil-neck.”
“Little pencil-neck Adam Schiff. He has the smallest, thinnest neck I have ever seen. He is not a long-ball hitter,” Trump said.
The following morning, America’s Newsroom anchor Julie Banderas hosted Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ), playing a clip of Trump mocking Schiff at the Michigan rally.
“I’m sorry, that was funny,” Banderas said, laughing.
“The name calling, uncalled for,” she added. “I tell my kids, ‘Name calling, not a good thing.’ I don’t practice name-calling myself. But, I mean, it’s Donald Trump.”
Van Drew responded uncomfortably, saying, “But then we all laugh when it happens.”
“I know, just ’cause it’s funny,” Banderas said. “But, I mean, obviously he’s not being literal. He doesn’t actually think his neck is made out of a pencil. But that’s not even the point.”
Trump’s insult came after Schiff spent several minutes at a committee hearing on Thursday morning reciting a list of documented ties between the president’s 2016 campaign and Russia. Schiff’s comments were in response to Republican calls for him to step down over his criticism of the president in relation to the Russia investigation, which ended earlier this week.
On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr released his summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in that nearly two-year investigation, claiming Mueller did not find evidence proving collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. However, the summary also noted Mueller did not exonerate the president of any criminal wrongdoing.
During the hearing, Schiff hammered that point home, calling the behavior of Trump’s campaign “immoral,” “unethical,” and “unpatriotic.”
Fox News’ own legal analyst, Andrew Napolitano, backed Schiff’s claims on Thursday. “I think that Congressman Schiff is correct, in that report will be evidence of the existence of a conspiracy, not enough evidence to prove the existence beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.
Rather that refute those points, however, Trump on Thursday evening did an unflattering impersonation of Schiff saying in a derisive tone, “Well, we don’t really know. There could still have been some Russia collusion.”
Trump has spent most of this week celebrating Barr’s letter as a “total exoneration” of his campaign, ignoring the fact that the summary in fact says the exact opposite. He has taken a particularly spiteful stance against those elected officials and journalists who have suggested the Trump campaign acted improperly, targeting them by name.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also tweeted a “Mueller Madness” bracket this week from her official @PressSec account, which listed the individual names of media and political figures the White House sees as enemies.
Trump’s decision to escalate his feud with Democrats and the media comes amid rising threats of violence against those two groups.
In the past few months alone, authorities have foiled several violent plots targeting Democrats and journalists by suspects who had expressed views favorable of Trump.
In February, an allegedly pro-Trump Coast Guard officer was arrested for plotting to kill prominent members of Congress and the media. Authorities said the man had stockpiled a massive arsenal of weapons he intended to use in the attack.
Last week, another Trump supporter pleaded guilty to mailing explosive devices to a number of Democratic politicians and news outlets the president had previously attacked.
Thursday’s rally suggests Trump is ramping up, rather than toning down his rhetoric against his political opponents and journalists. In the past, he has called the press the “enemy of the people,” a claim he repeated as recently as this week, and has praised a conservative lawmaker for body-slamming a journalist. He has also called his Democratic rivals “pro-crime,” “radical,” and treasonous.
Groups backing Trump, including the Republican National Committee and the Trump super PAC America First, are also reportedly planning to target specific journalists who’ve reported on Trump with 30-second spots during the upcoming election cycle, The Atlantic reported on Thursday.