Early Thursday morning, President Trump lashed out at Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski on Twitter with a deeply personal attack, smearing her as “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and claiming he rebuffed her request to hang out with him at his private club because she was “bleeding badly” from botched plastic surgery.
…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
During the White House press briefing Thursday afternoon, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t apologize on behalf of the president or try to walk back his tweets, which came after Brzezinski criticized him on her show. Instead, Huckabee Sanders defended Trump and portrayed the president and his staff as the real victims.
“The president is pushing back against people who attack him day after day after day. Where is the outrage on that?” Huckabee Sanders said. “The only person that I see a war on is this president and everybody that works for him.”
Later, Huckabee Sanders was asked why Trump decided it would be wise to lash out at all. She said, “I don’t think you can expect someone to be personally attacked day after day, minute by minute and sit back.”
“Look, the American people elected a fighter, they didn’t elect somebody to sit back and do nothing,” she said. “They knew what they were getting when the voted for Donald Trump and he won overwhelmingly.” (Trump in fact lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.)
Huckabee Sanders also claimed Trump’s tweets aren’t beneath the dignity of the office of the president, saying that Trump “shows [dignity] every day in the decisions that’s making, the focus and the priorities he’s laid out in his agenda, but he’s not going to sit back and be attacked by the liberal media, Hollywood elites, and when they hit him he’s going to hit back.”
Huckabee Sanders falsely claimed that Trump has “in no way, form, or fashion promoted or encouraged violence.” In fact, Trump encouraged violence against demonstrators on numerous occasions during the campaign, urging supporters to “knock the crap out of” protesters during a February 2016 rally and promising to pay for the legal fees of anyone who did it.
A couple weeks after that incident, Trump wished physical harm upon a protester, saying in reference to one that he’d “like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you that.”
“You know what they used to do to a guy like that in a place like this?” Trump added. “They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: "The president in no way, form, or fashion has ever encouraged any form of violence."
Fact check: pic.twitter.com/WN2kqY0u2L
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 29, 2017
While the White House isn’t giving any ground about Trump’s tweets, his smear of Brzezinski was denounced by a number of Republican members of Congress. Trump was also criticized by NBC spokesman Lorie Acio, who said in a statement that “[i]t’s a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job.”
But the blowback created by Trump’s tweets might not have been all bad for the White House. One Trump administration official told the Daily Beast that they at least served as a distraction from coverage of the deeply unpopular Trumpcare bill, saying, “At least you’re writing [about] this and not that we’re going to kill millions of people.”