During a news briefing on Monday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly dodged questions about what President Trump meant when he blasted the “breeding concept” of sanctuary cities — a term that was widely interpreted as a racist dogwhistle meant to dehumanize immigrants.
There is a Revolution going on in California. Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept. Jerry Brown is trying to back out of the National Guard at the Border, but the people of the State are not happy. Want Security & Safety NOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
“When he used the term ‘breeding,’ was he making a derogatory term about Latinos in California, that they breed a lot, or that they’re prone to breeding?” asked CNN’s Jim Acosta.
Sanders did not even attempt to explain what Trump meant. Instead, she simply denied Trump intended for the tweet to be derogatory, and said he was merely “talking about the problem itself growing and getting bigger.” She called on another reporter before Acosta had a chance to follow up.
Later, American Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan asked Sanders to explain exactly what Trump meant by “breeding.” Sanders again avoided the question, saying that “the president has recognized this is a major problem and a lot of people, even in California, want to see the issue of sanctuary cities addressed.”
“But what does breeding mean to this president?” Ryan followed up. “Because when you think of breeding, you think of animals breeding, populating.”
Sanders feigned offense at Ryan’s observation.
“I’m not going to begin to think what you think what you think,” she said. “Certainly, I think that it could mean a lot of things to a lot of people. But the president is talking about a growing problem, and I addressed that with Jim. I don’t have anything else to add.”
Sanders has repeatedly dismissed Trump’s racist comments by insisting that he was merely trying to raise awareness about an underlying issue. For instance, after Trump retweeted three inflammatory and misleading videos about Muslims in the UK last November, Sanders insisted he was trying to make a point about national security.
“Look, I’m not talking about the nature of the video. I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing,” Sanders told reporters. “The threat is real, and that’s what the president is talking about is the need for national security, the need for military spending, and those are very real things, there’s nothing fake about them.”
Monday also fit a pattern of Sanders weaponizing a question about an offensive comment Trump made against the reporter asking about it. In December, she excoriated journalists who asked her about a Trump tweet in which he seemed to suggest that a female Democratic senator was willing to perform sexual acts for campaign donations.
Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2017
“I think only if your mind was in the gutter would you have read it that way, so no, [he won’t apologize],” Sanders told April Ryan on that occasion, after she asked about the tweet. “He’s obviously talking about the political partisan games that people often play and the broken system that he’s talked about repeatedly.”