In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, President Donald Trump claimed that sanctuary cities and increased homelessness are “destroying a whole way of life,” adding, “It’s not our country. It’s not what our country is all about.”
During the interview, which aired Monday night, Trump was asked whether U.S. cities have more “filth,” which both Carlson and Trump appeared to understand was a metaphor not for trash but for people living on the streets. Trump claimed this homelessness problem only started two years ago and bemoaned that “police officers are getting sick just by walking the beat.”
At no point did Trump frame the discussion in terms of what could be done to improve the lives of displaced people. Instead, he seemed to refer to them more as obstacles in the way of other people’s quality of life.
“You have people that work in those cities, they work in office buildings,” he said. “To get into the building they have to walk through a scene that no one would have believed possible. This is the liberal establishment. This is what I am fighting.”
Trump also claimed that there were “certain areas of Washington, D.C. where that was starting to happen,” but that he “ended it very quickly.”
D.C.’s homeless population has declined, but there is no evidence to suggest that Trump did anything to impact it. Even in this false history, his concern was not the homeless people of D.C., but guests of his who might have to witness them.
“When we have leaders of the world coming into to see the president of the United States and they’re riding down the highway, they can’t be looking at that,” he insisted. “I really believe that it hurts our country. They can’t be looking at scenes like you see in Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
He went on to point out that he owns property in San Francisco and “it was so beautiful,” but though there used to be areas that were “something very special,” now it’s “terrible.”
“We may intercede and do something to get that whole thing cleaned up,” he said. “It’s inappropriate. We have to take the people and do something. We have to do something.”
He added, “We are not very equipped as a government to do that kind of that’s not really the kind of work that the government probably should be doing. We never had this in our lives before in this country.”
Trump blamed the issues on “very liberal people” and sanctuary cities, the municipalities that refuse to cooperate with the federal government’s attempts to deport undocumented immigrants.
“It’s destroying their city. It’s destroying a whole way of life. It’s not our country. It’s not what our country is all about,” he said.
Earlier this spring, frustrated that he couldn’t keep more undocumented immigrants in detention camps at the border, Trump threatened to drop them into sanctuary cities, as a means of punishing his political opponents for their willingness to advocate for migrants. “They’re always saying they have open arms. Let’s see if they have open arms,” he said at the time.
Those Illegal Immigrants who can no longer be legally held (Congress must fix the laws and loopholes) will be, subject to Homeland Security, given to Sanctuary Cities and States!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2019
Fox News, and Carlson in particular, have been bashing liberal cities on the West Coast for months, creating a false narrative that they are “almost Third World in their decay.” As Media Matters described in a report last month, Fox regularly attacks Democratic leaders for their initiatives, then complains that they haven’t done more to address mental illness or used the law to crackdown on homelessness.
This appears to have created a feedback loop with the president, who watches Fox News regularly and unsurprisingly parrots many of the same kinds of comments he hears from its hosts. In fact, this effect helps explain Trump’s bizarre answer last week when he was asked whether he agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin that “western liberalism” has become “obsolete.” Trump apparently didn’t understand the political philosophies implied by the question and instead addressed his concerns about what’s happening in “liberal” cities in the “western” United States.
Trump regularly takes credit for the strength of the country’s economy and its low rates of unemployment, but he did not attempt to square that narrative with his belief that the increase in city “filth” is a new phenomenon that arose under his administration.