University of Virginia political professor Larry Sabato accused CNN hosts of perpetrating a false equivalence by suggesting that both Democratic and Republican candidates have the same tendencies to promote violence and use violent rhetoric.
“I’m not going to deny that American history is dotted with examples of legislators and congressmen getting into fights of one sort or another,” Sabato explained to CNN hosts John Berman and Poppy Harlow. “But here’s the difference: We’re in the age of Donald Trump. What happened over the past two years? Donald Trump really brutalized many people. Not just the press, loads of individuals and groups, including using the issue of immigration to stir up the Republican base.”
Sabato noted that he was not accusing Trump of physically attacking anyone.
“But in those rallies, you remember him doing nothing to stop some of the physical violence,” the analyst explained. “And in fact, urging it on. Let’s not rewrite history. The man got elected president. He was rewarded for these sorts of activities. Politicians pick up on that. A man who will do and say anything got rewarded with the presidency.”
“I think that affects other elected officials. And you combine that with social media, the anonymity of social media, there’s a mob mentality on social media and it spills over into real life. And we’re going to see a lot more of it.”
Harlow wondered if Americans had become numb to violence in politics after a Republican candidate in Montana won a congressional seat last week even though he allegedly assaulted a reporter just hours before election day.
“Americans haven’t become more used to it,” Sabato pointed out. “This is as partisan as everything else in this intensely polarized partisan country. Republicans, it doesn’t bother them, as we saw in Montana.”
“You can’t characterize an entire half of this country!” Harlow complained.
“First of all, it’s not half of the country,” Sabato shot back. “You’ve got Republicans, Democrats and independents. But Republicans support it because it’s promoted by their side, by their president and by other people associated with the Republican Party.”
CNN’s Berman reminded Sabato that Democrats in the Texas state House had gotten into a scuffle with Republican lawmakers during an immigration debate, which ended with a GOP representative threatening to “put a bullet” into a Mexican-American legislator.
“The chairman of the Democratic Party, Tom Perez, is now swearing regularly,” Berman remarked. “I know swearing isn’t hitting. But he’s purposefully using naughty words to make his point. So Democrats see an advantage here too, don’t they.”
“You’re pointing to one example and saying both parties were involved,” Sabato replied. “However, this is more of the false equivalency that you all have been correctly criticized for and other news media outlets have been correctly criticized for during the election.”
“Things are not equal!” the CNN guest continued. “You have to look at the breakdown of the population and Republicans support this because their leaders support it. Democrats oppose it because their leaders oppose it and because maybe they’re the targets sometime.”
“Let’s not rewrite history,” Sabato advised.
“No Republican I know would support this,” Harlow insisted.
“Well, Poppy, you need to get around more,” Sabato concluded. “You need to get around out of that studio a little bit more.”
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