CNN is facing backlash after airing an interview with white supremacist Richard Spencer in which he discussed his thoughts on President Donald Trump’s racist attack on a group of Democratic congresswomen.
Critics say it was irresponsible for the cable news network, which averages about 1 million viewers per day, to provide a platform for Spencer, president of the white supremacist organization National Policy Institute, to offer his own punditry on Trump’s comments.
The interview appeared on CNN’s “The Lead” Tuesday afternoon as part of a segment about white supremacists praising Trump’s tweet telling four freshman lawmakers to “go back” to other countries.
The Democratic congresswomen Trump targeted ― Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) ― are all Americans. Omar immigrated to the U.S. from Somalia in 1995. The other three were born in the U.S.
“White supremacists who back President Trump are taking to social media to celebrate those tweets,” host Jake Tapper said before introducing the segment reported by CNN’s Sara Sidner. ”‘Go back to where you came from,’ of course, is something they’ve been saying to other people for decades.”
Watch the full CNN segment on white supremacists reacting to Trump’s racist comments below:
As Sidner explains in the clip, several prominent neo-Nazis and white nationalists have expressed support for Trump’s racist tirade and said the congresswomen of color should leave the country immediately.
“Essentially, [Trump’s comment] normalizes hate and it makes it acceptable and it lowers our bar, our tolerance for what is allowed in our country, and that is dangerous,” Joanna Mendelson, a senior investigative researcher at the Anti-Defamation League, told CNN.
The segment then cut to Spencer, with Sidner describing him as a white nationalist who once backed Trump but is now turning on him. Why? Spencer, wearing a tan suit and appearing as your run-of-the-mill cable news pundit, tells viewers that Trump’s racist rhetoric doesn’t go far enough.
“Many white nationalists will eat up this red meat that Donald Trump is throwing out there. I am not one of them,” Spencer tells CNN. “I recognize the con game that is going on. ... He gives us nothing outside of racist tweets.”
Spencer, who was a featured speaker at the deadly white nationalist Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, believes Trump’s tweet was racist but that the president isn’t doing enough to rid America of nonwhite people, Sidner reiterates.
The backlash was swift and brutal. Viewers, including many journalists, accused CNN of normalizing Spencer and white nationalist extremism.
“Richard Spencer’s relevance lives and dies by the mainstream media,” one Twitter user wrote. “He’s only as relevant as they decide he is. CNN made their choice today.”
CNN did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. Tapper appeared to defend the Spencer interview in a tweet Tuesday, stating that Sidner “covers racists and white supremacists for us (among other subjects) and does a great job.”