White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Thursday morning that President Donald Trump is “certainly not responsible for sending suspicious packages to someone, no more than Bernie Sanders was responsible for a supporter of his shooting up a Republican baseball field practice last year.”
Huckabee Sanders made the statement to reporters in the White House driveway, referring to the suspicious packages containing “potential explosive devices” sent on Wednesday to several prominent Democrats, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, as well as to the CNN headquarters.
The press secretary compared the packages targeting the politicians to a June 2017 attack by a lone gunman who opened fire on a group of Republican lawmakers practicing for a congressional baseball game. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was injured alongside several others. Police shot the gunman who later died of his injuries at a hospital. The shooter was reportedly a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Sen. Lindsey Graham also made a similar remark on Twitter later Thursday, saying that he won’t blame Trump “for this nut job” because he didn’t blame Bernie Sanders when his supporter shot Scalise.
But these statements draw a false equivalence. Bernie Sanders has never incited or called for violence whereas the same cannot be said for Trump. Trump regularly calls reporters “enemies of the people” and has a history of making provocative statements during rallies ― he’s encouraged supporters to “knock the crap” out of protesters and once said he would “like to punch” one in the face.
At a recent rally, Trump referenced Rep. Greg Gianforte’s 2017 attack on a reporter and said: “Any guy who can do a body slam, he is my type!”
Huckabee Sanders on Thursday also lambasted the media during her chat with reporters, saying that 90 percent of the media coverage on Trump is “negative.” When asked by one reporter if Trump regretted any of the comments he’s made in reference to the press, Huckabee Sanders replied:
“Look, the president’s condemned violence in all forms and has done that since day one and will continue to do that, but certainly feels that everyone has a role to play.”
The press secretary also slammed CNN on Wednesday night after network president Jeff Zucker criticized the Trump administration’s rhetoric towards the press. “The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that,” he said.
″[President Donald Trump] asked Americans ‘to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the USA’” Huckabee Sanders tweeted in response just after a Trump rally in Wisconsin. “Yet you chose to attack and divide. America should unite against all political violence.”
Huckabee Sanders also called the idea that Trump would be behind the packages sent to his opponents “disgraceful,” adding that there’s quite a difference between “comments made and actions taken.”
This story has been updated with a tweet from Lindsey Graham and additional context.