It was not quite the cable television equivalent of an exorcism, but it was close.
The crew at MSNBC’s Morning Joe stopped short of demanding the immediate ouster of Donald Trump Wednesday in the aftermath of the president’s rabid defense of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who rampaged in Charlottesville, resulting in the murder of a 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer.
But eponymous host Joe Scarborough and panelist Nicolle Wallace, among others on the program, called for White House staffers to heed their consciences and quickly resign, and for Republican donors to immediately stop writing checks.
“What is Ivanka saying? She converted to Judaism,” asked Scarborough, who appeared remotely from a lace-curtained living room. “What is Jared Kushner saying?...What is [Kushner] doing still working in the White House when you have a president who is empowering neo-Nazis and white supremacists? Why is Jared Kushner still there? How does he justify this? How does he sleep at night?”
Scarborough, who cut short his vacation to join the show while his fiancée Mika Brzezinski took the morning off, added that GOP donors who continue sending money to the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign organization will have to explain why they are “propping up somebody who openly defends white supremacists, someone who defends neo-Nazis, someone who defends members of the Klan”—people, Scarborough went on, “who killed a young woman.”
Scarborough referred to Trump, who metamorphosed from friend to enemy during last year’s presidential campaign and the early days of the presidency, as “David Duke in the White House.”
MSNBC host Wallace, who was White House communications director for President George W. Bush, called out the Trump administration officials standing beside the president during Tuesday’s impromptu Trump Tower press conference in which their boss angrily blamed anti-Nazi counter-demonstrators as equally responsible for the violence in Virginia.
“If they don’t resign en masse this morning, they’re forever tainted with the taint of what he did yesterday,” Wallace said. “How much longer can people like Elaine Chao and Steve Mnuchin and General Kelly stay?”—a reference to the secretary of transportation (who happens to be married to Trump target Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader), the secretary of the treasury, and newly installed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. (The show repeatedly ran a video clip of Kelly, a retired Marine general, hanging his head and wincing during Trump’s crazed press conference.)
Also called upon to resign by multiple panelists was top economic adviser Gary Cohn, who—like Kushner and Mnuchin—is Jewish.
Joy Reid, host of the MSNBC weekend show AM Joy, called on African American members of the administration to take a stand.
“Where is Ben Carson? Where is Omarosa Manigault? Do they have anything to say?” Reid asked, adding that along with Jewish officials in the Trump orbit, they will have to explain “Which side were you on when the president of the United States condoned and sanctioned Nazism in America?”
Former RNC chairman Michael Steele, meanwhile, characterized Trump’s performance as a “big middle finger to the country in so many ways.”
In a revealing departure from his usual mien of calm consideration, regular Morning Joe cohost Willie Geist said of Trump’s comments, “It was extraordinary and it was despicable.”
Later he said of Republican office-holders who are too timid to publicly criticize Trump, lest he attack them on social media, “They’re scared of the president on Twitter, so they won’t stand up against the Klan and Nazis? How pathetic is that?”