Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich struggled to defend President Trump’s double-down on his Charlottesville response, clashing with the hosts of The View Monday morning, who pushed back against his assertion that Trump clearly opposed white supremacists and never subtly played any political dog whistles.
Following former Vice President Joe Biden’s official presidential campaign announcement slamming Trump for his “very fine people” equivocation about white nationalists in Charlottesville, Trump insisted his reaction was handled “perfectly” and that he was speaking about those who opposed the taking down of a monument to Robert E. Lee, who he described as a “great general.”
Claiming that it’s a “myth” spread by the left that Trump defended white supremacists and neo-Nazis at the “Unite the Right” rally, Gingrich asserted that Trump “clearly” said he was opposed to those groups in his responses to the violence.
“It’s not that clear,” co-hosts Joy Behar and Sunny Hostin both replied to cheers from the audience. Gingrich, meanwhile, declared that it was “pretty darn clear” that Trump did rebuke racists in Charlottesville’s aftermath.
“It’s not,” Hostin shot back. “His first statement is he said there was violence on many sides—on many sides. Two days later, after all the backlash, is the first time he even mentioned the KKK and neo-Nazis and then the following day, he still said, ‘You had some very bad people in that group, you also had some very fine people on both sides.’”
Gingrich called this an “interesting topic” before asking the View hosts if they were saying that anyone who finds Lee a “decent person” is inappropriate, causing Hostin and Behar to point out that the Confederate general was a “traitor to his country” and a “slave-holder.”
Co-host Whoopi Goldberg, meanwhile, attempted to find middle ground with Gingrich.
“What might have worked better if the ‘good people’ he alluded to looked at the placards and the anti-Semitic things that were written, they might have marched in a different march,” she said. “If you see that, you leave. If you’re going to march with these folks and you’re in the picture with them, it looks like you’re part of the problem.”
The former speaker and current Fox News contributor pivoted to claims that there’s a “fair amount of violence on the left” and that it’s “irrational” to say Trump is anti-Semitic since he has family that’s Jewish.
“No one said that,” Hostin pushed back. “What we said, Speaker Gingrich, is that he said ‘you had some very bad people’ in that group. You also had ‘some very fine people on both sides.’ And the suggestion somehow that he did not say that is intellectually dishonest.”
“I’m not being intellectually dishonest, I’m disagreeing with your interpretation,” Gingrich replied as the crowd cheered Hostin. “Are you literally saying that everybody who favors having those statues is somehow a bad human being?”
“If you’re marching with people wearing signs that say ‘down with Jews’ and ‘Jews are not going to take over our lives’ and you don’t step away because that’s not how you feel, you’re going to get lumped into that group,” Goldberg fired back, again to audience cheers.
Behar, meanwhile, added that just because Trump has Jewish relatives doesn’t mean that he can’t send out “dog whistles to white nationalists,” something Gingrich claimed the president doesn’t do.
Eventually, Gingrich admitted that Trump did not handle his Charlottesville response “perfectly” before saying the president “has a very powerful personality who at times steps on his own messages and makes mistakes.”