Two moments from cable news on Tuesday sum up the vast differences between how Trump supporters and opponents are reacting to thousands of children being separated from their families at the border: On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow was too choked up to speak.
On The Story With Martha MacCallum, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski responded to news that a 10-year-old with Down syndrome had been separated from her mother with a dismissive “womp, womp.”
As Maddow was closing her show, she received word of an Associated Press report that babies and very young children have been sent to “tender age” shelters.
Doctors and lawyers who have visited the shelters noted there were “playrooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis ... hysterical, crying and acting out.” Struck by the severity of the news, Maddow broke down, unable to speak. She began to cry and passed the show on to Lawrence O’Donnell.
She later apologized for “losing it” in a series of tweets:
Ugh, I'm sorry.— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) June 20, 2018
If nothing else, it is my job to actually be able to speak while I'm on TV.
What I was trying to do -- when I suddenly couldn't say/do anything -- was read this lede:
All from this Associated Press story that broke while I was on the air tonight, but which I was unable to read on the air:https://t.co/2VBLTVxvQq— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) June 20, 2018
Again, I apologize for losing it there for a moment. Not the way I intended that to go, not by a mile.
The gulf between MSNBC and Fox is massive
Contrast that with what happened earlier Tuesday when former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski appeared on The Story With Martha MacCallum. Fellow panelist Zac Petkanas detailed a story on “a 10-year old girl with Down syndrome who was taken from her mother and put in a cage.”
Lewandowski interrupted Petkanas mid-sentence with “womp, womp,” setting off an astounded Petkanas as he repeatedly exclaimed, “How dare you!” (Lewandowski later claimed on Twitter that he was mocking Petkanas because he “attempted to politicize children.”)
Lots of Fake News today. I mocked a liberal who attempted to politicize children as opposed to discussing the real issue which is fixing a broken immigration system. It’s offenseive that the MSM doesn’t want to talk about the fact these policies were started under Obama.— Corey R. Lewandowski (@CLewandowski_) June 20, 2018
But the comment drew outrage, including from the right — just as Trump’s family separation policy has split Republicans.
This is so horrible, even by Lewandowski standards. https://t.co/4SNBUtCgfu— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) June 20, 2018
To some supporters of the policy, though, Lewandowski’s response — and Maddow’s — are the whole point. Critics are accusing Maddow of being weak, faking her tears, or expending tears that should be shed for issues such as abortion.
And Lewandowski’s dismissive response is typical of how the architect of Trump’s immigration policy, Stephen Miller, sees the crisis. As Vox’s Jane Coaston wrote:
Miller has no interest in convincing the opposition of the correctness of his views. Like he did in high school and in college at Duke University, he simply wants to enrage. As National Review columnist Dan McLaughlin told me, this follows his boss’s style of political discourse. “A hallmark of the Trump approach to politics is the assumption that politics is all about activating emotional reactions, not persuading anyone to change their mind,” he said. In short, “triggering the libs.”
In that worldview, bringing an MSNBC host to tears over the cruelty of your policy is a victory.