Trump Stoking ‘Populist Prairie Fire’ Against Dem Governors

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On MSNBC Friday afternoon, co-anchors Brian Williams and Katy Tur denounced President Trump for urging some states less impacted by the coronavirus to gradually reopen. Williams claimed Trump was trying to stoke “populist prairie fire” against Democratic governors “who so far have been adept in handling this virus.”

After devoting the first portion of the 2:00 p.m. hour to playing a lengthy clip of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo attacking the President, Williams justified the decision: “So, Katy Tur, we should note we don’t often air 11 straight minutes of an event that took place earlier. But this is the governor of a state with more cases than any country, aside from the United States.”

Tur chimed in: “And a governor of a state fact checking the President of the United States on both the Constitution and information that was given to him by the President’s own administration.”

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Moments later, turning to correspondent Hans Nichols, Williams bemoaned:

And Hans, here are your two sides. This was as predictable as today’s sunrise. You have Governor Cuomo and those like him on one side. On the other side, you have the President, who just looking at his Twitter feed this morning seems to want to start a kind of populist prairie fire, forgetting at the moment we’re talking about a lethal virus. He has air support from Fox News, Oprah’s two doctors, Oz and Phil, and he’s listening to the constant feedback loop in his life and circle, mostly from the business community.

Nichols was eager to pile on Trump and cheer Cuomo: “Andrew Cuomo has all but called the President of the United States a ‘parade master.’ He’s accused him of causing mayhem, he’s questioned his integrity, his willingness to help out his states, saying he’s doing a modicum of what would be required and responsible for the President of the United States.”

Despite spending the entire segment encouraging political division, minutes later, Williams lamented: “It’s depressing that we’re going to lose a day in the fight to a verbal and Twitter war back and forth between the President and the Governor of New York….This notion of a prairie fire, red states versus blue in some cases. Populations in blue states against the governors who so far have been adept in handling this virus.”

Tur offered an even more melodramatic declaration and claimed Trump was only thinking about the electoral map in November:

And put people’s lives in danger. Note that those three states [Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia] are three states the President needs to win to win reelection in November. So it seems very obviously politically motivated. How does that – what does that mean for the rest of us, the states with governors who are not ready to reopen, for our reopening times, if we start seeing hot spots flare in some of these states that governors are taking the President’s advice or bowing to pressure from the President’s base?

Despite the White House presenting a thoughtful and detailed three-step guideline for states to follow in order to carefully reopen in the wake of the pandemic, MSNBC is more interested in pitting “red states” against “blue states” in the midst of the health crisis.

Here is a transcript of the April 17 segment:

2:13 PM ET

(…)

BRIAN WILLIAMS: So, Katy Tur, we should note we don’t often air 11 straight minutes of an event that took place earlier. But this is the governor of a state with more cases than any country, aside from the United States.
    
KATY TUR: And a governor of a state fact checking the President of the United States on both the Constitution and information that was given to him by the President’s own administration. I noted one line from this – I noted many – but here’s just one of them: “Why don’t you show as much consideration to your states as did you to your big business, your airlines?”

(…)

2:15 PM ET

WILLIAMS: Let’s go to Hans Nichols at the White House, who we see on an almost daily basis socially distanced at the White House daily briefings. And Hans, here are your two sides. This was as predictable as today’s sunrise. You have Governor Cuomo and those like him on one side. On the other side, you have the President, who just looking at his Twitter feed this morning seems to want to start a kind of populist prairie fire, forgetting at the moment we’re talking about a lethal virus. He has air support from Fox News, Oprah’s two doctors, Oz and Phil, and he’s listening to the constant feedback loop in his life and circle, mostly from the business community.

HAS NICHOLS: What we don’t know, Brian is whether or not the President has been listening or heard that entire 12-minute broadside from Governor Mario Cuomo [sic]. Now this evening’s briefing is supposed to be an update on testing. Where they are on all the different permutations, the high-throughput tests, the Abbot labs, the saliva, the serology tests. I suspect that most of today’s briefing is going to be the President responding to Andrew Cuomo. Because Andrew Cuomo has all but called the President of the United States a “parade master.” He’s accused him of causing mayhem, he’s questioned his integrity, his willingness to help out his states, saying he’s doing a modicum of what would be required and responsible for the President of the United States.

Now, the President responded, or the least in part, on Twitter. As you mentioned, he started off with those broad sides against the Midwestern states, Michigan, Minnesota, also Virginia as well. It’s there where you’re seeing some protests against the lockdowns that are in place and this idea that you need to open up the economy, which the President again has said is going to be up to the governors. And yet, at the same time, he’s encouraging and fomenting dissent in these very states where there are Democratic governors.

(…)

2:20 PM ET

WILLIAMS: Ron, it’s depressing that we’re going to lose a day in the fight to a verbal and Twitter war back and forth between the President and the Governor of New York. Hans is absolutely right, we can lay out how today’s briefing is going to go, including some of the attack and talking points from the President. This notion of a prairie fire, red states versus blue in some cases. Populations in blue states against the governors who so far have been adept in handling this virus.

RON KLAIN: Yeah, look, I think that the tweets from the President this morning – this afternoon – to “Liberate Michigan, liberate Minnesota, liberate Virginia and get your Second Amendment rights going,” you know, that kind of says, as you said before, Brian, where this is headed. Which is the President appears to be defaulting back to his populist instincts. To whatever extent he was listening to the health care experts who are around him, people like Dr. Fauci, who six presidents have trusted to give advice, he’s clearly kind of going back to stir up the base and cause problems.

And I really fear that we’re about to see the most divisive month we have seen in a long time in this country. As red states start to reopen, states that are in these coalitions on the east coast and west coast largely remain closed, we begin to get real division about that. Is the disease spreading? We’ve seen gigantic, double-digit increases in the disease in the past few days in places like Oklahoma, in places like South Dakota, places in the heartland. The disease is really accelerating there. My home state of Indiana saw it’s peak day two days ago and then the cases went back up again. So we’re seeing massive increases in this disease throughout the country. You can’t have a state by state solution at that level. I mean, people in those states will come to the blue states. So I just feel like this divisiveness that the President is launching is really going to get out of control and going to be bad for all of us.

TUR: And put people’s lives in danger. Note that those three states are three states the President needs to win to win reelection in November. So it seems very obviously politically motivated. How does that – what does that mean for the rest of us, the states with governors who are not ready to reopen, for our reopening times, if we start seeing hot spots flare in some of these states that governors are taking the President’s advice or bowing to pressure from the President’s base?

KLAIN: Yeah, Katy, that’s a great point. Obviously, we’re a connected country. Interstate highways take people from one part of the country to the other very easily and very quickly. It’s not that far from some of the states the President was taunting to liberate today, to the states like New York. And so, you know, in the end, it is up to each governor to act. But the consequence of the failure of federal leadership here on testing, on preparing our medical system, means that we could see this disease flare up badly in places that reopen too soon. And then those people transmit the disease to the states that are trying to prevent the spread of the disease.

(…)

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