After 48 minutes of a one-hour show, host Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday finally got around to what everyone else was talking about all weekend: Donald Trump’s crude insults against a Muslim-American family whose son was killed while fighting as a U.S. Army captain in Iraq in 2004.
“This story is blowing up,” Wallace said.
Indeed it did—everywhere but Fox, the only major cable news network that failed to cover the speech of Khizr Khan at the Democratic convention Thursday night in Philadelphia. In his startling remarks, Khan spoke of his son’s heroic death and denounced Trump’s anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric as he runs for President as a Republican.
Among other things, Khan said Trump never sacrificed anything in his life and needed to read the Constitution, a copy of which he pulled from his pocket. Enter Trump the Counter-Puncher.
“I was viciously attacked at the Democratic Convention,” he wrote in a Twitter message Sunday. “Am I not allowed to respond?”
George Will, a Fox panel member, wondered if Trump’s latest war of words would be “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” referring to a long list of offensive things Trump has said about Muslims, Mexicans and women as he prepares to face Democrat Hillary Clinton in November’s general election.
“Will there a critical mass of these things? Will asked. “Just when you think American politics has hit rock bottom, Mr. Trump rises—or stoops—to the challenge of saying there is no rock-bottom . . . Attacking Gold Star parents is one of those things.”
Will recently left the Republican Party in opposition to Trump. Most of the other Sunday shows gave the latest Trump flap more than Fox’s four minutes, particularly ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, who showed an interview with Trump recorded Friday and started everything.
Portions of it were released early and it reached the top of page one in Sunday’s national edition of The New York Times with a headline that said “Trump Belittles Muslim Mother of Dead Soldier / Islam Kept Wife from Speaking, He Offers.”
The mother, Ghazala Khan, stood next to her husband on stage at the convention with a scarf on her head but did not speak. Trump implied that she kept quiet because her Islamic faith forbids women to speak. The previous week, Trump warned MSNBC’s Katy Tur to “be quiet.”
“If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say,” Trump told Stephanopoulos, “She probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet. And it looked like she had nothing to say. A lot of people have said that.”
Trump went on to say that the dead soldier’s father might have read words—a scathing rebuke of Trump—written by others.
“Who wrote that?” Trump asked. “Did Hillary’s script writers write it?”
Khan—who said he wrote it with his wife’s editing—appeared Sunday on both NBC’s Meet the Press and on CNN’s State of the Union.
He seemed angrier than he was Thursday, particularly at Trump’s insulting of his wife.
He was on script, bring up ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ three times when Stelter asked about the Khan family.
Noting that his wife wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post and spoke to other media outlets, Khan said Trump is “a black soul, totally unfit” to be president.
Khan was appalled that Trump compared the sacrifice of the Khan family to “sacrifices” Trump has made in business, like creating jobs. Khan appealed to Republican Congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to denounce Trump’s words.
“They have seen the blackness of his character, of his soul,” Khan told Jim Acosta on CNN. “It is their moral obligation. History will not forgive them. This election will pass, but history will be written. The lapse of moral courage will remain burdens on their souls . . . repudiate him!”
On Meet the Press, Chuck Todd opened his show with Khan, who said of Trump: “We have a candidate without moral compass, without empathy for citizens. The way he showed disrespect to a Gold Star mother of this country, that says it all.”
“Your wife,” Todd said.
“My wife,” Khan continued. “The brave mother of my son, Captain Humayun Khan, a hero of this country.” Their son was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
To Acosta, Khan also said that a president needs a moral compass and empathy and that Trump “is void of both traits.”
In that Trump has put so many members of his family forward as surrogates, Khan said: “I want his family to counsel him. Teach him some empathy. He will be a better person.”
Khan said many people, including Republicans, have reached out to the family, sending flowers. Strangers have hugged them. He said some say “You have touched our hearts and will not vote Republican in this election.”
Most outspoken on Todd’s pundit panel was David Brooks of The New York Times, like Will a conservative intellectual appalled by Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
“I’ve never felt as nauseated as I was when I saw (Trump’s) comments about Mrs. Khan,” Brooks said.
“Disgust doesn’t begin to cover the range of emotions I felt . . . It stems from lack of empathy, a lack of respect, a lack of basic decency. And I wonder what this moral pygmy on top of the ticket is doing to the country and would do as president.”
Hand me the remote . . .
FOX NEWS SUNDAY Wallace interviewed Clinton, her first post-convention sit-down and first visit with Wallace in more than a year.
She said “Donald Trump has shown a very troubling willingness to back up (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, to support Putin.”
She also said the gun lobby “intimidates elected officials” and that it’s not fair that Trump wants to “round up hard-working mothers and fathers, making them disappear, and leaving their children alone” when he deports 11 million Mexicans without documentation.
When Wallace pressed her on things like her missing emails and the Clinton Foundation, Clinton deftly changed the subject. “I’d like to see Donald Trump’s tax returns, to find out how much philanthropy he’s ever done,” Clinton said. She also called him “a bully.”
Asked to be specific about her emotions at the convention speech, she said she feared “that I would start crying.” She followed this with three sharp laughs. Lightening the mood, she said that her now-deceased mother was a Fox News viewer who sometimes got annoyed at Fox’s right-wing bias.
“Well, Mom, if it upsets you so much, why do you keep watching?” Clinton asked her mother.
Her mother replied: “Well, I like some of the people and I have to know what the others are saying so I can understand and be against it.”
FACE THE NATION John Dickerson opened his CBS show with Bernie Sanders on a remote camera from Vermont, stressing areas of agreement between himself and Clinton, who beat him in the primaries.
Sanders said of Trump: “The whole nature of his campaign is not on issues as it much as it is on bigotry.”
Dickerson showed a video of Trump saying “Just remember this: Trump is gonna be no more Mr. Nice Guy” and Trump campaign bossman Paul Manafort was there to defend Trump with the talking point of the day.
“The issue is not Mr. Khan and Mr. Trump,” Manafort said. “The issue is radical Islamic jihad and the risk to the American homeland.”
A segment about the zika virus showed tight shots of mosquitoes, who look scary on big screen, high-def . . . David Axelrod, comparing the conventions, called the Democrats’ a “Broadway production of ‘Hamilton’” and the Republicans’ “Like a middle-school play.”
John Heilemann of Bloomberg said “I’m not convinced that the apocalyptic tone—not just pessimistic but apocalyptic tone—of the Republican convention is going to resonate with white, college-educated women in the battleground states.”
MEDIA BUZZ It took Fox host Howard Kurtz 11 minutes to get to his three-minute segment on Trump’s comments about the Khan family. Kurtz tried to subtly suggest the media is biased in favor of the father and his convention speech.
“Do you think he’s gotten so much attention—it was a moving moment, no question about it—but because a lot of journalists agree with his assessment, that Trump is so anti-Muslim?” Kurtz asked.
Susan Ferrechio of The Washington Examiner replied: “It’s turned into this whole anti-Muslim thing because of the way Trump presents it. He over-generalizes to all Muslims and that started the whole argument that he’s anti-Muslim. Thus, here we are with the whole situation with the Gold Star family and the holding up of the Constitution.”
Translated for the benefit of Kurtz, that answer means: “People say he’s an anti-Muslim bigot because he is an anti-Muslim bigot, not because the media report it.”
Krystal Ball (where has she been?) noted that Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC agreed with Rachel Maddow that Bill Clinton’s speech demeaned his wife. He called her a “girl” when recalling how they met.
“I was shocked that they were shocked,” Ball said. “Most Americans are fascinated by this marriage. We’re riveted by these details. It also brings us back . . . it made me feel more warmly toward them.”
Maddow had called Bill Clinton’s comments “shocking and weird.” Guy Benson of Townhall.com said “That comment from Rachel Maddow . . . I found wholly bizarre.”
Ball said she was surprised that the first partisan MSNBC turned to after Clinton’s acceptance speech was Nicolle Wallace, a Republican.
“I can’t imagine Fox turning to a Democratic strategist initially to comment on, say, Melania Trump’s speech or Donald Trump’s speech,” Ball said.
Kurtz took Trump’s side (surprise!) in the dustup over his urging the Russians to hack Clinton’s emails and reveal them. After people complained, Trump said he was just kidding, you know, being sarcastic. Kurtz bought it.
“To think that he was dead serious,” Kurtz said,” I’d think you’d have to think Trump was clinically insane.”
MEET THE PRESS Manafort, making the rounds, stuck to the script. Trump is concerned with “illegal immigrant criminals,” he said.
Todd asked Manafort about how Trump called former NATO General John Allen “a failed general” in the fight against ISIS and how Trump called former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg “a little man.”
“Why all these insults?” Todd asked. “Does that not raise a temperament issue? I assume you would not be advising him to go about responding in this way.”
Oh, don’t try slipping something like that by an old pro like Manafort.
“Well, Chuck,” he said, “you’re now repeating the talking points of the Clinton campaign.”
When Todd persisted, saying Trump is easily distracted, Manafort said: “He’s not distracted. You are covering the wrong things.”
Todd was among several who interviewed Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder who spoke from the embassy of Ecuador in London.
Last week, the website published emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee that showed a bias to Clinton over Sanders.
Todd kept pressing the question of Russian involvement and Assange stayed cagy. “What we publish is guaranteed to be true,” he said.
On the panel, Alex Castellanos—working for a Trump super-PAC—expressed guarded optimism for Trump’s success.
“Trump has rearranged the map,” he said. “This is the angry, working-class guy election . . . Is the angry white guy a stronger component of this election . . . ?”
THIS WEEK George Stephanopoulos showed no false modesty when he opened his ABC show with “Our exclusive interview with Donald Trump is already generating headlines and controversy all over the world.”
Before the conversation got to the Khan family, Trump said of Clinton “Honestly, she lies a lot” and denied he had business relationships with any Russian institutions. People want to know because Trump says such nice things about Putin.
“He said ‘Donald Trump is a genius,’” Trump said. “I’m gonna disavow that?”
Trump discussed Bloomberg, who endorsed Clinton at the convention with a fiery speech that called Trump a con artist.
“Michael Bloomberg couldn’t get elected dog catcher in New York,” Trump said.
Also appearing was General Allen, who said Trump should stop insulting the army, stop advocating torture and stop promising carpet-bombing.
He warned again, as he has in recent days, that Trump could force a civilian-military crisis never before seen in this nation if he becomes president and follows through on his promise to order soldiers to commit war crimes.
“We need to have a commander-in-chief who knows what she is doing,” General Allen said.
On the panel, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks said of Trump: “These comments prove he is a bigot beyond the shadow of a doubt. He’s really an unbelievably obnoxious character . . . He ran from Vietnam and he’s got the nerve to criticize people who died for this country.”
STATE OF THE UNION Acosta, subbing for Jake Tapper, presented Tapper’s taped interview with Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, Clinton’s choice for vice-president. Tapper said Bloomberg suggested Trump was “not sane.”
“Do you agree?” Tapper asked Kaine.
“Mike Bloomberg knows Trump and I don’t,” Kaine said. “I’ve got to scratch my head all the time. Two days ago, he did a press conference and told everybody what a lousy governor of New Jersey I was.”
TAPPER: “To be honest, you were.”
KAINE: “Yeah. Well, I was a no-show governor of New Jersey when I was governor of Virginia.”
When Sen. Jeff Sessions appeared in support of Trump, Acosta asked him if Putin is a good leader or a bad leader, a good man or a bad man.
“We have a lot of bad leaders around the world who operate in ways we would never tolerate in the United States,” Sessions said.
RELIABLE SOURCES On CNN, Brian Stelter opened with Jason Miller, the senior communications advisor of the Trump campaign.
He was on script, bring up “radical Islamic terrorism” three times when Stelter asked about the Khan family.
“Why do you keep answering that way when I mention him?” Stelter asked. “Are you trying to change the subject or are you trying to link him to terrorism?”
Miller took offense.
“No, not at all, that’s not what I’m saying,” Miller said. “Don’t try to put words in my mouth.”
Stelter presented the front page of the New York Post that showed Trump’s wife naked.
“These were photos that are 20 years old, before Mrs. Trump met Mr. Trump,” Miller said. “They are a celebration of the human body as art. Nothing to be embarrassed by the photos. She’s a beautiful woman.”
Later, Stelter promised a discussion of why Fox declined to show the Khans at the convention. But only Kim Shattas of the BBC picked up on it.
“It is problematic, for example, to see that Fox News did not cover the speech of Khizr Khan,” she said. “That does a disservice to their viewers.”
The conversation turned to Roger Ailes—forced to resign as emperor of Fox News after the dismissed Gretchen Carlson sued him for sexual harassment.
Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post said the investigation of sexual coercion charges against Ailes by an outside law firm is winding down and that is not good.
“That troubles me, because I think this goes beyond Ailes and is pervasive at Fox,” she said. “There needs to be a culture change there and I’m not sure that’s going to happen.”
David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun cited Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine for breaking many stories, including last week’s scoop about a long-time employee who charged Ailes demanded sex from her and assigned her to set up his trysts with other vulnerable female employees.
“Vile, predatory behavior,” Zurawik said. “This story absolutely sickens me.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.