Here’s How Conservative Media Commentators Are Excusing Trump’s Second Amendment Comments

Conservative media figures attempted to downplay and justify Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's comments about “Second Amendment people” being able to “do” something about  Hillary Clinton’s possible judicial nominees, blaming “the Clinton spin machine,” claiming his comments were taken “out of context,” and equating his “joke” to previous statements made by other politicians.

Trump Offers Second Amendment As Antidote To Clinton’s Judicial Nominations

Trump: If Clinton “Gets To Pick Her Judges, Nothing You Can Do, Folks. Although The Second Amendment People, Maybe There Is.” In a remark that was widely interpreted as a call for a violent overthrow of the government if Hillary Clinton were to be elected and make nominations to the Supreme Court -- or as a call for her assassination or that of her nominees -- Trump said during an August 9 rally, “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is.” [CNN.com, 8/9/16]

Commentators Claim Trump’s “Joke” Was Taken “Out Of Context” By The Media And The “Clinton Spin Machine”

CNN’s Kayleigh McEnany: What Trump Meant Was “File An Amicus Brief” With The Supreme Court. CNN contributor and Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany called criticisms of Trump’s comments “absurd,” suggesting Trump meant to encourage supporters to “file amicus briefs” and “bring cases before the Supreme Court” relating to the Second Amendment. She criticized the “feign[ed] outrage” of the “Never Trump movement and Democrats” because “there was another way to see that comment.” From the August 9 edition of CNN’s Erin Burnett Outfront:  

KAYLEIGH MCENANY: Trump never suggested violence. This is so absurd to me. He said if Hillary Clinton appoints judges, maybe there is nothing you can do, but maybe there is something the Second Amendment folks can do, guess what they can do in this country, you can file amicus briefs, you can bring cases before the Supreme Court with a friendly set of facts, there are things you can do, but of course, the Never Trump movement and Democrats

[CROSSTALK]

No, you have to let me finish. Everyone on this panel, not everyone, but some of you want to feign outrage at every single thing Donald Trump says. You scrutinize his every syllable. You look at it through the most negative lens possible, when there was another way to see that comment. When I heard it, I said, oh yeah, file amicus briefs. [CNN, Erin Burnett Outfront, 8/9/16]

Fox’s Sean Hannity: “The Interpretation Is Easy” -- Trump Was “Obviously” “Saying That There’s A Strong Political Movement.” Fox News host Sean Hannity claimed that the media was “spinning” Trump’s comments and “taking things out of context,” and he insisted that Trump “obviously” was “saying that there’s a strong political movement within the Second Amendment.” Hannity claimed Trump was saying gun owners should “get out and vote because they’re so passionate” and that “the interpretation is easy.” From two segments of the August 9 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Earlier today, you were talking about the Second Amendment. And I'm going to play what you said, and then we'll talk about how the media reacted to it.

[...]

You know, so obviously, you're saying that there's a strong political movement within the Second Amendment, and if people mobilize and vote, they can stop Hillary from having this impact on the court. But that's not how the media is spinning it. What's your reaction to it?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I just heard about that, and it was amazing because nobody in that room thought anything other than what you just said. This is a political movement. This is a strong, powerful movement, the Second Amendment. You know, Hillary wants to take your guns away. She wants to leave you unprotected in your home. This is a tremendous political movement.

[LATER SEGMENT]

HANNITY: Now, I do support Donald Trump. He's not talking about, oh, the Second Amendment guys are going to take care of her. He's saying, hey, there's a lot of them. If they get out and vote because they're so passionate about it -- the interpretation is easy. But the media is obsessed with taking things out of context. Why?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: They're also obsessed, Sean, with only covering one candidate in this race, Donald Trump.

HANNITY: It's true, right? [Fox News, Hannity, 8/9/16, 8/9/16]

Fox Host Steve Doocy: Trump “Made Some Ambiguous Comments, But The Mainstream Media Has Jumped Down His Throat.” Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy labeled Trump’s remarks “ambiguous comments” in a conversation with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and claimed that “mainstream media has jumped down his throat.” From the August 10 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

STEVE DOOCY (HOST): The other story that you are really riled up about is -- and you were traveling with Donald Trump yesterday. He made some comments --  he was just talking about things on his mind, one of them the Second Amendment. He made some ambiguous comments but the mainstream media has jumped down his throat.

[...]

DOOCY: Rudy, while to many they seem like ambiguous comments, to some media elites clearly what he was saying was Second Amendment people should shoot Hillary Clinton. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/10/16]

Fox Regular Rudy Giuliani: “The Clinton Spin Machine … Put That Spin On It.” Fox regular Rudy Giuliani blamed “the Clinton spin machine” for getting “their acolytes in the media to put that spin on” Trump’s comments, saying that “obviously what he was saying, vote against her.” Giuliani then argued that Trump did not suggest assassinating Clinton because “if he said something like that, that crowd would have had a much different reaction.” From the August 10 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Rudy, while to many they seem like ambiguous comments, to some media elites clearly what he was saying was Second Amendment people should shoot Hillary Clinton.

RUDY GIULIANI: That's such nonsense. Here is what happened. First of all, I was with him. I was at the speech. I introduced him. I heard it. We drove for a half hour to the airplane. We got on the airplane. Nobody had any idea that any such suggestion was made. When he first heard it, he was shocked. I can't even tell you the word he used, begins with a B. Like, that's ridiculous that I suggested that. What his immediate response was, what I was saying is, obviously what he was saying, vote against her. And you got a lot of power.

DOOCY: He was saying voters, not violence.

GIULIANI: Yes. He was saying voters, you are a very powerful organization. You can vote against her. If he had time to spell it out, you could say they could be the turning point in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in a lot of these swing states you’ve got a lot of NRA members. That's what he was saying. That's what he intended to say. There were no words of violence used. Believe me, if he said something like that, that crowd would have had a much different reaction.

[...]

GIULIANI: And here’s what happened. I’m going to tell you about the inside of a presidential campaign, and particularly with the Clintons. The Clinton spin machine picked that up in about three or four minutes. They put that interpretation on it and they got their paid-for -- I don’t know if they’re paid for, or whatever they are -- their acolytes in the media to put that spin on it. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/10/16]

CNN’s Corey Lewandowski: This Was “Trump Talking Stream Of Conscious,” And “A Joke He Made” That “Wasn’t Something Serious.” CNN contributor and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Trump’s comments were simply “a joke that he made,” saying that what “you have [is] Donald Trump talking stream of conscious.” Lewandowski added that  “what he was asking for specifically was those people to unite.” From the August 10 edition of CNN’s New Day:

CHRIS CUOMO (HOST): It seems to be so clear -- this is a pattern. We've seen this like 10 times in a row, whether it's him making calls as his own press guy a bunch of years ago or the Star of David or what he says about Muslims, whatever it is. The pattern is he says something that shows he is unaware of the sensitivities that he's provoking or he just doesn't care. And then you guys come out as an army and blame it on us or blame it a hundred different ways and he never apologizes. Does this have to stop?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: OK, I think in this particular issue what you have is exactly what Paul Ryan said. Right, this was a joke that he made during a rally. This wasn’t something serious. He wasn't inciting violence. What he was talking about was the people who support the Second Amendment, and Mike Pence talked about this as well, have a clear choice in this election. They can vote for someone who supports the Second Amendment and will appoint judges to make sure their Second Amendment rights will stay in place, or you can support Hillary Clinton, who would be anti-gun.

[...]

LEWANDOWSKI: I think what you have is you have Donald Trump talking stream of conscious. He understands what he's saying. There's no question about it. And what he was asking for specifically was those people to unite. The NRA has endorsed Donald Trump, the earliest endorsement they have ever made of any candidate before he was even the Republican nominee, to ensure that the Second Amendment stays in place. And so he was trying to bring those people together. Say look, this election is very critical, the Second Amendment issue you care about, make sure you are united at the ballot box, and we stop Hillary Clinton. [CNN, New Day, 8/10/16]

Fox's Leland Vittert: “It's Fairly Clear He Was Talking About People Who Believe In The Second Amendment Going Out To Vote.”  Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt criticized the media for “putting words in [Trump’s] mouth” without asking him to clarify his comments. Guest co-host Leland Vittert argued that Trump’s meaning was “very clear,” and that he was “talking about people who believe in the Second Amendment going out to vote,” and co-host Steve Doocy compared Trump’s comments to remarks made by Hillary Clinton in 2008 about Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination.From the August 10 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Mr. Trump's ambiguous comments have alarmed some political, you know, viewers and people who watch this kind of stuff. Media elites though, pretty much have said, “Did you hear that? He's saying people should assassinate Hillary Clinton.” Even though you look at what he was saying, and his campaign says he was talking about the voters not violence.

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Well, you just have to be very careful when you're a journalist and you're putting words in someone's mouth. And that's exactly why when you want him to clarify what he said, you ask him. That's what Sean Hannity did last night, and John Roberts just showed us the clip. He clarified what he meant by that.

LELAND VITTERT (GUEST CO-HOST): It was very clear. Even when you -- words matter, as the media has been saying so long in this race. And when you look at the words he said, it's fairly clear he was talking about people who believe in the Second Amendment going out to vote. There's a big distance here and just because you say somebody’s for the Second Amendment, that's a long way to say, oh, gee, suddenly they’re prone to violence. That's a huge difference.

[...]

EARHARDT: He's exactly right. If you have a question about -- yeah, if you have a question about what your friend said to you, you're going to go up to them and say, can you clarify that? What do you mean by that? Then they'll explain. That's what he did.

[...]

DOOCY:  When you look at what he said, it was ambiguous. However, back in 2008 when HIllary Clinton, people were calling on her because Barack Obama was way ahead. They were saying hey, why don't you drop out. She sat down for an editorial meeting with the Argus Leader, a South Dakota newspaper, and she mentioned RFK and his assassination.

[...]

EARHARDT: I remember that, Steve. Many people were thinking that she was insinuating that that would happen to Barack Obama and that's why she needed to stay in the race.

VITTERT: And think about the outrage that she now has and sort of the hypocrisy of the outrage here fundraising off of what Donald Trump said, which one could argue what Donald Trump said is far more ambiguous and far more benign than that suggested. A lot of people said that really, back then, was a dog whistle to some of her supporters. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/10/16]

Bloomberg's Mark Halperin Defended Trump's “Joke Threatening Violence” By Equating It To Comments Made By Joe Biden. Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin attempted to downplay Trump’s Second Amendment comments by arguing that his remarks were “the exact same” as when Vice President Joe Biden said ” [h]e tries to pull my Beretta, he's got a problem" about his then-running mate, Barack Obama. From the August 9 edition of Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect:

MARK HALPERIN (CO-HOST): We should say that he’s not the first person on Secret Service protection to joke about guns and violence. Here’s Joe Biden, from September 2008, campaigning in Virginia.

[...]

“He tries to pull my Beretta, he’s got a problem.” Talking about his running mate, a guy who’s under, both of whom were under Secret Service protection at the time. Same, to me, same kind of thing, making a joke about someone else who is being protected, who has had death threats against him, saying, “You mess with my guns, you’ll have a problem.”

DONNY DEUTSCH: One was a -- somebody he was talking about who is his partner and friend, and the other was prescriptive talking to people to do something. Yes, both humorous. You could say that was in bad taste --

HALPERIN: Should Joe Biden have taken heat for that joke?

DEUTSCH: I think you have to put it in context. I think like anything else --

HALPERIN: Yes or no, should Joe Biden have taken heat for that joke?

DEUTSCH: No.

HALPERIN: I say yes.

DEUTSCH: No.

HALPERIN: Why? He is making a joke about saying, if Barack Obama tries -- 

DEUTSCH: Because he’s talking about himself -- it would be like you and I joking --

HALPERIN: But Donny, it's still a joke threatening violence. It’s the exact same thing. A joke threatening violence. [Bloomberg, With All Due Respect, 8/9/16]