On Monday night, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the woman who notoriously urged protesters to “harass” Trump administration officials in their personal time, argued with a straight face that she did not call for “harm” toward them. Instead, she accused President Donald Trump of lying and twisting her words.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes gave Waters a lay-up, defending her inciting comments by insisting that she “did not call for harm as the president implied.”
“Congresswoman, let me start with this. You did not call for physical harm or attacks on people, but you did say ‘create a crowd and push back on them,'” Hayes suggested.
“You’re absolutely correct,” Waters replied. “I did not call for harm for anybody. The president lied again.”
The congresswoman insisted that she called for “civil protest,.” She added, “I don’t know why the president chose to stretch that out and try to imply that I was causing harm.”
Then she pivoted to attack Trump’s own remarks. “As a matter of fact, the president calls for more violence than anybody else,” Waters alleged. She then launched into a lament about the children who have been separated from their illegal immigrant parents after crossing the border, saying she has lost sleep worrying about them.
Trump has notoriously called for protesters at his rallies to be kicked out or roughed up — and these are indeed uncivil statements. That said, they happened at political rallies, where the protesters were making a public statement. Calling for public officials to be harassed on their down time, as Waters did, is something else.
Last week, Waters praised protesters for chanting “No peace! No sleep!” outside the home of a Trump official. She then urged listeners, “If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, at a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
Waters did not call for violence against Trump officials, but she did call for constant harassment. She urged people to protest cabinet members while they dine in restaurants, shop in department stores, or fill up at gas stations. This utter lack of privacy and peace is indeed “harm,” though it is not violence.
If protesters storm an official’s house and keep them awake at night — yelling “No sleep!” — they are causing concrete harm. Human beings need sleep, and depriving them of sleep does fit the definition of “harm,” though not necessarily the definition of violence. Trump did not lie in saying Waters called for harm.
That does not justify his entire tweet about her, however. “Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party,” Trump tweeted. “She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party. She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2018
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes claimed that the final statement — “be careful what you wish for” — did constitute a threat of violence against Waters. This represents a painful double standard. Somehow, Waters giving officials “No peace! No sleep!” does not constitute harm, but Trump warning her that urging harm against Trump supporters might backfire on her constitutes violence.
None of this justifies Trump’s ad hominem dismissal of Waters as “an extraordinarily low IQ person.”
Tragically, while Democrats did call for civility in the wake of Waters’ remarks, they did not explicitly disavow Waters. “They don’t really say that I’m out of line,” the congresswoman said.
Watch that part of the interview below.