President Donald Trump could have plausibly claimed that his first tweet of the day Wednesday was an original thought.
Sure, it mirrored an argument presented exactly 14 minutes earlier on “Fox & Friends,” a program the president is known to watch regularly, but who could prove that wasn’t a coincidence? Great minds think alike, right?
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based,” he tweeted.
In two subsequent tweets, however, Trump made clear that he was parroting the talking points he saw on TV, when he mentioned the @foxandfriends account and quoted one of the show’s guests directly.
“We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter). @foxandfriends”
“‘Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes problems’ said Col.Tony Shaffer. We will stop this craziness!
On the morning after the deadliest terrorist attack on New York since Sept. 11, 2001, the president’s public comments were based not on information from high-level briefings but on the chatter of cable news commentators providing incomplete facts.
What is truly remarkable about the situation is the shamelessness on both sides. Trump made no effort to conceal his reliance on “Fox & Friends.” On the contrary, he flaunted it by mentioning its Twitter feed. The hosts of the show, as they have before, seemed to revel in the knowledge that the president might be tuning in and taking notes.
“If the president is watching, what’s your message to him?” Ainsley Earhardt asked guest Dan Bongino, a former police officer and secret service agent who hosts a podcast called “The Renegade Republican.”
Here’s Bongino’s take:
“Our immigration policy should have one goal — only one goal. No other goals. It should be to enhance the prosperity and safety of the United States of America. A diversity visa program? … How about a United-States-first immigration program? I mean, really, this is suicidal. This has become a political talking point and not reality. It’s time to wake up to what’s going on. We’re at war here. They’re at war with us, and they’re not interested in politics. They’re only interested in death.”
Later, “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy pointed a finger at Schumer, the Senate minority leader:
“People are waking up this morning, and they’re trying to figure out how did this terrorist get into the United States of America? He came in legally. He came in through the diversity visa program. Back in 1990, when the 1990 immigration act was going through Congress, turns out Charles E. Schumer attached his bill — this diversity visa program — to this, which brings in 50,000 visas from a variety of countries, some with known terrorist entities as well.”
Doocy left out a key detail. In 2013, Schumer was a member of the Senate’s Gang of Eight, which proposed sweeping changes to U.S. immigration laws, including the elimination of the diversity lottery. The bill passed in the Senate but died in the House.
When Trump listens to “Fox & Friends,” he often misses the complete picture. When he quotes its guests, he risks attaching himself to comments with which the White House might not want to be associated.
Tony Shaffer, the retired Army colonel Trump seemed to endorse Wednesday, suggested that the driver of a truck that killed eight people in New York on Tuesday should not have been allowed into the United States because of his name, Sayfullo Saipov.
“I mean, his name itself is Sword of Allah — that’s a clue,” Shaffer said. “So, you know…”
“And what does that mean?” Brian Kilmeade interjected.
“His name, his first name, is ‘The Sword of Allah,’ “ Shaffer repeated. “So, that’s not, like, Joe. And I think that was a clue to where he came from. So we have to look at every aspect of every individual to make sure that we’re not importing Europe’s terror problem.”