Fox host Chris Wallace questioned whether Mitt Romney’s lavish praise for Donald Trump’s 2012 endorsement and his business acumen didn’t make Romney “part of the reason” Trump is “where he is now.” It’s a fair question but Wallace ought to ask his Fox News colleagues who surely played a much bigger role.
In today’s Fox News Sunday interview, there was the following exchange between Wallace and Romney (via Fox News transcript, with my emphases):
WALLACE: While you took down Donald Trump pretty hard this week, you had a very different view of him four years ago when he endorsed you. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: There are some things you just can’t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them. Being in Donald Trump’s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight.
Donald Trump has shown an extraordinary ability to show an understanding how our economy works, to create jobs for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Governor, what changed?
ROMNEY: Oh, let me tell you, this is a guy if we look at the past, this is a guy who was very successful and made a lot of money for himself.
But at the same time, take a very close look and look how many small people he crushed along the way and how many failures he had.
And so, we can talk about the past at great length. A lot of people who endorsed me I wouldn’t endorse for president. Donald Trump just happens to be one of those who endorsed me I do not want to see as president of the United States. There’s a long list of those who are endorsers.
Sixty-one million people voted for me. I don’t think all 61 million people ought to be president of the United States.
WALLACE: But you were talking at the time about his extraordinary ability to create jobs, his understanding of the economy. I mean, it’s not like everything that Donald Trump that you believe he did wrong happened in the last four years. A lot of those business failures that you talk about happened before 2012.
Before 2012, he was making the birther argument that President Obama needed to show his birth certificate because he wasn’t born in the United States. I guess part of the question is, by legitimizing him back then were you part of the reason he’s where he is now?
ROMNEY: Let’s talk about what hasn’t happened or didn’t happen back then and what has happened during this campaign, calling George W. Bush a liar, cozying up to Vladimir Putin and saying he’s a strong leader and popular with his people, equivocating on the Ku Klux Klan, talking about all Muslims as if they’re one monolithic group. This is a person who considered Mexican immigrants rapists.
And then his policy positions one after the other, these are positions which are totally inappropriate. He doesn’t want to balance the budget. He wants to—as you saw the other night -- $10 trillion of additional debt.
Look, this is a guy who doesn’t represent what’s right for the future of the Republican Party.
Wallace is absolutely right to raise this point with Romney. And Romney’s own failure to take responsibility for not speaking out about Trump then undercuts his credibility now, in my view.
But it’s not as though Trump became a Romney surrogate or adviser. That may be because Trump was too busy promoting himself on Fox News.
As Media Matters noted, “(Y)ears before he became the epicenter of Republican campaign politics, Trump was using Fox News to pave the way for his eventual presidential run. And since then, Fox has become Trump’s de facto communications shop, defending his campaign’s missteps and giving him tens of millions of dollars in free airtime.”
Media Matters put together the video to prove it.
Watch the two videos below and you’ll see why, if Wallace wants to ask questions about legitimizing Trump, he ought to be asking them of his his own network.