Chris Wallace gave Rep. Steve Scalise quite the grilling about the House Republicans’ DHS stunt. But before you get too excited about Wallace’s real fairness and balance, consider how Wallace let Scalise skate on questions about his speech to a white supremacist group.
Wallace was as tough on Scalise as any liberal could wish – on the DHS funding and Israel issues. For example, Wallace asked about Congress extending DHS funding for one week:
WALLACE: Forgive me, Congressman and I understand it’s your role to put the best face on things, but people are talking about what happened on Friday night as a humiliating defeat for the House Republican leadership. You wanted a three-week extension and 52 members of the House Republican caucus, 52 of your own members, ended up voting against your own measure that the leadership put out.
And let me talk about your responsibility because you are the Tea Party favorite, if you will, who will join the leadership with the assurance that you are going to be able to bring more conservative members to back the leadership. You’re also as the House whip, the person who is supposed to count the votes. What happened?
Wallace also pressed Scalise on Netanyahu’s visit to Congress. After challenging Scalise for wrongly claiming that Obama had removed sanctions against Iran and after Scalise had dodged Wallace’s question about whether Republicans are prepared to take country to war against Iran, there was this exchange:
WALLACE: But if the talks break down, are you prepared—it’s a pretty straight-forward question, are you prepared to vote to take this country to war against Iran?
SCALISE: I’m prepared to continue doing what we need to do to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. There’s strong bipartisan support in Congress for increased sanctions against Iran.
WALLACE: What about war?
SCALISE: I think you’ve heard that. I think what we need to do is keep the sanctions going. The sanctions were working. You want to prevent war, you talk, talk, but you also have to back it up with actions. Increased sanctions, give us a better position. It’s ultimately achieve victory in this, and that is stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. That has got to be a top priority of this administration.
But Wallace wimped out when it came to Scalise’s speech to a white supremacist group. Wallace asked a question designed to give Scalise some time for racial rehab:
WALLACE: And finally, Congressman, we haven’t talked since the story came out that, excuse me, back in 2002 you spoke to a group that was founded by David Duke, the former Klan leader. You say that was a mistake that you regret. And my question is, since that came out in December, have you made an effort to mend fences especially with the African-American members of the House?
The fact is that Scalise’s speech was not just the one off that Wallace suggested. Scalise's claim that it was an accident strains credulity. As I previously noted, Scalise twice voted against a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Louisiana and was part of an “extreme, racialized white faction in the Louisiana state house” that opposed it. Furthermore, Scalise just irked the Congressional Black Caucus by refusing to attend civil rights ceremonies in Selma, Alabama next week commemorating the iconic civil rights march there.
But here’s how Scalise answered Wallace:
SCALISE: Sure, Chris. And I made it very clear that I rejected bigotry of all forms. And so, you know, we continued to build relationships and focus on things that we can do together to get our country moving forward and solve problems where we have joint agreement. I’ve been very proud of a lot of the work I’ve done in New Orleans. I was on the board of Teach for America. And we transformed a failed public school systems in the city of New Orleans, probably the most corrupted and failed system in the country. And now we have got a system where kids who before were being denied opportunities for educational advancement are now getting great options where their parents can have schools competing for those kids. I want to continue doing good work like that where we can expand opportunities for all Americans. That’s what we’re fighting for.
Wallace ended the interview without further questions or any challenges.
Now it could be that Wallace used up his “real journalist” quotient before he got to the softball race question. Or it could be that there’s an official Fox News effort to send a message of displeasure to the GOP about some things and not others.
Watch the Scalise interview below, from yesterday’s Fox News Sunday.
So what’s going on here that both McCarthy and Scalise have no idea who’s going to vote for their bills? Is it that the TP people simply refuse to talk to them, despite Scalise’s supposedly great cred with them? It’s astounding to me. In 50-plus years of being an intense politics junkie, I’ve never seen anything like this.
Fine with me since it just makes them look like fools over and over again, but really, what’s up with that?