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The GOP & Fox News’ Response to Hillary Clinton’s Graham Norton Appearance Is Straight-Up Gaslighting

In her election memoir, What Happened, Hillary Clinton tells the story of Donald Trump’s inauguration from her perspective. It was strange that she was expected to attend the event at all, since that is not a requirement for presidential nominees. It is tradition for all living former Presidents and First ladies to attend, however, so that’s why she was there. Obviously, she wasn’t thrilled about going, what with the vicious bullying Trump had aimed at her over the previous months, so she called the Bushes and the Carters, hoping maybe someone else would be sitting out. No such luck though (except for the elder Bushes who were in the hospital, “which I think was legitimate,” Clinton kind-of joked), so she went too.

What she hoped to see at the inauguration was for Trump to put his campaign persona behind him and “rise to the occasion of being our President … for everybody, not just the people who supported him.”

Obviously, that didn’t happen. Instead, Clinton described to Graham Norton during a recent appearance on his show, “I was sitting next to George W. Bush and Bill was on my other side and we were listening to this really dark, divisive speech that I describe as a ‘cry from the white nationalist gut. I was so disappointed. Really so, so sad that it wasn’t an outreach; it was a narrowing and a hammering of what he had said before.”

One of the most memorable moments of the inauguration (besides those fictitious record-breaking crowds) was the reported story of George W. Bush’s reaction. Clinton herself has previously hinted that she heard this firsthand, and numerous other attendees corroborate the report that after Trump finished, Bush said in response, “That was some weird shit.”

First of all, if it makes you smile to hear Hillary Clinton swear, I recommend getting the audiobook version of What Happened. You can hear her swear a little, chuckle a lot, and also quote Hamilton lyrics. It is delightful in the saddest way.

But what makes this little story so spectacular is the meltdown its caused in the GOP and their propaganda machine. Because here’s the angle Fox News decided to manufacture:

“Hillary Clinton uses obscenity on TV describing reaction to Trump’s inaugural speech” is factually accurate. However, the honest version of that headline would mention that Hillary Clinton quoted a former Republican President and Fox News darling swearing in perplexed disapproval. They have to be banking on their readers not actually reading the article or watching the video, which, as we know, many won’t. Fox News headlines are not news, they are propaganda, meant to sow hatred of liberals and Democrats. Facts don’t matter. Patriotism doesn’t matter. (Because it’s not like they cared about respecting the office of the president when Obama held it.) It’s about twisting facts and reality to suit their message. And that message is “boo, liberals.”

Similarly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders jumped through some nonsensical hoops to find her take. In separate speeches delivered Thursday, Presidents Bush and Obama warned against divisiveness and growing anger in America. It’s not like we would expect this or any Trump press secretary to display any degree of honesty or directness in her answer to a reporter’s question about these comments–she’s given no precedence of doing so–but this is just mind-boggling.

When asked whether she thought it’s appropriate for past presidents to be critical of the sitting president*, Huckabee Sanders thought she could argue that these comments weren’t even about Trump.

(Can we also please note that peak “I’m sorry if you were offended” sub-banner in that clip?)

But really … what? Just … what?

Sanders said, “Our understanding is that those comments were not directed towards the president and, in fact, when these two individuals, both past presidents, have criticized the president, they’ve done so by name and very rarely do it without being pretty direct, as both of them tend to be. So we will take them at their word that these actions and comments were not directed at the president.”

No, Sarah, THEY WERE DIRECTED AT THE PRESIDENT. They were about Trump and the bigoted divisiveness he’s brought out of the shadows and validated.

Bush talked about bigotry being “emboldened,” and the credence given to conspiracy theories and “outright fabrications.” He talked about nationalism and immigration, and the importance of a free press. Obama said “the world counts on America having its act together,” clearly implying the obvious: that it currently does not. He said we have to reject politics of fear and division.


Trump and Fox are a match made in gaslighting heaven, vehemently denying our shared reality like they have the ability to, say, change apples into bananas through sheer force of all-caps.

(image: screencap)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.