President Donald Trump won the support of overzealous patriots and white nationalists at least in part by courting “birthers” and those who view nuanced, fact-based critiques of the U.S. as anti-American. He seemingly reversed that stance in a recent interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. A line of questioning about Trump’s relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin led O’Reilly to call Putin a “killer.”
“There are a lot of killers,” Trump responded. “We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?”
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky offered a rather blunt rebuttal.
“Putin’s a former KGB agent,” McConnell said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. “He's a thug. He was not elected in a way that most people would consider a credible election. The Russians annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine and messed around in our elections. And no, I don't think there's any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does.”
From a historical perspective, calling the country that profited from the slave trade and approved Japanese internment camps “not so innocent” isn’t a particularly bold leap. But the quote appears to go against Trump’s vehement nationalism and promise to “Make America Great Again.”
McConnell wasn’t the only one seemingly taken aback with Trump’s quote.
“You cannot compare any leaders in our country to what Vladimir Putin has done,” said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota during an appearance on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
Florida Republican senator "Little" Marco Rubio was among many others to weigh in.