While the media often (and often correctly) criticizes President Donald Trump for attacking critics personally or making claims without sufficient support, there seems less scrutiny when he or his allies is the target of such attacks. The recent attacks on Sen. Lindsey Graham after MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle suggested on national television that his support for Trump is due to being blackmailed with “something pretty extreme.” Various Republicans denounced the allegation (which was picked up by a Democratic member) as a clear reference to long-standing rumors that Graham is gay (which Graham as denied). They have described the statements are inherently homophobic. The reprehensible statement was soon echoed by others — not only implying that President Trump engages in blackmail but that Graham has sold out to conceal some “extreme” conduct.
Ruhle and former Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., were discussing Graham’s support for Trump and Jolly observed
“Before Don got elected, Lindsey Graham called Donald Trump a racist, xenophobic bigot. Those are Lindsey Graham’s words,. I doubt Lindsey Graham could tell you Donald Trump has had a change of heart in the last 24 months, I bet the change of heart has been with Lindsey Graham, not the president.”
Ruhle responded, “Or it could be that Donald Trump or somebody knows something pretty extreme about Lindsey Graham.”
That suggestion was then picked up by freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota who declared Graham “compromised.” She reiterated her claim when challenged later and insisted “He is somehow compromised to no longer stand up for the truth and is fighting to protect the oath that he took in serving the American people.”
There was no outrage from the House Democratic leadership to a member making such a claim about a Senate member based only on her assumption that Graham supporting Trump could not be based on blackmail. Indeed, she was elevated as a freshman to the Foreign Relations Committee.
News outlets like CNN reported the story without any discussion of the irresponsible and salacious allegation. There was also no discussion of the fact that Graham routinely criticizes Trump, including this week over his withdrawal of troops from war zones. There was also no discussion of the fact that Graham said after the election that, while he was a strong critic of Trump, he would seek to get along with him and push their shared agenda.
Omar later seemed to move away from the blackmail allegation and said that “I am pretty sure that there is something happening with him, whether it is, you know, something that has to do with his funding when it comes to running for office, whether it has something to do with the polling that they might have in his district [sic], or whether it has to do with some sort of leadership within the Senate.”
Again, there was no serious scrutiny of the belated change in Omar’s allegation from being blackmailed back Trump to feeling pressure from constituents. Of course, if polling and federal funding constitute being “compromised” virtually all of Omar’s colleagues are compromised. The same polling pressures make it impossible for any Democrats to support Trump. Does that mean that they are also compromised by something “extreme”? Alternatively, is the same polling the reason why Democrats are silent in defending Graham from a scurrilous allegation made without any evidence?