After an Uzbeki immigrant plowed his rental truck into a bunch of innocent bicyclists in New York this week, killing eight and injuring a dozen others, the media reacted with horror — because President Trump called the terrorist an “animal” and said we should have less of them.
When the media convulse over something Trump says, everyone should instantly suspect that there’s a more pressing story at hand. Namely, a terrorist attack by an Islamic State-inspired immigrant that killed a bunch of people.
During a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump told reporters the administration “is coordinating closely between federal and local officials to investigate the attack and to further investigate this animal who did the attacking.”
He repeatedly referred to the terrorist, identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, that way, including on Friday, when he said before a trip to Asia that, “When we have an animal do an attack like he did the other day, we are hitting them [ISIS] 10 times harder.”
Trump also said Saipov should get the death penalty and he called for an end to the “lottery visa,” the federal program that allows random immigrants into the country, as if admittance into the U.S. were the same as finding a golden ticket to a chocolate factory. (If it were, we’d get some sweet children and, at worst, a couple annoying ones. Instead, we got a Muslim Uber driver ready to run over a bunch of tourists.)
After Saipov charged his truck into a bike path, slamming into the bodies of unsuspecting cyclists and joggers, he ran into a bus, injuring four more, including two children.
He then exited the vehicle and dashed through the highway with a paintball gun and a pellet gun, yelling “Allahu akbar.”
A police officer put an end to it by shooting Saipov in the abdomen. After he was taken into custody and sent to the hospital, he said that he “felt good” about the attack and asked that an ISIS flag be hung in his room, according to a federal complaint.
He also left notes behind in the rental truck pledging his allegiance to ISIS, according to the police.
But that Trump called him an “animal” and said the U.S. should prevent more crime from immigrants by restricting their inflow left the media deeply unsettled.
“You know, maybe the guy on the street thinks that, a lot of people think that, but the president of the United States has to stand with a little bit of dignity when he’s representing the country,” CNN legal analyst Paul Callan said Thursday. “And what he is suggesting … is that we should just take them out and shoot them.”
Others were concerned that there was a difference in the way Trump reacted to Saipov and Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter who lit up an outdoor concert with bullets in early October.
The New York Times editorial board said Trump’s response “contrasted” with his reaction to the Vegas shooter, because the White House said that “now is a time to unite as a country,” rather than the right moment to debate gun control.
Identically, the Washington Post said to take “note that the White House wouldn’t discuss gun control after last month’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, on the grounds that it would politicize a tragedy, but it had no problem launching partisan attacks following a terrorist strike that ought to unify all Americans.”
GQ magazine’s Jay Willis stupidly wondered why Trump called for the death penalty in the case of Saipov but not for Paddock. (Willis later realized Paddock killed himself at the conclusion of his shooting spree, thus was unable to receive a trial and death sentence.)
Comparing the two incidents, Time magazine said Trump and the White House “reacted very differently to both … declining to weigh in on policy after Las Vegas, and then immediately doing so following the New York City attack.”
To clear this up for the media, Trump “reacted very differently” because of the following: The attacks were very different.
It remains a mystery to this day, more than a month after the Vegas shooting, why Paddock, a 64-year-old wealthy gambling addict, opened fire from his hotel window on a crowd of concertgoers. He did not leave notes (like Saipov), did not yell out any motivational clues during the attack (like Saipov) and, most importantly, was not a Muslim immigrant who openly said he was inspired by ISIS (like Saipov).
Trump, or anyone else, would jump to a conclusion with Saipov because there is a conclusion.
The media are taken aback that Trump would dub Saipov an “animal,” call for his execution, and push for a new immigration policy.
But like the CNN analyst said, “The guy on the street thinks that, a lot of people think that."
They do, even if the media don't.
Eddie Scarry is a media reporter for the Washington Examiner.