When the national media called President Trump un-American for suggesting it was "treasonous" for Democrats not to applaud him at his State of the Union address, it was just another day at the office for pundits and commentators who have lobbed those accusations at Trump for years.
Many of them have also been hard at work developing a narrative that says it's the Democrats who are patriotic and Trump who isn't measuring up.
During the 2016 Democratic National Convention, then-Vice President Joe Biden said Trump “has no clue about what makes America great; actually, he has no clue, period.”
Zack Beauchamp, a writer at the left-leaning website Vox, lauded Biden’s speech. “For once, the liberals are the ones casting themselves as the ‘real Americans,’” he wrote. He said Biden’s remarks were “a kind of working-class populism, in attempt to expose Trump’s own form of populism to be barren, hateful, and ultimately un-American.”
Remarking on the DNC’s programming, NBC political analyst Howard Fineman said on Twitter, “It's true: #Trump has turned the #Democrats into proud, sincere & convincing patriotic flag waivers!”
It's true: #Trump has turned the #Democrats into proud, sincere & convincing patriotic flag waivers! That's what it feels like in the hall.— Howard Fineman (@howardfineman) July 29, 2016
Conservative radio host Steve Deace, a fixture on cable news, said at the time, “I cannot believe I'm watching the Democrats become the party of patriotism.”
I cannot believe I'm watching the Democrats become the party of patriotism.— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) July 29, 2016
What Trump had actually said Monday at a campaign-style event in Blue Ash, Ohio, where he touted his tax cut bill, was that Democrats appeared eager to see his agenda fail more than they wanted to see any positive impact it might have on the country’s economy. His comment was not about the lack of applause in general, but the lack of any Democratic applause when he said black unemployment was at a record low.
“But I said, we have the lowest black unemployment in the history of our country,” Trump said, recalling a portion of his State of the Union address. “It was like — it was a game. You know, they [Democrats] play games. They were told, ‘Don't even make a facial movement.’ And I'm talking about, you have the lowest Hispanic unemployment in the history of our country. This isn't me saying — this is the charts, the polls. We have the lowest in the history of our country. Dead silence. Not a smile.”
He went on, “So that means they would rather see Trump do badly, OK, than our country do well. … Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much.”
A New York Times report on Trump’s use of “treasonous” didn’t mention what he said about black and Hispanic unemployment. Instead, it portrayed the incident as one in which Trump “accused Democrats who did not clap during his State of the Union address of being un-American and even treasonous.”
The Washington Post’s write-up of the remark did give the context about the unemployment numbers, but still declared in its headline, “Trump calls Democratic lawmakers who didn’t applaud him ‘treasonous,’ ‘un-American.’”
CNN political commentator and writer for the liberal Nation magazine said that Trump had "hit a new low" with his comment, one that makes him unfit to lead America.
Joan Walsh on Trump's remarks suggesting Democrats' #SOTU reaction was "treasonous": Trump has hit a "new low" and "shows again and again that he might be more comfortable being president of Russia, having Vladimir Putin's job, than the job that he has." https://t.co/eGyWxgqu9S pic.twitter.com/nnPpTt9i6b— CNN (@CNN) February 6, 2018
The White House said Tuesday that Trump was “clearly joking” about treason, but the president himself has had his patriotism questioned by journalists and commentators.
During the 2016 Democratic convention, the Washington Post’s national political correspondent James Hohmann wrote that Democrats were beating Trump at the patriotism game.
“Donald Trump has allowed the outgoing president and his party to flip the script," he wrote. "It is the Republican nominee who now talks about malaise, decline and the limitations of U.S. power. His profoundly dark acceptance speech in Cleveland gave an opening for Democrats to present themselves as the hopeful, sunnily optimistic and patriotic party that supports the troops and believes the country’s best days are ahead.”
Just two weeks after Trump’s inauguration, the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnick condemned “the special cocktail of oafish incompetence and radical anti-Americanism that President Trump’s administration has brought.”
“The current president of the United States isn’t a real American,” liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in August last year.
After Trump visited Saudi Arabia as part of a tour of the Middle East last year, foreign affairs columnist Anne Applebaum said the stop was “unseemly, unethical and un-American.”
On Tuesday, Atlantic magazine’s David Graham wrote on Trump’s conduct in office, including his criticism of the Justice Department and the press, and decided, “That’s not treasonous, but it certainly is un-American.”