Former President Barack Obama appeared on an Anderson Cooper 360 special Monday, where he spoke about the Republican Party’s unwillingness to hold former President Donald Trump accountable throughout his presidency. Obama has spoken in the past about his concerns about what Trump might do, or try to do as president, but he believed the GOP would keep him in line.
“You talk about dark spirits that had long been lurking on the edges of the Republican Party coming center stage. Did you ever think it would get this dark?” Cooper asked. “No,” Obama answered, “I thought that there were enough guard rails institutionally.”
Obama pointed to the White House seeming to not have an issue with Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and Trump’s statements following the violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 as two early occasions he thought the Republican establishment would have spoken up. Obama also touched on the belief among many Republicans that it was okay to keep silent about Trump’s propagation of election lies, leading to the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
“The degree to which we did not see that Republican establishment say, ‘Hold on. Time-out. That's not acceptable. That's not who we are,’ but rather be cowed into accepting it,” Obama said, “and then finally culminating in January 6th.”
Obama also spoke about Trump’s most ardent defenders blaming him for the insurrection, but quickly falling in line and even going so far as to push falsehoods about problems with the election.
“The reason for that is because the base believed it,” Obama said. “The base believed it because this had been told to them not just by the president, but by the media that they watch, and nobody stood up and said, ‘Stop.’”
Obama immediately acknowledged that there are some Republicans, though few, who have stood up and spoken the truth about the election and Trump’s role in causing the violence on January 6.
Without naming names, Obama went on to call out the same media that pushed election misinformation, this time for making money off of stoking racial fear among white Americans.
“I think that there are certain right-wing media venues, for example, that monetize and capitalize on stoking the fear and resentment of a white population that is witnessing a changing America, and seeing demographic changes,” Obama said, “and do everything they can to give people a sense that their way of life is threatened, and the people are trying to take advantage of them, and we’re seeing it right now.”
As an example, Obama pointed out that certain media outlets, along with many Republican lawmakers, seem obsessed with bashing critical race theory in recent weeks, when there are more pressing issues that need attention.
“You would think with all the public policy debates that are taking place right now that the Republican party would be engaged in a significant debate about how are we going to deal with the economy? And what are we going to do about climate change?” Obama said.” And what are we going to do about — low and behold, the single most important issue to them, apparently, right now is critical race theory. Who knew that was the threat to our republic?”
Anderson Cooper 360 airs weeknights at 8 p.m. on CNN.
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