During a press briefing on Thursday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calmly defended President Donald Trump’s attacks on MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski and levied a few of her own against the media.
Trump’s Thursday morning tweets, in which he called the “Morning Joe” host “crazy” and claimed she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when she visited his Florida resort early this year, earned widespread condemnation throughout the day, including from several Republicans on Capitol Hill.
But Sanders argued that the president had every right to “hit back” at “the liberal media” and “Hollywood elites” when they criticize him – and deflected questions about whether the insults were beneath the presidency.
“I don’t think you can expect someone to be personally attacked day after day, minute by minute, and sit back,” Sanders said, arguing that the criticism the president and his aides endure is often personal in nature. “When the president gets hit, he’s going to hit back harder.”
Throughout the line of questioning on the president’s tweets, Sanders repeatedly returned to the administration’s central argument: that the media is fundamentally biased against Trump and his associates.
“The only person that I see a war on is this president and everybody that works for him,” Sanders said, adding that the press spends too much time “attacking the president and pushing a false narrative on Russia” and not enough on the administration’s policy accomplishments and priorities – issues, she said, Americans want to hear about.
“The media’s focus on priorities – they don’t line up with the rest of America,” Sanders said. “Our economy’s growing, the stock market’s up, unemployment is down, jobs are back, and ISIS is on the run. … But you guys constantly ignore that narrative.”
When asked by a reporter whether Trump should hold himself to “a higher standard than cable news anchors,” Sanders deflected, arguing that American voters have approved of Trump’s behavior because they voted for him “overwhelmingly.”
“Look, the American people elected a fighter; they didn’t elect somebody to sit back and do nothing,” she said. “They knew what they were getting when they voted for Donald Trump.”
Hallie Jackson, NBC’s White House correspondent, took a more personal approach, asking Sanders whether she would tell her three young children that the president’s behavior was OK.
Sanders said God was their example because “none of us are perfect.”
Sanders also shut down a question from Politico’s Tara Palmeri on whether Trump’s tweets had sexist undertones given that he attacked Brzezinski on the basis of her appearance.
“How do you feel about the president attacking another woman specifically for her looks?” Palmeri asked.
“Everybody wants to make this an attack on a woman,” Sanders said. “I’m a woman, and I’ve been attacked by this show multiple times, but I don’t cry foul because of it.”
Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, has taken on White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s press briefing duties more frequently in recent months and appears to be increasing her influence within the president’s communications team.