- Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
- The White House circled back to a frequent explanation for President Donald Trump’s controversial remarks on Tuesday.
- He was just joking, officials said.
When the White House is asked about some of President Donald Trump’s more controversial comments, they’ve frequently returned to one favorite excuse:
He’s just joking.
The latest defense came Tuesday, a day after Trump suggested that Democrats were “treasonous” and “un-American” for remaining seated and quiet during his State of the Union address last week.
“You’re up there, you’ve got half the room going totally crazy, wild, they loved everything,” he said of Republicans during a speech in Cincinnati. “They want to do something great for the country, and you have the other side, even on positive news, really positive news like that, they were like death. And un-American. Un-American.”
Trump pointed to a person near the front of the crowd.
“Somebody said treasonous,” he continued. “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.”
Both White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the president made the remark in jest. Sanders said the president was “clearly joking,” while Gidley said the comment was “tongue-in-cheek.”
“The president was obviously joking,” Gidley said. “But what’s serious is that the Democrats seem to consistently put their personal hatred for this president over their desire to see America succeed.”
The line of defense has been a common refrain. In August, Trump said he was “very thankful” to Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling more than 750 US diplomats in response to additional US sanctions – because it would slash government costs. A White House official told CBS News that he was simply being sarcastic.
In October, after Trump suggested that he and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would “have to compare IQ tests” to see who is smarter after Tillerson reportedly called Trump a moron, Sanders said it was just “a joke.”
And in July, the White House employed the defense after Trump suggested police should be much tougher with how they handle suspects during arrests.
“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough,” Trump said during a speech to law enforcement officials on Long Island. “I said, ‘please don’t be too nice.'”
When asked about the backlash, Sanders said she believed “he was making a joke.”
Sanders’ predecessor used the rationale as well.
In March, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump was just kidding when he asked during the campaign for Russia to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“He was joking at the time,” Spicer said. “We all know.”