Republicans’ outrage over Maxine Waters rings hollow

A party that refused to hold Trump accountable for years of a near-constant fomenting of division and anger now wants us to believe them when they say Rep. Maxine Waters’ comments on the Derek Chauvin trial went too far.

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Rep. Maxine Waters, D- California, spoke to protesters outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department in Minnesota.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D- Calif., spoke to protesters outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department in Minnesota.

Dominick Sokotoff/ZUMA Wire/TNS

The blaring, all-caps headline at the top of the Fox News website Tuesday morning said it all: “DISRESPECT FOR JUSTICE: Rep. Waters responds after Chauvin trial judge says her controversial remarks may derail possible verdict.”

The top story on Fox the first morning after the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial began deliberations centered on the controversial comments made by a Democratic congresswoman, who said that if Chauvin is not found guilty in the death of George Floyd, “then we know that we’ve got to not only stay in the street, but we’ve got to fight for justice.” 

She continued, “We’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational. You’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”

Fox devoted no fewer than eight more top stories to the topic. 

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If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was Waters on trial in Minnesota, given how prominently she figures into Fox’s coverage of the case. It’s almost as if — almost — right-wing media would rather talk about something other than the killing of an unarmed Black man at the hands of a white police officer.

The online ink spilled over at Fox was matched by equal outrage and attention in Republican political corners.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted, “Maxine Waters is inciting violence in Minneapolis — just as she has incited it in the past.” He later tweeted he plans to bring a censure resolution against her.

Likewise, the committee-stripped, conspiracy-toting queen of incendiary rhetoric Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who once endorsed the idea of killing Democrats, was also so offended, she introduced a resolution of her own to expel Waters from the House.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who directly blamed former President Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol — and was so outraged he plans to vote for him again — said, “It is hard to imagine anything more inappropriate than a member of Congress flying in from California to inform local leaders not so subtly that this defendant better be found guilty or else there will be big trouble in the streets.”

“Hard to imagine anything more inappropriate”?

It’s even harder to imagine getting more exercised by a congresswoman’s words than the death of George Floyd itself, or the need for police reform, or the racism within your own party that’s regularly pushed by your own elected officials, including the former president.

And yet, that’s where the American right is today. A party that refused to hold Trump accountable for years of a near-constant fomenting of division and anger, inciting violence, encouraging mobs to overtake real and imagined enemies now wants us to believe them when they say Maxine Waters is — wait for it — going too far.

Now, if there’s anyone left who’s interested in being intellectually consistent, of course she did. In the midst of an emotionally fraught powder keg court case, it’s incendiary to tell Americans to “get more confrontational,” especially before the case is properly adjudicated.

The judge in the Chauvin case agreed, denouncing Waters’ comments as “disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch,” and suggesting it could be used on appeal “that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”

President Biden was also careful not to defend Waters, saying through his spokeswoman, that “protests must be peaceful.” For Democrats who railed against Trump for his incendiary rhetoric — rightly in my opinion — it’s hard to argue what Waters said, and has said in the past, is helpful.

In addition to defending Trump’s incitement, the right has preemptively staked out its own ground in the Chauvin case. Fox’s Tucker Carlson, who’s turned white supremacists into a protected class, made his position clear: “In a fair system, no jury would convict Chauvin of first-degree murder.”

Greene, who wants Waters expelled, has called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act the “Democrats’ Hate All Police Bill,” and said it “declares open season on police so they can be sued by bloodthirsty racial justice attorneys and anyone who feels offended bc [sic] they got caught breaking the law.”

The only Republican to vote for the bill said he did so accidentally.

The selective outrage is a cheap and transparent distraction by a party that’s decided demagoguing is better than delivering ideas, conspiracies feel better than compassion, and owning the libs is more important than owning up to their own misdeeds. The right must clean up its own house if it ever wants to be taken seriously again.

S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.

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