Utah Sen. Mike Lee says the news media unfairly twisted his words to make it look like he wants to give Donald Trump a “mulligan” for inflammatory comments leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“To be perfectly clear, my reference to taking a ‘mulligan’ was not referring to Trump, but to Democratic politicians whose inflammatory comments had just been played for me on the air. I used the term only to avoid needlessly inflaming partisan passions,” he said in a series of tweets. “This is why no one trusts the media anymore.”
That grows out of news reports about an interview that Lee gave to the national Fox News TV network a day earlier, when he was asked if Trump’s comments were any worse than those from some Democrats.
Fox News played excerpts of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer; Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; and Cory Booker, D-N.J., urging cheering crowds to get in the face of opposing members of Congress, to tell them they aren’t welcome at businesses where they may be seen or tell them that their stands may soon reap the whirlwind.
“It’s not different” from what Trump did, Lee said. “These are outgrowths of the same natural impulse that exists from time to time among anyone in this business.”
Lee added, “Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone’s entitled to a mulligan once in a while. And I would hope, I would expect that each of those individuals would take a mulligan on each of those statements because in each instance, they’re making it deeply personal. They’re ceasing to make it about policy. And instead, they’re talking about getting up in people’s faces and making individuals feel perfectly uncomfortable. And that’s not helpful.”
On Wednesday, Lee offered an explanation of what he was trying to say and complained that his words had been twisted into clickbait.
“Fox News teed up an opportunity for me to slam Democrats’ inflammatory rhetoric, and I declined to do so,” he tweeted.
“I suggested we all take responsibility for lowering the temperature of our politics and look for opportunities to seek to forgive overheated speeches rather than avenge them.”
He complained people are “accusing me of giving Trump a ‘mulligan’ because of a headline manufactured for more clicks.”
While many news media and TV networks carried his comments — which led to a big wave of criticism on social media nationally — Lee specifically targeted the New York Times in his criticism, saying it “twisted my call for civility into a partisan attack. We all need to do better.”
Lee’s tweets also included a portion of his interview with Fox News online.
Lee’s interview with Fox News came just before Trump’s second impeachment trial began, which the senator predicted would begin “with a lengthy diatribe against the former president, and I think it ends in his acquittal.”
Lee has signaled he will likely vote to acquit.
He was one of 11 Republicans who voted against even adopting rules for the trial to allow it to begin.
Later, Lee joined 44 Republicans who voted that impeaching a former president is unconstitutional because he already left office — but six Republicans (including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney) joined all 50 Democrats to pass a resolution that it is constitutional.
A two-thirds majority is needed to convict in an impeachment trial. With 44 Republicans (out of 100 total senators) already voting that they feel the impeachment is unconstitutional, it appears likely that Trump will be acquitted.