In April of 2018, Kamala Harris appeared on “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” where she joked about killing President Trump and Mike Pence and the audience of liberal women had a good laugh about it. But now they’re claiming Trump “incited violence” on January 6.
Kamala Harris cackles with joy at the thought of killing Republicans
Ellen asked a question about whether Harris would want to be stuck in an elevator with Donald Trump, Mike Pence or Jeff Sessions:
“Does one of us have to come out alive?” And then the laughter. Hee-larious. See, it’s funny because she might kill one of them! Hypothetically, of course.
While Harris getting stuck in an elevator with one of these people would be an unlikely situation (but would make for a great one-act play), Harris’ answer fit into a wider problem during the Trump years: Given who was president, invoking the specter of violence against him or those around him was OK.
The most acute expressions of this were confined to the entertainment industry — think Kathy Griffin holding up the bloodied, effigial head of Donald Trump or Johnny Depp wondering aloud about “the last time an actor assassinated a president” and saying that “it has been a while and maybe it is time.”
However, there were plenty of Washington figures who engaged in diluted versions of this kind of thing, too, the most famous being California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters’ exhortation to her supporters in June 2018 that if “you see anybody from Trump’s cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
Now, was this incitement? Was Harris’ comment incitement? Under any rational standard, no. Under the standard set by the Trump impeachment, yes.
Democrats seething with hatred
Now-Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke to a pro-abortion rally outside the Supreme Court last year and told the crowd, “Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price!” That could very easily be taken as a physical threat of political violence under the Democrats’ expansive interpretation.
Waters’ remarks came amid a series of confrontations between liberal crowds and Republican politicians. They received some pushback at the time, but her party didn’t take her to task and media coverage was ambiguous at best.
Schumer’s comments disappeared from conversation almost as soon as they were made. Harris’ joke barely appeared in the first place, with the exception of receiving some coverage in conservative media.
None of these remarks represented incitement, nor were they delivered prior to an event as tragic or as scarring as the Capitol riot. However, they’re illustrative of the danger that comes if we define down what incitement means. President Trump used the word “fight” metaphorically a few times in the speech and made it clear the planned march to the Capitol should be peaceful.
While it was doubtlessly an ugly chapter in the Trump presidency, the speech doesn’t legally rise to the level of incitement. For Democrats, it might be expedient to pretend it does, at least for the next few weeks.
However, to use the words of Chuck Schumer, they will have “released the whirlwind” of bad precedent. The likelihood they’ll end up paying the price isn’t a small one.