On Thursday, the @TrumpWarRoom Twitter account, which is managed by the president’s 2020 campaign, blasted out a clip of South Carolina Democratic Rep. James Clyburn being interviewed by CNN’s John Berman, alleging the House majority whip called for President Trump to be hanged.
As of Friday’s writing, the tweet has racked up more than 9,000 retweets and nearly 16,000 favorites. Another Trump campaign account derided those featured in the video as “very sick people!” Turning Points USA founder Charlie Kirk tweeted “a leading Democrat lawmaker just called for the public execution of our President.” Fox News bomb throwers Diamond & Silk amplified the message to their 1.3 million followers. So did The Federalist.
The only problem? Clyburn, who has spoken out before on the excesses of violent political rhetoric and misappropriation of history, was not calling for Trump’s lynching.
Clyburn’s full statement was in response to a question from Berman about how long House Democrats would hold onto articles of impeachment in light of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaling, in Clyburn’s view, that he and other Senate Republicans won’t treat them with the fairness and impartiality they deserve.
“As long as it takes. Even if he [Mitch McConnell] doesn’t come around to committing to a fair trial, keep those articles here, keep it as long as it takes. If you know, and he’s told you, what he’s going to do, it’s almost like, ‘let’s give him a fair trial and hang him.’ I mean, it’s the reverse of that.”
So, yes, Clyburn did say the words “hang him,” but there’s a reason the Trump campaign’s tweet only quotes two of the 59 words in his full response. The context makes clear Clyburn’s message is actually the opposite of what the president’s allies alleged over the past few days, denouncing legal proceedings in which the defendant’s fate was determined well before he or she set foot in the courtroom. Readers of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird should be familiar with the concept.
There’s plenty of room for quibbling over the political wisdom behind the Democrats’ decision to delay sending articles of impeachment to the Senate (and whether or not Trump has actually been impeached if they don’t). One thing, however, is certain: Democrats may be calling for the end of Trump’s time in office, but they aren’t calling for the end of his time on earth.