Following the arrest of suspected package bomber Cesar Sayoc Jr., Shepard Smith argued that the president bears responsibility for Sayoc’s actions.
Most Fox News fans were not at all shocked. The big surprise came when one unexpected colleague tried to talk him down from that ledge … while they were on air.
“You just can’t ignore the politics of this, even if you wanted to,” Smith opined while speaking with political commentator Chris Wallace about Sayoc’s arrest in Florida.
“These are people the president has gone after rhetorically. These are people this guy targeted. It goes to the tone and tenor of the political discourse and the words that the president uses in his rallies.”
Sayoc had been arrested earlier that morning for allegedly mailing “crude” explosive devices to various Democrat political figures. Both his social media accounts and a van he owned were found to contain pro-Trump messages coupled with provocative pictures of the president’s political foes.
— Tyson Whelan (@tyson_whelan) October 26, 2018
Wallace promptly pushed back, noting that attributing the suspect’s actions to Trump would be as misguided as blaming the near-fatal shooting of several congressmen last year to Democrats.
“I don’t think you can draw any particular link or any responsibility on the part of the president for this action,” he said. “I mean, as Sarah Sanders said … a Bernie Sanders supporter shot up the congressman at the baseball practice. Is Bernie Sanders responsible for that?”
“Nobody is saying he’s responsible,” Smith replied, before again aiming criticism at President Donald Trump for his allegedly “divisive” rhetoric. “When you talk like this the concern is that one crazy one might get empowered.”
It’s unclear why the self-described Fox News “reporter,” who’s repeatedly displayed a notable aversion for the president and his supporters, neglected to highlight the media’s own increasingly angry and divisive rhetoric.
Watch the full back-and-forth exchange below:
“It’s a twisted individual and to hold President Trump responsible …,” Wallace tried rebutting, presumably referencing Sayoc’s lengthy criminal history, which includes having threatened in 2002 to detonate a bomb that would be “worse than September 11.”
Smith ignored this point, doubling down on his argument that the president’s rhetoric — particularly his criticism of the demonstrably left-wing media — has ginned up tension in America.
“I think that it’s really incorrect to somehow hold the president, either by implication or directly, responsible in any way for the misdeeds of someone who’s a psychopath or a sociopath,” his counterpart again tried to point out before being interrupted again.
“Nobody did that, Chris. Don’t say I did. All I said is when the rhetoric gets loud, the crazies come out sometimes,” Smith said, again suggesting that rhetoric alone inspires violence.
The debate eventually concluded with Wallace again trying to remind Smith that connecting heated political rhetoric to the actions of the clinically insane is never wise.
“Let me just say, it’s a separate issue about the political rhetoric in this country and it’s unfortunate and I think it’s a very bad thing,” he said. “But I think it’s very dangerous to draw links between that and links of any sort between that and criminal activity.”
“History will decide what the rhetoric has done in this society,” Smith pithily replied.
“I’ll wait for history,” Wallace said.
“I’ll wait for it, too,” Smith replied, before ending the segment. “I hope you have a good weekend.”
While the reaction on social media to this debate was mixed, there was as large continent of Twitter users who sided with Wallace:
Incredibly, millions of Americans are intensely interested in politics and yet manage not to send pipe bombs to politicians and donors whom they hate. AMAZING!
— Ken Gardner (@KenGardner11) October 26, 2018
It’s just like in a conversation between two people: You can argue with someone, yell, call them names, whatever. But the first one to throw a punch is now the aggressor and should be punished as such. It no longer matters what was said before.
— Without Eyes (@WithoutHisEyes) October 26, 2018
Kudos to Chris Wallace for calling out Shephard Smith for blaming President Trump for the actions of Cesar Sayoc.
Really bad journalism on the part of Shepard. pic.twitter.com/rxBU3sumho
— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) October 26, 2018
Shepard Smith should be FIRED for implicating our President with the suspect guy who sent the explosive devices! And YES you DID! I HEARD you say that on your show today and so did Chris Wallace!
— Linda Thomas (@lindabluff) October 26, 2018
@ShepNewsTeam just can’t stop himself from putting his disdain for @realDonaldTrump on display. He and Chris Wallace just went at it when #ShepardSmith tried to blame Pres. Trump for the #FakeBombs. Chris set him straight. #Boycott @ShepNewsTeam until @FoxNews fires him! #SHARE pic.twitter.com/Ar28Ej9RDp
— Dawn Weatherington Hicks🇺🇸 (@dmweatherington) October 26, 2018
Chris Wallace is calling out Shepard Smith for trying to blame Trump. Shep is being coy, but he’s clearly trying to draw links. #FoxNews
Shep is trashing Trump’s rhetoric, but not calling out the rhetoric on the other side.
— Black Tea (@TrueBlackTea) October 26, 2018
#FoxNews #ShepardSmith is out of control with the anti Trump hating rhetoric. So let me get this straight: You expect us to blame Donald Trump for this Cesar Sayoc loser’s actions, yet you refused to blame Bernie Sanders when one of his supporters shot GOP.Coward Shepard Smith pic.twitter.com/UgfMncZjAE
— Kim Eddington (@kimanhE) October 26, 2018
How about that…..Chris Wallace’s giving Shepard Smith hell over Shepard Smith trying to blame President Trump..
Go Chris Wallace….
Whoa baby it’s getting heated.
— Go Trump (@GKeile) October 26, 2018
@ShepardSmith– you did blame the POTUS and I am so glad Chris Wallace called you out. Fake News has been lying and turning stories around to make Trump look bad. Thank you Chris Wallace!
— Glenn Vaudreuil (@gmanglenn1955) October 27, 2018