Last night, ABC’s The View invited Donald Trump Jr on as a guest – because having just one child of a famous politician on the show is not enough (the co-host Meghan McCain is the daughter of the late senator John McCain). They also invited Trump Jr’s girlfriend – because in today’s political landscape, even the most tenuous link to fame or power seems as good a credential as any for being worthy of a platform.
It wasn’t long before the chatshow descended into chaos. Soon, McCain and Trump Jr were in a very contentious battle over whose dad was bigger than whose – McCain pointing out that Trump said mean things about her dad; Trump Jr pointing out that his dad had Made America Great Again.
"My father."— Mike Scollins (@mikescollins) November 7, 2019
"Yeah, well, my dad."
"Interesting, but my father."
"True, but also my dad." pic.twitter.com/d0Fk1ulTxq
It was low blows from then on, thrown from all sides. A discussion started about how President Trump has stooped to lower levels of moral decency than any other president, for example, by boasting about sexually assaulting women and calling Mexicans rapists.
If the title of Trump Jr’s new book is anything to go by (Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us), to start a fight over political correctness was probably his aim. And that is exactly what happened.
If we’re going to talk about bringing down the discourse, Trump Jr retorted, perhaps we should talk about the time that Joy Behar – another host on the show – wore blackface. (In 2016, Behar joked about her “costume” on TV, saying she was dressed as a “beautiful African woman” and admitted to darkening her skin). And what about the time that the co-host Whoopi Goldberg, he continued, invented the term “not rape-rape” to describe Roman Polanski’s alleged drugging and rape of a 13-year-old child?
The ensuing pile-on must have been music to his ears: throughout the show, the hosts talked over him a number of times; at one point Behar chastised the audience for cheering him (“this isn’t a Maga rally!” she said).
This all made for perfectly predictable viral content: people shared videos of Trump Jr calling the two out. “Guess you could say I just #Triggered The View!!” exclaimed Trump Jr online.
The irony of a man justifying his father’s alleged sexual assaults by talking about his accomplishments, then criticizing Goldberg for defending Polanski is not lost on me. But if the point of his book is to suggest that cancel culture and no-platforming are examples of the unforgiving, righteous nature of the left, then here it is.
The hosts found themselves in a double bind. If Behar and Goldberg were to defend themselves, what could they say? That it was a different time? That they have changed? Trump Jr would just ask for equal forgiveness for his father. If they don’t have an answer to his attacks, the implicit question stands: shouldn’t Behar and Goldberg be cancelled already?
Neither Behar nor Goldberg have ever fully apologized, and Goldberg has used her platform to make excuses for her friend Mel Gibson, who was caught on tape spewing racist comments. Clearly, they are flawed. But no one – not even people on the left – is born with fully formed progressive views.
People make mistakes. That doesn’t mean we should shrug and say we therefore shouldn’t aspire to any moral compass – which is what it seems Trump Jr is trying to do. Nor does it excuse Behar, Goldberg or Trump Jr – they clearly each need to reflect on their own positions, perhaps privately – before subjecting us to this on live TV. But it does mean that progressives are sometimes too eager to call for people’s heads.
As for the rest of us? We should be triggered by a president who locks children in cages, and who equates leftwing protest with “alt-right” hate crimes. He is the president: we have a right to criticize harmful policy. Plus, we couldn’t cancel him even if we tried. But we need to stop making it so easy for him to get to us. His fans will be brimming with glee at his son’s performance.