A year and a half after calling Donald Trump a “kook” who was “unfit for office,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., blasted the press for attempting to label Trump as “some kind of kook not fit to be president.”
In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Graham responded to a question about whether he was concerned about reports of Trump dabbling in conspiracy theories by saying his real issue was with the media questioning the president’s mental stability.
“You know what concerns me about the American press is this endless, endless attempt to label the guy as some kind of kook not fit to be president. He did win, by the way. He beat me and 16 others.”
Perhaps the media got the idea from something Graham said on Fox News in February 2016, when the two were squaring off in the 2016 Republican primary.
“I’m not going to try and get into the mind of Donald Trump because I don’t think there’s a whole of space there,” said Graham. “I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office.”
In May 2016 after Trump had clinched the GOP nomination, Graham said he didn’t plan to vote for him.
“I just don’t think Donald is a reliable conservative Republican, and quite frankly, he lost me when he said my friend John McCain was a loser because he was captured as a POW,” said Graham in an interview with CNN. “He lost me when he accused George W. Bush of lying to the American people about the Iraq War, and he thinks Putin’s a good guy, so, I just can’t go there. I respect people who can’t, and to Donald Trump, congratulations. You did a hell of a thing. You beat me and everybody else, and I just really believe that the Republican Party has been conned here and this guy is not a reliable conservative Republican.”
Graham is not the first primary foe to decide Trump isn’t so bad after all (the two golfed together in October). In March, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his wife, Heidi, dined at the White House, less than a year after Trump had implied Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy. During the fight for the GOP nomination, Trump also posted an unflattering photo of Heidi that is still active on his Twitter account. Cruz unloaded on Trump as the primary race came to an effective end.
“This man is a pathological liar,” said Cruz the morning of the May 2016 Indiana primary. “He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.” But in an appearance on “Face the Nation” in March, Cruz gave the president the benefit of the doubt on his claim — considered absurd at the time and subsequently debunked — that President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump’s New York offices. The remarks, Cruz said, were “not necessarily as outlandish as everyone in the press suggests.”
Asked about Graham’s apparent change of heart, his communications director, Kevin Bishop, said, via email, “The American people elected Donald Trump as our President. He is the President of ALL Americans. As Senator Graham said in another part of the CNN interview… when he agrees with him — which is much of the time — he will support him. When he doesn’t, he will say so.”
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