WASHINGTON – Network announcer: We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for this special message from the president of the United States.
My fellow Americans. I want to speak to you tonight as I’ve never spoken before, maybe ever – from my heart. I stand before you both humbled and horrified by recent events.
Last Saturday morning, 11 wonderful people were murdered and others wounded in a Pittsburgh synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath day. The week before, a series of explosive devices were sent to various Democrats, including a former president and the wife of another, as well as to CNN’s New York office and to Democratic financier George Soros.
These unimaginable events have brought me to my knees – in shame and in prayer – and I’m compelled to address you resolutely, honestly and without, shall we say, my usual flair.
As you may know, many of my critics have said I have blood on my hands for what happened in Pittsburgh, where a crazed, openly anti-Semitic gunman allegedly opened fire, shouting, “All Jews must die!” Many also have blamed me for the lunatic who packaged up explosives and mailed them through the United States Postal Service. Thank God, he was a lousy bomb-maker, and no one was hurt.
Commentators, repeating the refrain that “Words matter,” also have criticized my language, which, they say, has inflamed the passions not just of my political base but of others who, apparently, support my administration’s agenda and, much to my disgrace, me.
Obviously, this is not what I intended with “Make America Great Again.” Although I’m aware of my ability to rouse people’s passions at rallies, and do so enthusiastically, I certainly never intended to urge anyone to violence. And, though I’ve engaged in hyperbole, referring to the news media as the enemy of the people, I would hope that journalists know I never intend them harm.
I do think it’s fair to say that in a nation of 325 million people, a handful are going to be bad. The men who created these recent crimes are the worst kind of bad. And, yes, though these two alleged perpetrators seem to belong in the far-right fringes, we shouldn’t forget that another crazed gunman opened fire last year on Republican congressmen playing baseball, gravely wounding Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise.
That said, I’m well aware of the flawed logic of “whataboutism.” I know that when Rep. Maxine Waters instructs her constituents to harass members of my administration, though clearly wrong, her words don’t compare in scope or effect to those of the president of the United States.
It has become abundantly clear to me that my rhetoric, which I’ve employed to create energy and bestir passions in the political arena, has become destructive. Whether an event or an individual’s actions can be drawn in a straight line to the White House is surely debatable, but this isn’t the point. I don’t want to say anything, ever, that could give anyone cause to think so.
Perhaps because I was new to politics in 2016, I didn’t take seriously enough the power of my words. Not mine as Donald J. Trump, erstwhile reality-TV host and New York real estate mogul, but as president of this great nation, which justifiably remains a beacon of light to those yearning to be free.
Thus, I apologize for words that have been hurtful or that some may have embraced for foul purpose. As you are my witnesses, this ends tonight, right here, right now. Going forward, I vow to speak more softly and to demonstrate greater compassion and empathy, even toward my sworn political enemies. I urge my supporters to join me in adopting a new slogan: “Civility Before Victory.”
Jokes at others’ expense aren’t funny. The media has been tough on me, but they’re not the enemy. There’s a reason why freedom of the press is mentioned in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Without it, as someone said, democracy dies in darkness. Though I remain committed to a hard border, I won’t again demonize those who would risk life and limb to live here. Finally, to all the women I’ve offended or hurt with my sometimes-brash remarks, I am truly sorry.
God bless the murdered victims in Pittsburgh, their bereaved families, friends and extended community. Together, we will heal each other and the nation. In closing, if I may, respectfully, paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, Fondly, do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of partisanship may speedily pass away.
Kathleen Parker writes a twice-weekly column on politics and culture for The Washington Post.