Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly asked President Donald Trump in a Super Bowl pre-game interview whether he “respected” Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump said he did, but also hedged, saying that respect wouldn’t necessarily translate to “getting along.” O’Reilly pressed him on the respect point, calling Putin a “killer.”
“There are a lot of killers,” Trump responded in typical Trump fashion. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think, our country’s so innocent?” Trump was accused of “moral relativism” even though his comments didn’t amount to much—O’Reilly was baiting him into saying something bellicose about Russia or Putin and Trump declined to.
O’Reilly’s killer comment came after Trump told him he respected “a lot of people” but that it didn’t mean they would get a long. “He’s a leader of his country, I say it’s better ot get along with Russia than not,” Trump said, pointing to potential cooperation on ISIS. “Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”
Despite the myths advanced by commentators like O’Reilly, the U.S. has never had a policy of conducting its foreign affairs based on who was and wasn’t a killer. Former President Obama’s attempts to acknowledge some of America’s failures in supporting murderous regimes was characterized by the same set as an “apology tour.” Obama, of course, wasn’t blameless either. Despite his lofty rhetoric and Nobel Peace Prize, he nurtured new U.S. relations with murderous regimes, like that of Uganda, and old ones, like the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, which executes people for things like adultery, atheism, homosexuality, and even witchcraft.
The core of Trump’s message—that the U.S. is not innocent and so shouldn’t conduct its foreign affairs as if it were—is a solid one, even if the vessel is deeply flawed. On Twitter, Jeremy Scahill said the takeaway from Trump was “not that he is wrong about US engaging in mass killing. It is that he likes it and views it as acceptable, preferable.” Trump’s comments, in the clips made available, were not specifically about mass killings—O’Reilly did not explain which killings for which Putin was responsible he was referring to, although later on in the exchange, after O’Reilly told Trump he didn’t know of any government leaders in the U.S. who were killers, Trump brought up the “mistake” of the war in Iraq. “Mistakes are different,” O’Reilly replied. Trump retorted: “OK, but a lot of people were killed, so, a lot of killer around, believe me.”
Trump may know this well—Elliot Abrams, who The Nation described as an “American war criminal,” is reportedly being considered for the number two spot at State. Among other unsavory points, his long CV of U.S. government service includes advocating for funding for the murderous regime in Guatemala during the Reagan administration.
Via Ed Krayewski