Devin Nunes is at it again. Again.
Just a few days removed from suggesting that people should take advantage of the light crowds due to coronavirus and go out to eat and then blaming the media for reporting that he said what he said, the California Republican gave a long interview Wednesday with local conservative radio host Ray Appleton on the topic. And it is something else.
Below, a sampling of Nunes’ rants about the media and the coronavirus (as transcribed by the one and only Allison Gordon). But quickly, before we get to that — here’s a reminder of what Nunes initially said:
“But I will just say, one of the things you can do, if you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant, likely you can get in, get in easily.”
And then, in response to the outcry, he told Sean Hannity this:
“What I was saying is you have empty restaurants. You can go through the drive-thru, you can do take-out. It’s a great place to go. The media freaks can do [what] they want.”
So, now, here are the, uh, highlights, of what Nunes told Appleton about the controversy (bolding throughout is mine):
* “There were probably about 50 stories from all the majors, OK? Across the spectrum. Across the United States. Now, look, hey, I’m very grateful that 50 of the major news, left wing news companies across this country, pay close attention to me. I’m flattered by it. But, don’t lie. Don’t say that I was telling people to go out to bars and drink and go to discotheques and whatever other nonsense they were doing. What I’m trying to do and these 50 morons, they’re dangerous, Ray, they’re really dangerous.”
* “If this virus is really spreading like some people say that it is, we don’t have any data on that, but if it is spreading, think how much it is spreading all over the country right now with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people going into grocery stores, OK?”
* “Had the geniuses in the media actually listened to what I said on Sunday, instead of jumping to it and making stuff up that I was telling people to go get drunk at bars, OK?”
* “So, the media is absolutely responsible for this. But, one should not think the media is the media, OK? 90% of them are working for the Democrats, they’re working for the left. And you know, why you would pay so much attention to what I say, hey I’m flattered, great, you want to write about me? That’s great. And as you know, Ray, and they know, if you defame me or slander me, you’ll see me in court.“
In the course of the interview, Nunes manages to again insist he didn’t say what he said (reminder: “If you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant, likely you can get in, get in easily”), directly questions whether the “virus is really spreading like some people say that it is,” alleges, with zero proof, that 90% of the media are “working for the Democrats” and, in a remarkable coup de grace, threatens the press with legal action “if you defame me or slander me.”
Like I said, it’s really something. And it’s evidence of the influence of Trump’s style and approach on the broader Republican Party. Nunes said a dumb thing. Which is fine — and honestly somewhat understandable given how fast the federal guidance on how to mitigate coronavirus is changing.
Rather than simply say something like “I misspoke,” Nunes instead goes on Hannity’s show — a very friendly environment for him — and doubles down, trying to turn this into some sort of media story rather than simply one about him saying the wrong thing.
And then, already deep in denial, Nunes does this radio interview in which he is allowed to make all sorts of wild accusations and rewrite history with no pushback.
Not good. Not at all.