Prominent members of the mainstream media have rushed to defend Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and downplay her comments after she was accused of inciting violence as the Derek Chauvin trial goes to the jury.
During her visit to Brooklyn Center, Minnesota on Saturday, Waters told reporters that if the former Minneapolis police officer isn't convicted in the death of George Floyd, "We've got to stay on the street and we've got to get more active, we've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business."
Many interpreted Waters’ comments as a call for further unrest in a city that has already been plagued by violent protests. However, liberal anchors and reporters were quick to defend the far-left icon known as "Auntie Maxine" to her fans.
On Monday, "The View" co-host Joy Behar defended Waters.
"I don’t think that Maxine meant anything by that except to say, ‘You have to stick with it, you have to be there,’" Behar said. "But Democrats have to be twice as smart and twice as thoughtful as Republicans. Because Republicans will say whatever they want and they get away with it. Whereas Democrats, one little thing like this and they jump all over her."
CNN’s website published an article claiming Waters’ remarks "drew out the hypocrisy of pro-Donald Trump Republicans over incitement to violence" and expressed disgust that conservatives might use the rhetoric against her.
"Waters, from California, has gifted a narrative to conservative media that pundits can use to distract from the eventual verdict and avoid discussing crucial questions about race and policing in America," CNN’s Stephen Collinson wrote.
Matthew Dowd, a self-described independent, said on CNN Monday that Republicans complaining about her remarks were hypocrites. The former ABC News commentator and ex-GOP strategist is fond of bromides about bipartisanship while focusing his vitriol on his former party.
"I don't think what she said in any way we should criticize her for. Of course we should be more confrontational," Dowd said. "That doesn't mean we should be more violent ... The Republicans seem to me to be on the complete wrong side of history on this."
Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson invoked the congresswoman's remarks in a motion for a mistrial following closing arguments Monday. Judge Peter Cahill denied the motion, though he acknowledged to Nelson that "Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned."
CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell accused the judge of "lashing out," setting up a CBS News correspondent on the scene to downplay the situation.
"Something extraordinary happened after the jury left to deliberate. The judge lashing out at a U.S. congresswoman. Even mentioning the possibility, a verdict could be overturned in the future," O’Donnell said before tossing it to reporter Jamie Yuccas.
Yuccas called the judge’s comments "surprising" and stressed the judge "openly told the defense" Waters’ rhetoric could lead to an appeal.
"Her claim that the Judge’s comments on a possible appeal were ‘surprising’ was misleading. And he wasn’t working with the defense either, he was stating the fact that Waters’ comments could be seen as jury intimidation: find him guilty or they burn down the Minneapolis," NewsBusters analyst Nicholas Fondacaro wrote.
Liberal PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor defended the Democratic congresswoman with an attempted "fact-check" of Chauvin's defense team.
"Eric Nelson is now using Rep Maxine Waters saying that protesters should get 'more active' & 'more confrontational' if Derek Chauvin isn’t convicted as a reason for a mistrial to be declared. He’s claiming she threatened violence. Fact check: Waters did not threaten violence," Alcindor wrote.
Alcindor’s defense of Waters comes as no surprise, as she fawned over Waters back in 2017 with a glowing New York Times feature about the fame she found by attacking then-President Trump.
Pundit Stephen L. Miller resurfaced the four-year-old puff piece and wrote, "I guess this might help explain the impassioned defense of 'Auntie Maxine.’"
CNN’s left-wing anchor Don Lemon took a page out of Alcindor’s playbook.
Lemon praised Waters as a "sharp-tongued, rabble-rousing lawmaker who came out of the Civil Rights movement" and had to fight "tooth and nail" as a Black woman for everything she has gotten.
"While I, as a Black person, can understand her rage and her anger ... and I understand that she makes a lot of people uncomfortable ... [but] do you really think Maxine Waters is calling for violence?" Lemon asked. "Maxine Waters is not calling for violence. Everyone knows that. She makes a lot of people uncomfortable, especially a lot of men and quite frankly, especially a lot of White men because she puts them in her place. She tells you, 'Shut up!' ... and she gives it to you like it is!"
Lemon did concede that Waters' remarks were not "constructive" and that she should have "absolutely not" said what she did because she gave "ammunition" to her enemies.
"Maxine Waters is not the issue here," Lemon told colleague Wolf Blitzer before comparing her to a "fight" in the stands at a baseball game, in terms of being a distraction.
Fox News' Cortney O'Brien contributed to this report.