Former President Jimmy Carter broke away from his own party, coming to President Donald Trump's defense and saying, "the media have been harder on Trump than any other president."
In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times published on Saturday, Carter seemed to ally himself with Trump, criticizing the media for its coverage of the new administration.
"I think the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I've known about," Carter told . "I think they feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged and everything else without hesitation."
In addition, Carter also aligned himself with Trump on the issue of whether or not football players should stand while the national anthem is being played before games. Trump reignited the controversy in late September when he urged football coaches to bench players who chose to protest against racial injustice in the country by kneeling instead of standing during the anthem. Since then, National Football League ratings have plummeted while many sports fans expressed their disapproval of kneeling during the anthem and politicizing a patriotic tradition.
"I think they ought to find a different way to object, to demonstrate. I would rather see all the players stand during the American anthem," Carter said.
The former president also pushed back against one of the prevailing narratives Democrats and liberal-leaning media outlets have pushed in the days following Trump's astonishing Election Day victory: whether or not the Russians affected voting outcomes. In addition, Carter said he wasn't bothered particularly with Trump's desire to cultivate a stronger and more diplomatic relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"At the Carter Center," the former president said, "we deal with Putin and the Russians quite frequently concerning Syria."
Carter added: "I don't think there's any evidence that what the Russians did changed enough votes, or any votes" during the 2016 presidential election.
Noting that he and his wife, Rosalynn, both voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the primaries, Carter didn't have many kind words to offer the Clintons. When The Times' Maureen Dowd compared the Carter Center to the Clinton Foundation, Carter bristled.
"Rosie and I put money in the Carter Center. We never take any out," Carter noted.
The Times appeared surprised that Carter "was harder on [former President Barack] Obama during the interview than he was on Trump." Although Carter said, "I don't care if [Obama] gets rich or Clinton gets rich" earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per speeches they give, he appeared to frown on making money that way.
"But I announced when I was defeated I was not going to be on corporate boards, I was not going to try to enrich myself with speeches. I was patterning my policy after Harry Truman," Carter said.
Carter knocked Obama on his foreign policy as president, saying that Obama "made some very wonderful statements, in my opinion, when he first got in office, and then he reneged on that." Although the former president said that Trump may be "escalating" a negative image of the U.S. among the rest of the world, Carter argued, "but I think that precedes Trump."
Saying that Obama "refused" to talk to North Korea and push for a solution to the nuclear crisis, Carter offered some approval for Trump's more direct and forceful approach. Carter even offered to help Trump by going to North Korea himself to engage in diplomatic relations.
"I would go, yes," Carter said. "I'm afraid, too, of a situation ... I don't know what they'll do. Because they want to save their regime."
Carter said that he spoke with Trump's national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, earlier in the year.
"I told him that I was available if they ever need me," Carter said.
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