Even Fox News was appalled at President Donald Trump’s performance at his Helsinki press conference alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin. The network, usually only too happy to cheer on the president, responded somewhat differently this time to Trump’s insistence that “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial” of Russian involvement in election interference. Neil Cavuto, a Fox Business Network host, called the press conference “disgusting.” Appearing on Fox, Mary Kissel of the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board said, “President Putin scored a great propaganda victory by standing up with President Trump on that stage.” Newt Gingrich declared that Trump’s comments were “the most serious mistake of his presidency.”
From this response, you would expect that Trump had done or said something at the press conference that was truly unprecedented—something so radical that it forced even some of his most loyal supporters, who have stuck with him through the firing of the FBI director, his efforts to dismiss the special counsel, and his long-standing refusal to accept the existence of Russian election interference, to break ranks.
But he didn’t. In fact, almost every outrageous comment Trump made at the Helsinki press conference was a variation on something he’d said before. That doesn’t mean those comments weren’t outrageous. But it does mean that the furor over his performance has the echo of Captain Renault’s sudden outrage in Rick’s Cafe: “I am shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here!”