President Donald Trump, who rarely ventures outside the familiar environment of campaign rallies, was loudly booed at Nationals Park last Sunday, during game five of the World Series.
As soon as Trump was introduced on the stadium’s giant scoreboard after the third inning, the sold-out crowd began booing. Some fans chanted “Lock him up!”—offering a spin on one of Trump’s favorite attacks on Hillary Clinton. Behind home plate, demonstrators held up a banner that read “Veterans for Impeachment.”
On Saturday, Trump was booed again at an Ultimate Fighting Championship match in New York City. The vociferous backlash, occurring twice in the last week, offered Trump a glimpse of his standing with the public outside his preferred campaign rallies. Since he assumed office, Trump has avoided public appearances of this kind, instead holding 78 campaign rallies, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Reactions to the unwelcome reception Trump received were largely supportive of the fans who voiced their opposition to the embattled president. But some Democratic figures criticized the fans for stooping to Trump’s level.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said he was unhappy with the chants and thought the presidency deserved respect “even when the actions of our president at times don’t.”
“I have a hard time with the idea of a crowd, on a globally televised sporting event, chanting ‘Lock him up!’ about our president,” Coons told CNN’s John Berman.
In another interview, Coons said Democrats risked defeat if they tried to match Trump “spite for spite.”
“[I] think we have to be cautious about not engaging in the same kind of withering intraparty contests to prove our purity and our fervor in opposing Trump on absolutely everything, on absolutely all fronts,” Coons said.
Peter Wehner, a contributor at The Atlantic, agreed with Coons, writing that if Trump’s critics think they can “win a race to the bottom with him,” they are wrong. Instead, Wehner wrote, “their narrative should be the restoration of integrity, dignity, and decency to the presidency.”
This argument was echoed by Joe Scarborough, a co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, who blasted the chants as “un-American” during Monday’s broadcast.
“We are Americans and we do not do that,” Scarborough said. “We do not want the world hearing us chant ‘Lock him up’ to this president or to any president.”
A clip of Scarborough’s comments posted on Twitter garnered 11,000 likes but was extensively criticized by other Twitter users, who had drowned out the post with 70,000 comments.
Scarborough later doubled down on his comments in separate Twitter posts, calling those who objected to the “illiberal” chant when it was directed at Hillary Clinton but then chanted it at Trump “hypocritical clowns.”
If you think that democracy is strengthened by calling for the arrest of political opponents, you’re as ignorant and illiberal as Trump himself. Delete your account and read some civics.
Stop embarrassing yourself.
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) October 28, 2019
“If you think that democracy is strengthened by calling for the arrest of political opponents, you’re as ignorant and illiberal as Trump himself,” Scarborough wrote in another tweet.
Michelangelo Signorile, a talk radio host on SiriusXM, hit back at Scarborough, distinguishing between a political candidate directing those chants, and members of the public doing the same.
“This was not a political rally. This was the general public — and he is a public official,” Signorile tweeted. “They were engaging in protest in a public place.”
Scarborough’s co-host, and wife, Mika Brzezinski, said she understood the chanting but was worried it was “dangerous,” adding that the lack of civility among both Democrats and Republicans had been a “consistent concern” for her. In a separate post on Instagram, Brzezinski wrote “we are better than this,” invoking the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who was also a close friend of hers.
Still, many viewers and other journalists were unimpressed with the Morning Joe hosts’ arguments.
“On one side, as you well know, the most powerful person in the world leads “lock her up” chants about a private citizen,” former Dallas Morning News reporter Anita Creamer tweeted. “On the other side, we hold him accountable in the eyes of the world for his trashing of America and his never-ending corruption. Not. The. Same.”