False Balance: PBS Interviews Two ‘Republicans’ Who Bash Trump, Current GOP Vibe

PBS News Weekend did something unusual on Saturday’s show: It presented two “Republicans” to talk politics. (PBS news shows are notoriously averse to hosting conservative guests.) But the two weren’t on to push conservative policies, certainly not to endorse overwhelming GOP primary favorite Donald Trump, but to evaluate the party’s divisions from an anti-Trump, anti-conservative perspective.

Barron-Lopez talked to former Rep. Denver Riggleman and Republican strategist Barrett Marson. You may remember Riggleman as a one-term congressman from Virginia whose later anti-Trump attitude and work for the House January 6 Committee earned him appearances as a CNN-approved “Republican” (though Riggleman no longer calls himself Republican). Barron-Lopez had talked to Riggleman earlier this year, when he accused Trump and his supporters of dog-whistle racist politics (see PBS Smear Hour: Accusing Trump, Fox, and Republicans of ‘Dog-Whistle’ Racism.”

Barron-Lopez threw cold water on Trump’s triumphalism.

Besides the misleading about “two Republicans,” Barron-Lopez offered labeling slant on gun control.

That gave Riggleman an opening to boast of his liberal bona fides.

A moderate-at-best former politician virtue signaling his gay tolerance? Hardly must-see TV for any conservative, despite the misleading “Republican” imprimatur.

This anti-GOP segment was brought to you in part by American Cruise Lines, and taxpayers like you.

PBS News Weekend


6:10:44 p.m. (ET)

Laura Barron-Lopez: Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee for president after a near sweep on Super Tuesday. But when his last major opponent standing, Nikki Haley dropped out this week, she didn’t throw her support behind Trump. Despite calling on Haley voters to support him, Trump made clear he doesn’t want anyone critical of him in the party.

Donald Trump, U.S. Republican Presidential Candidate: The greatest movement in the history of our country, and they say always tried to demean. Well, MAGA really represents 48 percent of the Republican Party. No. It represents 96 percent than maybe 100 percent. We’re getting rid of the Romney’s of the world. We want to get Romney’s in those out.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Exit polls tell a slightly different story. A third of Republican primary voters in North Carolina and Virginia said they would not vote Republican in November regardless of the nominee. Tuesday’s elections did more than just decide the Republican nomination. They reflected a deep schism in the party dividing some lifelong Republicans from Trump’s MAGA faction.

To discuss this. I’m joined today by two Republicans, former congressman Denver Riggleman from Virginia and strategist Barrett Marson, who’s based in Phoenix.

Denver and Barrett, thank you so much for joining. Denver. I want to start with you. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Trump within 24 hours after his Super Tuesday wins. That’s the same man, Mitch McConnell, who called Trump morally and practically responsible for the January 6 insurrection. Does McConnell’s attempt at Unity reflect the reality for voters?

Former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R) Virginia: Yeah, I think it does. You know, I mean, if you look at the economy, it’s no different than what McCarthy did after January 6, when he rolled over and showed his belly and went to Mar-a-Lago after he blamed Trump for January 6.

You see all these individuals coming home. And I think a lot of that has to do with what I call leash politics. It’s like my leash. I will do with that will ask me do, you know, something like that. It’s just absolutely unbelievable to me.

But, again, what did Trump get about 75 percent of the vote? No, a lot of people said there were individuals that would not vote for Trump and things of that nature. But most people do come home. I remember, in my little convention in a church, you know, everybody’s saying Denver will never, you know, vote for this guy. He’s awful. But they did.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Barrett, Denver says that Republicans will come home but a majority of Haley voters in both North Carolina and Virginia said that if Trump is convicted of a crime that he’s unfit to be president, as a lifelong Republican yourself, do you think that the former president is unfit for office?

Barrett Marson, Marson Media: You know, it’s going to be up to voters to decide whether Trump is unfit. But he is certainly wrong. And he’s wrong for this time. There’s no doubt Nikki Haley would trounce Joe Biden, certainly in Arizona, it would not be a competitive state. But because Donald Trump and all his many faults are going to be presented to us voters here in Arizona, across the country, it’s going to be a very competitive race because of that.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Barrett, why do you think that he’s wrong?

Barrett Marson: Well, look, he has got so many faults, if not for January 6, certainly. This campaign and most of his time and out of office has shown he is much more interested in settling scores and going after his political enemies than actually doing anything. And I don’t think that’s where most Americans are.

I don’t I think they want a much a rosier outlook on life. They don’t want grievance politics. And that’s truly what Trump is all about for the last, you know, four, three and a half years while he’s been out of office.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Denver, I’d like to drill down a little bit to the state results in Super Tuesday contests in Texas, specifically, GOP congressman Tony Gonzalez is facing a run off now from the right because of the fact that he was supportive of bipartisan gun safety legislation. He’s supportive of gay marriage. What do you think, I mean, he may still very well win that contest in the general but what’s your takeaway from that?

Denver Riggleman: Well, you know what happened to me when I officiated a same sex wedding more I got Senator, you know, by the local Republican Party. So it wasn’t great, you know, winning bipartisan gun legislation. The fact that I was pro-immigration for H2A’s were in a rural agricultural district, that pretty much got me drummed out in the Republican Party ran away from me in this district as fast as they could, you know, based on those topics, which seemed to be moderate and sane.

I think when you heard Trump talking about pushing out everybody that’s like Romney, that’s really pushing out people like me, too. You’re talking about the moderate and the sane people try to compromise really what the Constitution was all about, on the founder set up, you know, this incredible experiment that we have in the United States of America. I think what we have is the sane and the moderate are being run out of the party. It’s either Trump, you know, his way or it’s the highway.

Barrett Marson: I want to echo something that Denver said, you know, elections are about bringing in the biggest amount of voters you can get, the most amount of people, the biggest 10. And continually we hear from Donald Trump, and people like Kari Lake that they don’t want moderate Republicans to vote for them. They you want to excise them from the party.

Well, you know, they are without a home. Those voters, like myself and Denver are sort of without a home. So it’s either don’t vote for Trump and don’t vote for Biden, or maybe cast your vote for Biden because at least he wants my vote.

Laura Barron-Lopez:

 Barrett, speaking of Kari Lake, Senator Kyrsten Sinema said that she is not going to run for reelection in your home state of Arizona. And establishment Republican figures like Senator John Thune have thrown their support behind Kari Lake who’s running in the Republican primary for that Senate seat. How would you compare, you know, Kari Lake is an election denier, and she was considered a more extreme candidate in 2022. How would you compare the state’s Republican Party in Arizona to the larger Republican Party?

Barrett Marson: Well, look, there is absolutely no doubt we are a MAGA base. Kari Lake will do well in the primary. She has a primary opponent. She will do well on the primary here. There’s no doubt about that, because this is a MAGA base, but it will be very difficult for her to win over independents and moderate Republicans who are needed to win a general election. And the probably the only thing she has going for her is Ruben Gallego, her likely Democratic opponent is a fairly liberal, he’s a progressive liberal Democrat. And he may be too liberal for a lot of independents and right leaning Republicans to actually fill in the ballot for. So. you know, it’s long ways. Seven, eight months still till Election Day, but Keri Lake is going to have a real hard problem moderating her positions compared to 2022. Keri Lake for 2020 for her worst enemy is Keri Lake from two years ago.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Denver, North Carolina Trump endorsed Mark Robinson won the GOP nomination for the governor’s race there. Robinson has called LGBTQ people quote, filth, he has quoted Hitler, he has cast doubt on the Holocaust. And a recent Huff Post report revealed that in 2020, Robinson even said he wanted to turn back time on women’s rights.

Denver Riggleman: I was like jump turn endorsing Carrie Lake, you know, and it’s like this, you know, crazy cat, North Carolina. It’s like Republicans are voting for people that believe that Lord of the Rings is a documentary. You know, and I love the fact that, you know, both was think, you know, we don’t have a home. I think we do. I think at some point, you got to make a decision, you know, how you’re going to vote, whether it’s for this country or its foreign sanity. And you would look at Mark, you know, Robinson, you know, look at North Carolina, the fact that he got the votes that he did should shock anybody, you know, with an IQ above moron. But I do believe, you know, as the election gets closer, if Joe Biden were to win, I think it’s a couple issues. I think it’s Dobbs. I think women are going to come in hard. But I also think it’s, you know, people screaming and carrying the rhino flag, I think that might overcome the MAGA flag. Right. When you see people that are center right independence or even, you know, I would say people who thought they were Trumpian going into this election cycle, and I also believe those independents and Senator right who just can’t stomach the insanity of Donald Trump or the Kerry Lakes or the Mark Robinsons from North Carolina.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Denver Riggleman, former congressman from Virginia and Barrett Marson of Arizona, thank you so much for your time.

Barrett Marson: Thank you, Laura.

Denver Riggleman: Thank you.

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