Attorney General William Barr pushed back on the narrative that “peaceful protesters” had been cleared last Monday from Lafayette Park.
Barr challenged host Margaret Brennan several times during a Sunday morning appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” arguing that the media’s framing of what had happened left out a lot of context. (RELATED: Jim Acosta Says The White House ‘Pummeled Protesters’ For Photo-Op — Kayleigh McEnany Fires Back)
Brennan began by asking whether Barr believed it was appropriate to use tear gas or pepper balls to clear the park of peaceful protesters.
“They were not peaceful protesters, and that’s one of the big lies the media seems to be perpetuating,” Barr fired back immediately.
Brennan responded with a challenge, noting that three of her CBS colleagues had said they did not hear warnings for the crowd to move back or disperse.
“There were three warnings,” Barr pushed back, explaining why expanding the perimeter had been deemed necessary.
“On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, okay, there were violent riots in — at Lafayette park, where the park police were under constant attack,” Barr said. “The officers were pummeled with bricks. Crow bars were used to pry up the pavers at the park, and they were hurled at police. There were fires set in not only St. John’s Church but a historic building at Lafayette burned to the ground.”
“These were things that looters did,” Brennan interrupted.
“Not looters. These the were the violent rioters who dominated Lafayette Park,” Barr continued.
Brennan tried to push the narrative back to Monday, saying, “It was a peaceful protest—”
“Let me get to this. This has been totally obscured by the media,” Barr insisted. “They broke into the Treasury Department. And they were injuring police.”
Barr explained that the violence that occurred Sunday night was what had actually prompted park police to widen the perimeter, allowing them the space to build the temporary fencing that went up later in the week.
“On Monday, you’re saying there were projectiles,” Brennan tried a different tack, saying that her colleagues had not seen projectiles being thrown by protesters.
“I was there, I was there. I saw them thrown,” Barr replied.
Brennan asked again whether Barr felt the use of tear gas was appropriate, and Barr took the opportunity to challenge the media narrative again. “Here’s what the media’s missing. This was not an operation to respond to that particular crowd. It was an operation to move the perimeter one block,” he said.
“And the methods they used, you think, were appropriate? Is that what you’re saying?” Brennan pressed.
“When they met resistance, yes. They announced three times. They didn’t move — ” Barr replied.
Brennan continued to push back, arguing that what the public saw was peaceful protesters being pushed back in order to clear a path for President Donald Trump.
“These events looked very connected to people at home. In an environment where the broader debate is about heavy-handed use of force in law enforcement, was that the right message for them to be receiving?” she asked.
“Well, the message is sometimes communicated by the media,” Barr pushed right back, saying that no one had showed video of the violent riots from the weekend. “All I heard was comments about how peaceful the protesters were. I didn’t hear about the fact that there were 150 law enforcement officers injured and many taken to the hospital with concussions. So it wasn’t a peaceful protest. We had to get control over Lafayette Park, and we had to do it as soon as we were able to do it.”
“But you understand how these events appear connected,” Brennan clarified.
“Well, it’s the job of the media to tell the truth,” Barr shot back. He went on to confirm what others had said earlier in the week — that the decision to move the perimeter had been made long before anyone knew the president intended to speak or to walk off the White House grounds and visit St. John’s Church.