White House press secretary Sarah Sanders deflected questions Monday about the specific words employed by President Donald Trump to describe NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem, saying only that it’s “always appropriate” to defend the flag and national anthem.
On Friday at a campaign rally for Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama, Trump diverged from talk of the state’s forthcoming Republican primary runoff to share his thoughts on the protests as he explained that he and Strange share the “same great American values.”
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now, out, he’s fired, he’s fired’?” asked Trump.
Questioned multiple times at Monday’s White House press briefing whether the president regrets his word choice or whether the use the term “son of a b—-” constituted going “too far,” Sanders would not specifically address the description, instead choosing to issue a defense of Trump’s greater critique.
“I think that it’s always appropriate for the president of the United States to defend our flag, to defend the national anthem and to defend the men and women who fought and died to defend it,” said Sanders.
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Later asked by ABC News’ Cecilia Vega if Trump considered some of the football players who chose to kneel during the anthem to be “very fine people” — a term used by the president in describing some of the people who took part in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August — Sanders argued that the situations were dissimilar.
“I think you’re trying to conflate different things here,” said Sanders. “Look, we certainly respect the rights that people have, but I think we also need to focus. Again, this isn’t about the president being against something, which is what everyone wants to draw.
“This is about the president being for something,” she continued. “This is about the president being for respect in our country through symbols like the American flag, like the national anthem and the hundreds of thousands of people that actually stand versus the few hundred that may have knelt.”