Honing his insult comedy shtick at a Saturday rally to support Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone, President Donald Trump offered a vulgar new variation on an old epithet for Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, a longtime target of enmity toward the media. The president’s train of thought began with North Korea, a topic he’d been asked about on Meet the Press nearly 20 years ago: “Did you ever see the story where, it’s 1999, I’m on Meet the Press, a show now headed by sleepy eyes Chuck Todd,” Trump said. “He’s a sleeping son of a bitch, I’ll tell you.”
Online, Todd seemed to the slight in stride, tweeting Saturday night, “Don’t miss @MeetThePress tomorrow! I know folks may be tired in the morning due to springing forward, so set those clocks and DVRs now before your eyes get too sleepy.” But in person, his patience seemed to have frayed. “I bring my kids up to respect the office of the presidency and the president,” he said during an appearance on NBC4 Saturday night. “I don’t allow them to say anything negative, ever, about the president.”
Trump has been using the odd “sleepy eyes” insult since at least 2012, when he tweeted, “It’s great that sleepy eyes @chucktodd gets no traction.” He has since called him “sleepy” more than a dozen times:
Todd acknowledged Saturday that Trump was trying to bait him—“make the establishment crazy, make the media angry.” Still, “it creates a challenge to all parents when he uses vulgarities like that,” he said. “I sort of have the military rule in my house: You don’t speak ill of the sitting president.” Todd added he’d love to have Trump guest on Meet the Press “any Sunday.”
Trump, so far, has not taken him up on his invitation, but Todd did chat with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the next morning’s Meet the Press, and asked what the country should make of Trump’s harsh verbal attacks against Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters (whom Trump called “a very low I.Q. individual”).
“Chuck, you know I’ve been with the president in campaigns,” Mnuchin said. “You know he likes to put names on people. He did that through the entire presidential election, including all the Republicans that he beat. So these are campaign rally issues.” Todd was incredulous: “So you’re saying that’s acceptable behavior for the rest of the administration too, or it’s just unique to him?”
“Again, Chuck, this is something that is at a campaign rally,” Mnuchin responded. “The president likes making funny names … I think you should be focused on the policies,” he continued. “He is using these vulgarities in the context of a campaign rally. Obviously, there were a lot of funny moments at that rally.”
“Yeah,” Todd said. “They were hilarious.”