Sometimes a brief snippet of TV news footage can crystallize an entire political era. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.
When historians of the future try to understand the degree to which partisanship defined the Trump years, one clue might well be the spectacle of one Republican senator after another hastening past reporters on Capitol Hill this week as they dodged questions about the circumstances leading to President Trump’s already-infamous church photo op Monday.
On Tuesday, NBC News correspondent Kasie Hunt and other reporters stationed themselves in a hallway and asked passing GOP senators for their reaction to the force used against participants in a nonviolent protest sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was Black, after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The protesters were forced out to clear the way for Trump to pose in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, near the White House, while holding a Bible aloft.
As cameras rolled, most of the senators just kept walking down the hallway while Hunt and others called out questions. Wearing masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the senators either remained silent, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, or mumbled excuses from behind their masks such as “I didn’t really see it” and “I’m late for lunch.” One senator held his hands out, palms up, as if conveying helplessness, before replying: “I don’t have any comment on that.”
It didn’t take long for the Twitterverse to weigh in with comments of its own on the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil solons, under hashtags like #lateforlunch and #LateForLunchGOPsenators. As of midday Friday, Hunt’s tweet of the video had been viewed nearly 700,000 times.