Editor’s Note: Lauren Ashburn, anchor of EWTN News Nightly spoke exclusively with White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on May 3, 2019. It is reprinted with permission.
EWTN News Nightly anchor Lauren Ashburn spoke today to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders about the Trump administration’s positions regarding several hot-button issues, including this week’s announcement of a new rule protecting the conscience rights of health care workers to refuse to participate in abortions, the recent attacks in the United States and elsewhere against religious workers, and the continuing crisis in Venezuela.
Below is a full transcipt of the interview:
Joining me now from the White House is Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. Sarah, welcome to our broadcast.
Thank you. It’s great to be with you and happy Friday.
Yes, happy Friday.
Yesterday during the National Day of Prayer ceremony, in the Rose Garden, President Trump announced a new rule allowing health care workers to refuse to participate in abortions on religious grounds. So, my question to you is how can people navigate these tricky waters without being accused of discrimination?
Look, I think that there is some difficulty there but the bottom line is the President wants to do everything he can and everything that his administration has the power to do to protect life. It’s one of the fundamentals of our society. It’s probably one of the most important parts of who America is, is that we value life. It sets us apart from the people that don’t and the countries that don’t. And it is I think one of the most sacred duties that the President has and this is something the President takes extremely seriously and it’s why you’ve seen him take so many big steps and bold moves in order to do that since he’s become President in his administration.
Conscience protections are a part of a sweeping effort by the administration to preserve religious liberty. Earlier this week, the Tennessee House rejected a bill to give faith based adoption agencies the liberty to choose whether or not to allow LGBTQ adults to adopt children. So, what is the President’s message for these faith-based adoption agencies?
I think it’s the same thing that he said yesterday and that it’s we have to protect religious liberty, whether it comes to adoption or whether it’s about the places of worship, we have to protect religious liberty and religious freedom in this country. It’s part of who we are and it’s something that not only do we not want to get away from but we shouldn’t get away from it. It’s something we have to embrace and it’s something the President is committed to and will continue to fight for in every facet that he can and this is just another step further in his fight for religious liberty.
It’s been heartbreaking, I know for me and for our audience and probably for you, to watch these recent attacks on churches, synagogues, mosques here and around the world. The Vice President, today, is heading to Louisiana where black churches were burned by an arsonist. You, I have learned, read this devotional every single day called “Take my heart, Oh God,” written by women and in it today it says that our faith does not have walls. Christ’s followers cannot be silenced. So, what does it say to you that more and more of our sacred spaces are in need of protection?
It’s truly, I think, a sad moment, not just for our country but for the world, that people don’t feel safe in the places that they go to worship. We’ve seen a number of attacks on places of worship over the last year and it’s something that’s certainly extremely troubling. But I think it’s another reason that we have to embrace our faith even more because the only way to find comfort in those difficult moments and in horrific tragedy is in the hands of the Creator. And I think that is something that strengthens our faith rather than cheapens it. It’s something that drives us closer to God instead of further away and I think the more that we do that the better off we’ll be as a country and as a global community and I think that the steps that we’re seeing both the President take and the Vice President take about calling out these horrific acts and calling them by name and condemning evil, condemning bigotry, condemning hate is something that we have to do and something that we’ll continue to do in this administration.
I’d like to move on to some other headlines. The big economic headline today is that unemployment is 3.6%, almost a 50 year low. 263 thousand new jobs were created in April so, why are we not seeing more reporting on economic news like this in the mainstream media?
That’s a great question. I’d love for us to talk about the economy all day long. It’s one of the most important issues that faces our country and it’s one of the reasons that the President’s made it such a priority since becoming President. He’s put a tremendous amount of focus on creating a friendly job-creation-environment on creating real growth, real wage increases, by getting rid of regulations through tax cuts. The economy is booming and you can’t deny it. We have seen month after month of continued growth in our economy and that’s due directly to the leadership of this President and the policies that he has put in place. This is another huge month for the economy and another great sign as we move into this next quarter of the year.
There’s a lot of partisanship here in Washington, maybe you’ve noticed.
To say the least.
President Trump opened the National Day of Prayer event yesterday at the White House with prayers for the people of Venezuela and said that the U.S. is there to help. So many have been killed the economy there is in a freefall. Yet yesterday Representative Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, doubled-down blaming the US for this crisis. Tell us what your reaction is to that.
It’s unbelievable to think that this crisis is at the hands of the United States. We’re trying to help the people of Venezuela. We’ve stated time and again that we stand with those people. We have worked to get aid, food and water, and medicine to the people of Venezuela and help to try to create a place for a peaceful transition of power. Unfortunately, we aren’t seeing that take place. Maduro is digging in but we still want to make sure and keep our focus on the people of Venezuela and making sure that they’re getting the life-saving things that they need whether it’s food, water, or medical supplies.
President Trump said yesterday in an interview that there is a tipping point, however, for sending in troops. What is that tipping point?
Look, I’m not going to get into the specifics of the strategy but I can tell you the President and his team are keeping all options on the table. Ideally, we don’t get to a place where military action is required but as both the President, the Secretary of State, and Ambassador Bolton have all stated the President will do what is required and help to fight for the people of Venezuela and to protect the people of Venezuela as they go through this difficult time.
I want to move on to an interesting poll that shows that 69% of white evangelical Protestants and 44% of white Catholics give the president high marks for doing the job that he’s doing as president. And I would just want to say that that 44% number could be a lot higher if he came onto News Nightly. Got to get the pitch in! How important will the support of the religious community be heading toward 2020?
It’s incredibly important because they make up such a large part of the country and the President’s done a lot for this community not just on the things that we’ve talked about but also, and I think one of the biggest legacies that the President will leave behind long after he has left office, is the remaking of the judiciary.
The president, yesterday, had his one hundredth federal judge confirmed to their seat and this is going to have a generational impact and a very positive one that we are seeing, and particularly at a time when state legislatures, as well as the government here in D.C., constantly overreaching and overstepping. You need that last line of defense to hold, uphold, the Constitution and the rule of law and we’re going to see that take place in the judicial branch on a number of fronts, I would imagine over the next 5, 10, 15 years, and having these people that understand, and believe, and support the constitution, is going to be a real important part of the President’s legacy and I think it’s going to be one of the most important things that he does during his time of eight years in office.
Before we go, I interviewed the American Enterprise President and author Arthur Brooks about his new book called, "Love Your Enemies." He says that we do it by disagreeing better, no contempt, no insults. Do you think that doing that in this political climate will ever be possible? And how does the President respond to something like that? I know he said in the past that, you know, he's got to punch back.
Certainly I think we can, there are many times where we can, disagree better. The President was elected to be a fighter though and people expect that when he gets hit, he will hit back. There's a difference between disagreeing better and fighting differently. Certainly I think we can focus our disagreements more on the policy differences that we have instead of the personal attacks. I think what we've seen over the last two years of Democrats in the mainstream media perpetuating a lie and attacking the president and everyone around him day in and day out. Let's not forget the severity of the accusation that they made against the president. They actually called him a traitor to his country. I mean let that sink in. The sitting president of the United States of America, they called him a traitor to his country and expect him to just sit down and not respond to that and not fight back. That's not disagreeing. That's defending. That's making sure the American people know the truth. On a policy perspective, I think certainly we can focus on the contrast that we have on the issues but when it comes to making sure that people understand what really happened, I think it's important for the President to push back and to be bold and aggressive in that pushback.
Finally our photographer, one of our photographers, came and brought his daughter to take your child to work day and was lucky enough to get a question with you but you filibustered. He said the question was, "What's your favorite kind of ice cream?" And you said well I don't have one, it's too scoops. So, as a hard hitting journalist here, I'm going back in for the kill. What's your favorite kind of ice cream?
I thought he was asking me about the President's favorite kind of ice cream, which is why I was a little less quick to answer. If it's mine, I guess I'd have to say probably mint chocolate chip.
OK there we go.
I'm trying to avoid that at all costs these days.
Me too. Me too. It’s a constant battle shall we say. Sarah Sanders, White House Press Secretary. Thanks so much for joining us.
You bet. Thanks for having me on.