“Painful” and “disaster” have become refrains online among several high-profile media figures in reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony on Wednesday. During the much-anticipated hearing hosted by the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee, Mueller’s performance was so “shaky,” “confused” and “sluggish” that even sympathetic members of the mainstream media began to question his health.
As multiple media-focused outlets have noted, the response to Mueller’s performance has been overwhelmingly negative, with many going so far as to express concern for his well-being. In the hearing, the special counsel repeatedly asked members of Congress to repeat their questions, appeared to struggle to interpret queries and quotes, even when presented with text, and expressed a lack of knowledge on key topics, including the pivotal role Fusion GPS played in sparking the “collusion” claims by funding the infamous Russia dossier. The performance was “stumbling” enough to inspire a “Confused Mueller” supercut highlighting the many times the special counsel asked for questions to be repeated.
Among the media personalities who questioned Mueller’s health is David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s former Chief Strategist and now host of “The Axe Files” podcast and CNN senior political commentator. In posts noted by Mediaite, Axelrod said that after watching his “very, very painful” performance, he now sees why Mueller wanted his aide nearby during the hearing.
“This is delicate to say, but Mueller, whom I deeply respect, has not publicly testified before Congress in at least six years. And he does not appear as sharp as he was then,” wrote Axelrod, suggesting that age has caught up with Mueller. “And it helps explain why Mueller wanted his aide nearby.”
“This is very, very painful,” he added in a follow-up post. “Not a commentary on the content. The report is damning. That was reenforced today. He has been an exemplary public servant, as people are both sides attested, but he clearly was struggling today and that was painful.”
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York provided a similarly “painful” summary and even felt compelled to offer some advice to committee members. “This is painful,” he wrote. “Yes, Mueller is slow to react. But members are loaded for bear, talking/reading too fast, not putting selected text clearly in front of him. Slow down and be clear.”
As noted by Twitchy, NBC News legal analyst Glenn Kirschner wondered aloud if Mueller was suffering from “a health issue.” “Bob Mueller is struggling,” he wrote. “It strikes me as a health issue. We need only look at footage of his earlier congressional appearances to see the dramatic difference in his demeanor and communicative abilities.”
And some over at The New York Times announced that this was not the same Mueller we’ve seen in the past. “I haven’t seen a performance quite like this from Mueller,” said the Times’ Noah Weiland. “In 12 years as F.B.I. director, he gave plenty of clipped responses. But more often than not he was more rhetorically agile than anyone on the committees that were questioning him. And there was rarely a time when he even paused for a second after a question was asked. There was little searching in his eyes for answers. He rarely looked at notes.”
NBC News host Chuck Todd tried to put a positive spin on the hearing for Democrats, but finally admitted it was a “disaster” in terms of optics. “On substance, Democrats got what they wanted: that Mueller didn’t charge Pres. Trump because of the OLC guidance, that he could be indicted after he leaves office, among other things,” he wrote. “But on optics, this was a disaster.”
The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson agreed with Todd that it was an optics “disaster,” and noted that Mueller is “old” and “seems often confused or moving too slow for a hearing in this format because he wants to be too careful.” He ultimately agreed with everyone else on the takeaway: The whole thing was “just painful.”
And as The Daily Wire has noted, multiple hosts over at Fox News, including Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, and Martha MacCallum, were likewise struck by just how disastrous the whole thing was for both the Democrats and Mueller.