Their social media spat, which played out on Twitter Thursday, was sparked by comments Holder made to MSNBC’s Ari Melber on Wednesday arguing that the “notion of greatness” that birthed President Donald Trump‘s infamous “Make America Great Again” slogan “never in fact actually existed.”
“When I hear these things about let’s ‘Make America Great Again,’ I think to myself, exactly when did you think America was great?” Holder asked during an appearance on “The Beat with Ari Melber.” “It certainly wasn’t when people were enslaved. It certainly wasn’t when women didn’t have the right to vote. It certainly wasn’t when the LGBT community was denied the rights to which it was entitled.”
The former attorney general, who served under President Barack Obama, acknowledged that America has indeed done “great things,” but said the country is “always a work in progress.”
“Looking back, ‘Make America Great Again’ is inconsistent with who we are as Americans at our best where we look at the uncertain future, embrace it, and make it our own,” Holder concluded.
Pence fired back on Twitter, tweeting images of George Washington crossing the Delaware, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon and even Martin Luther King Jr.‘s delivery of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington — moments illustrating America’s greatness.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 28, 2019
“Exactly when did you think America was great?” he said rhetorically back to Holder.
Holder wasted no time hitting back: “America IS great. And can-and must-be greater still. ‘Make America great again’ means YOU think America is not great now – and is backwards looking. America is at its best when we look forward, embrace an uncertain future and make it ours. That is what defines American greatness.”
Their online feud sparked plenty of reactions and had fans ready to choose sides.
“When Washington crossed the Delaware, there was slavery in all 13 colonies,” one user tweeted in reference to Pence’s clap back. “When the flag was raised at Iwo Jima, Japanese Americans were in internment camps. When MLK marched on Washington, Black people could not vote. When we landed on the moon, millions were dying in Vietnam.”
“When exactly did it stop being great?” another asked
“Our greatness has always been in front of us. Always,” said actor Benjamin Byron Davis. “Not a ‘perfect’ union. A ‘more perfect’ one…”
A fellow Twitter user agreed, writing: “The picture of Dr. King reminds me that the cynics confound greatness with perfection (unobtainable). Americans are not perfect, but we do recognize & call out our own imperfections with a system that allows us to improve. Even when we are most flawed, we find greatness.”
Meanwhile, a few critics blasted Holder for walking back his initial claims that America was never all that great.
“It seemed to me that Mr. Holder was implying that the country has never been great,” metalcore artist Philip Labonte wrote. “Mr. Pence replies with things that we as a country should be proud of. So Mr. Holder had to back pedal.”
“Man, you are tap dancing like Fred Astaire,” another user chimed in. “You said what you said, at least have the spine to back up your own words Eric. America has been great for a long time pal, no thanks to liberals like you.”
Watch more in the clip below.