Birtherism swindle shows how media follow Trump like Pavlov’s dogs
In the latest chapter of America’s reality show election, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump managed — as usual — to turn attention away from anything that might affect him negatively and instead treat the nation’s media like the suckers they are.
The day before, the Trump offspring did a lousy job of optics, which is all that matters to the Orange Menace. Daughter Ivanka got flustered in a Cosmopolitan interview when confronted with Trump’s lies about family leave “policy,” and she walked out. A Trump minion ended an interview with Donald Jr. when he was asked about corruption in the Trump Foundation. Junior then used neo-Nazi language about the media and “gas ovens” in a later interview on a conservative radio talk show.
Quick! Distract the media from covering an actual issue that might be damaging! Trump announced a “major statement” about President Obama and birtherism. It started as basically an infomercial for his new Washington, D.C., hotel, since he was an hour late. Then he tried to shift the blame onto Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, saying she was the one who started the whole matter of questioning where Obama was born — a theory that has been repeatedly debunked. Media fawned outrage — then spent the rest of the day covering Trump’s statements, complaining that they got played (YA THINK?), then were forced to spend news time on the “Clinton started birtherism” theory. Trumpeters just kept adoring the Donald and spreading new Clinton conspiracy theories on Twitter.
Does anyone remember what the Trump offspring did wrong one day before? Is anyone talking about bribery in the Trump Foundation and spending charity money on six-foot paintings of Hair Hitler? Is anyone pointing out the holes in Trump’s family leave policy, or anything else he has “policies” about? Nope, nope, and nope.
CNN anchors decided that they had “finally had it with Trump’s lies,” said a headline on Huffington Post.
This response may have partly reflected a realization that Trump had manipulated the media once again, by getting the networks to break away from normal coverage in order to show some pretty routine campaign speeches ― and promote his new hotel along the way. After promising a big reveal, Trump began his appearance by bragging about his new hotel. He then let a parade of veterans sing his political praises, turning the event into a free advertisement.
“We got played,” CNN panelists admitted on air.
So naive. So driven by ratings and clickbait. So easy to be manipulated. And they’ll do it again the first chance they get.
By the evening, Trump was hinting once again the line Hillary Clinton might be assassinated. And the media dutifully covered the whole thing — rally, threats, and all — treating it like real news. His supporters cheered lustily.
The next time Trump says something just as outrageous, the media will be there with their cameras and their microphones. The would-be narcissist-in-chief will get the coverage he wants. And the American people will learn nothing about what they need to know in evaluating who the next commander-in-chief and leader of the free world should be.
It’s too late for the media to put anything negative about Don the Con on cable news or the front page and expect it to have an impact. That should have been done 15 months ago. Trump supporters hate the media anyway, so they’re not going to pay attention. A recent Gallup Poll showed that only 32 percent of the American public trust the media, and the lowest percentage came from Republicans who believe the media are “hyperfocused on on every controversial statement or policy proposal from Trump while devoting far less attention to controversies surrounding the Clinton campaign.” Let that sink in as you recall the months from cable TV, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and others spreading false memes about Benghazi, Clinton’s emails, and the Clinton Foundation.
Trumpeters will just eat up whatever the Orange Menace says, buy another “Deplorable” T-shirt, and start using even more white supremacist language.
Where was this media outrage in its coverage in June and July of 2015? Oh, that’s right. “Journalists” like Chuck Todd of Meet the Press were too busy saying that it “wasn’t his job” to challenge Trump on his lies. Instead, Trump got his $2 billion in free media coverage. And because of media malfeasance, we might get stuck with a President Trump.
Multiple fact-checkers have found that almost nothing Trump says is true. According to Politics USA, 91 percent of his utterances are false. Politifact gave a collection of his misstatements the “Lie of the Year” award in 2015 because it couldn’t pick just one. Some 76 percent of 77 Trump statements got the rating of False, Mostly False, or Pants on Fire. But the media have been too afraid to use the word “lie” when it comes to reporting on Donald Trump. The fact that they finally used it in September 2016 probably won’t make any difference.
Trump snaps his fingers. The media jump and plaster whatever he says all over the airwaves and news websites. Trump’s poll numbers go up. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I have never been more ashamed of American journalism than I am today in how political reporters have covered this election. We can only hope that at least a plurality of voters are smarter than they are.