THE MEDIA WENT IN FOR A RIDE AND FORGOT ITS WATCHDOG RESPONSIBILITY
CABLE NEWS PRESIDENT
Mainstream media played a great role in helping President-elect Donald Trump win the presidency. The media saw Trump as a great opportunity for ratings and revenue. CBS CEO Les Moonves is reported to have said Trump’s rise was not good for America but it was “damn good” for CBS because he drove up viewership and advertising revenue.
It’s simple, the media sold out, not because they are bad people, but because the mainstream media is no longer a people’s watchdog, rather a corporate profit-centric machine.
The mainstream media acted like puppets following Trump around and covering his rallies where he made ludicrous claims and conducted himself like a juvenile. Trump was everywhere on cable TV, chyrons and headlines were all about Trump. Discussion panels composed of Trump supporters and a mix of Clinton supporters and anti-Trump Republicans became a staple on Cable TV especially CNN. The absurdity of having a Trump surrogate sanitizing his daily outrages was not lost to the cable stations. It is in those panels that Trump’s comments about grabbing women by their genitals was discussed like it was a normal thing and eventually passed off locker room banter.
Can you imagine if President Barack Obama was caught by a hot mic saying just the word “pussy?” Republicans would have called for his impeachment and worse. The media would have been frantic calling on him to resign. They wouldn’t care about the context or ask if it were locker room banter, they would have called for his head.
Right wingers have been all over Obama for very petty things, remember the incident about Obama putting his feet on the resolute desk in his office? Right wingers went ballistic. President Bush’s Chief of Staff Andy Card criticized Obama saying he was disrespecting the Oval Office, while in fact, his boss did the same thing proved by a photo where Card was present.
Imagine what But for Trump, despite confessing to sexual assault, a crime, his surrogates succeeded in changing the narrative and creating false equivalent arguments that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was somehow not any better because she was mean to the women, who wronged her, by having affairs with her husband.
Yes, that was their argument. It was ridiculously simplistic, but it passed.
The media covered Clinton’s private server and use of private emails while serving as Secretary of State as if it was an ongoing threat of our national security. They perpetuated the perception that somehow the email issue was equivalent to Trump’s insults to minorities and his failure to disclose his federal tax returns, the numerous bankruptcies and all these other reported scandals. The reality is while Clinton made a mistake with her use of private emails, FBI found she did not break any laws and the media furthering the notion that it was a serious issue played in Trump’s favor.
It was outrageous how the media talked-up the emails and did not bother to really investigate Trump’s ties to Russia and Russian operatives. It now turns out the Trump campaign, was in fact working with the Russians. In a statement from Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, confirmed the Russians were in regular contact with the Trump campaign saying, according to The Washington Post.
“Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Ryabkov said. “We have just begun to consider ways of building dialogue with the future Donald Trump administration and channels we will be using for those purposes.”
There is no way of knowing what the channels of discussions entailed because we were not there, but the fact that the Trump campaign attempted to keep the contacts a secret suggests they too knew the relationship would not go down well with the American people. But somehow this story has faded in the background. Replaced by a new controversy. It’s hard to keep up with the speed at which Trump produces controversies and the media was not ready for him.
The non-traditional nature of the Trump candidacy required the media to adapt and come up with new interviewing an accountability techniques. It was not enough to just let Kellyanne Conway, Trump Campaign Manager, to spin the latest embarrassment from Trump’s mouth by somehow convoluting in the argument the Clinton email servers and Clinton Foundation into everything just to appear as being fair to both sides, rather it was important for interviewers to separate the two arguments and point out the false equivalence and the fallacies introduced.
The media should not have given Trump any live coverage for his rallies after it became apparent that his refusal to release his tax returns were a tactical move to evade proper vetting. It was the media’s job to compel him by making their coverage of him conditional on him giving Americans a fair chance to vet him. According to Fortune Magazine tax returns are important for 3 reasons: 1) Who is part of his financial universe; 2) How much does Trump earn; 3) What kinds of deductions does Trump claim.
Let’s grant Trump the benefit of the doubt that he was indeed being audited and his attorneys advised him not to release the tax returns under review, why would he then release the taxes that were not under audit? By refusing to release his tax returns suggests that he has something really bad that he would not want the American people to know about him. Something that would have disqualified him from the race even more. Something, such as receiving loans from Russian oligarchs. By refusing to release his tax returns, Trump became a job applicant who refused to bring in a resume but the job still considered him for the position.
The mainstream media failed America by not pursuing the Trump tax returns story diligently and eventually making it a non-issue in the campaign.
There are those in the media who did their job, the New York Times, Washington Post and Newsweek are a few examples. Reporters such as David Farenthold with Washington Post and Kurt Eichenwald with Newsweek brought out some of the best in-depth reporting on what Trump did not want the world to know.
Cable TV did not do a very good job. The panels were useless and left viewers confused and frustrated. Liberals and Conservatives took to their respective corners and stood their ground. What was the point of having a panel discussing on Trump’s Access Hollywood hot mic video? What was achieved besides normalizing the act? The only reasonable way the media could have handled this was not by a panel of Trump and Clinton supporters, rather by a panel of legal, medical and psychological experts who would explore what such a statement from a presidential candidate was unhealthy for our nation.
Instead, the panels tried to outdo each other in order to score political points for the side and only succeeding to dilute the seriousness of the matter.
When the women accusers started coming out, the media did not treat them as possible victims of a crime as they did with Bill Cosby, rather they acted as if they taking count of how many will come forward. There was very little discussion about what the women went through, rather they were questioned “why now?”
There were a few exceptions in Cable TV who did a great job. On the day after the anti-Trump rally riot in Chicago, Rachel Maddow in her self-titled show, stood out as perhaps the only show host who correctly linked the violence displayed with Trump’s rhetoric. I must confess I did not listen to all shows, but most shows seemed to suggest, again, that the protesters, because they are interrupting a rally bore all the blame. Maddow was a reliable source of liberal news commentary that made sense. Others who did a great job are Joy Reid, Chris Hayes and Trump’s nemesis Lawrence O’Donnell all from MSNBC.
CNN, needs to lose the panels and Fox News was the usual conservative alternate universe shell that it has always been and not even the biggest effort to sanitize Megyn Kelly could save the network for this label.
As data from PEW research shows, Trump was great to Cable TV ratings and profit and while most people are surprised Trump is now President-elect, the media should not fail us again by giving him a pass on his 100-day plan seen here.