If we count time leading into the 2016 elections by epochal Trump narratives, we find an instructive moment in the attempts to reconcile (or ignore) last week’s “Trump is teflon against critical media coverage, can anything be done?” theme to this week’s emerging “Now. Now Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric has gone too far” coverage.
After last night’s statement from Donald Trump, calling on a ban preventing Muslims from entering the country, the question for us becomes not Can anything be done? but, Is anything being done?
The first move came from The Huffington Post, which announced last night that it was moving Trump coverage out of its entertainment section, a spot to which the publication had relegated Trump back in July.
“But that’s not to say we’ll be treating it as if it were a normal campaign,” wrote Huffington Post Media Group EIC Arianna Huffington of the switch. Rather than act as mere stenographers, HuffPost plans to call out Trump’s comments for what they are:
So if Trump’s words and actions are racist, we’ll call them racist. If they’re sexist, we’ll call them sexist. We won’t shrink from the truth or be distracted by the showmanship.
Of course, Trump isn’t the only candidate out there spouting extreme and irresponsible messages, but he’s in a unique position in the wall-to-wall coverage, from Meet the Press to SNL, that he elicits. By not calling out Trump’s campaign for what it is, many in the media, addicted to the ratings buzz he continues to deliver, have been legitimizing his ugly views.
It was TV appearances as usual for Trump after delivering his almost universally condemned proposal. Trump was interviewed this morning on CNN’s New Day, MSNBC’s Morning Joe and ABC‘s Good Morning America, essentially delivering the same comments in each appearance, a feat achieved in part by disregarding the questions being asked. How did the anchors handle those interviews?
On New Day, Chris Cuomo went for the challenge-the-veracity-of-Trump-statements approach, and from the outset skipped asking Trump about the details of his plan, a move that avoids de-facto legitimization of the idea.
“Your proposition is plain: ban all Muslims until we can figure out what’s going on,” begins Cuomo. “People are asking you how you would do that. I say, let’s put that to the side. It’s irrelevant. It’s about the concept,” he continues, asking Trump to respond instead to characterizations of the plan by various figures as “un-american, extreme, and that it makes [Trump] a fascist.”
The host followed up by defending his approach on Twitter, responding to a slew of critics with tweets like the one below:
Untrue. happy to have trump on as I have many times. I am compelled to question his perversion of American values https://t.co/C6JCZo6Zqs
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) December 8, 2015
Much was made of Morning Joe’s time-out approach, in which host Joe Scarborough threatened, and then did, go to commercial break when Trump was talking over the host, but the scuffle was over the fact that the hosts were having trouble getting their questions in. The questions themselves weren’t particularly challenging, other than one in which Trump was asked to produce evidence about claims he was making on the existence of neighborhoods in Paris police are afraid to go into. Unsurprisingly, he couldn’t name a single neighborhood or source his info.
On Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos began with asking Trump procedural questions about the plan, but did go on to challenge Trump’s claims of support for his plan.
And when Trump pointed to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s internment of the Japanese when explaining his proposal, Stephanopoulos asked, “So you’re for internment camps? I’ve got to press you on that, sir. You’re praising FDR there. I take it you’re praising the setting up of internment camps for Japanese?”
“No I’m not,” Trump replied, then pointed to measures that Roosevelt enacted against various ethnic groups during World War II, leading Stephanopoulos to press that point again.
At the very least, it exposed quite plainly the logical inconsistency of Trump’s point.