Writing in Politico, the74million.org founder and former NBC News and CNN anchor Campbell Brown has a proposal for the TV news world: “Please stop. Just for one week, don’t say his name.” The name which she pleads should not be spoken is, of course, Donald Trump. “Let’s stop being complicit in promoting his hateful and harmful demagoguery,” she continues. “Just for one week.”
It is an intriguing thought exercise, to imagine what would happen to the candidate and the shape of the GOP race in a week devoid of Trump-related sensationalism. But a thought exercise is probably all it ever will be.
Brown acknowledges the probable ratings drop the effort would result in, but suggests the attendant restoration of dignity is worth it.
See what happens—to his numbers and to yours. You might lose a few points, but you will feel better and look better to the rest of the world. Finally, all of us will be free of the guilt and shame prompted by this binge. It just might make a difference for him, too. His poll numbers dropped in late October, as Jim Tankersley pointed out on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, when his on-air mentions fell behind Marco Rubio and Ben Carson.
To hear some describe it, ratings are beside the point.
“People assume that news networks talk about Donald Trump because they want ratings,” said host Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe Thursday, going on to say that Trump’s appearances on the show don’t positively impact ratings. “People are kind of used to it now, even at this stage when he sets his most inflammatory rhetoric out there.”
Used to it because Trump’s had so much coverage that the media has effectively normalized his extremism, or at least the expectation for it.
“But then the obvious question is why give Donald Trump 30 minutes the other day?” asks panelist Steve Rattner, referring to Trump’s appearance on the show following his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country.
“Because it’s news,” replies Scarborough, incredulously.
But when Donald Trump calls in to three shows in one morning and delivers the same message to all three, what kind of news is that–and who benefits?