Message to the Mainstream Media: Stop Normalizing Trump's Behavior. He Is a Racist, Liar and Instigator of Violence. Full Stop.

August 7, 2019

Donald Trump stares at a photo of himself ( Matt Johnson )

Donald Trump stares at a photo of himself (Matt Johnson)


In an August 6 morning email news roundup, CNN’s Brian Stelter discussed how the media often normalizes Trump’s racism, white nationalism and incitement of hatred toward non-whites. He did it by offering criticism of America’s “paper of record,” The New York Times:

Did you feel like some members of the media were straining to treat Trump as a "normal" president on Monday, after his ten-minute address about the mass murders? I heard from numerous Trump detractors who felt the coverage was ridiculous. This came to a head on Monday night when the first edition of the NYT's Tuesday morning front page came out. The main headline said "TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM," and it was savaged. Beto O'Rourke called the headline "unbelievable." Olivia Nuzzi said "the president’s speech writers should not be dictating our headlines." Former Obama aide Ben Rhodes tweeted that "this consistent framing on Trump's terms / trying to cover him as a normal US President is hugely beneficial to him."

The second edition had an updated main headline -- "ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS" -- but it was also criticized right away. George Conway called it "strike two..."

A HuffPost article noted that some outraged Twitter users were threatening to cancel their subscriptions. Why? Because the NYT did exactly what I predicted in a commentary on Monday, report Trump’s false narrative to deny his accountability rather than report the facts.

The headline of the August 5 BuzzFlash commentary is, “Mainstream Media Should Not Let Trump Off the Hook for His Incitement of White Christian Nationalist Violence and Massacres, But It Will.” The HuffPost noted how derelict the NYT was in its large headline — "TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM — that spanned more than half of the top of the front page. The HuffPost countered, “While Trump on Monday denounced hate and white supremacy, he failed to acknowledge his own long history of hateful and racist rhetoric.”


I documented much of Trump’s vile, inciting, hateful and at times encouragement of violence — with a wink and a nod — in a Sunday BuzzFlash commentary, “Spare Us the Perfunctory Prayers, It Was Trump Who Weaponized the El Paso Mass Murderer and the One in Gilroy.” There is no room for debate here: Trump’s enabling white Christian nationalist behavior is almost a daily occurrence. For the NYT to amplify Trump’s counterfeit claim to seek unity and battle racism is gross journalist negligence.

Yes, some news outlets, such as the HuffPost, BuzzFlash, and a few of the cable station host and commentaters have called out Trump on his phony denial of his divisive and incendiary role in igniting “grievance” whites to fear non-whites, particularly his repeated alarmist charge of an “invasion” from Central America and Mexico. MSNBC’s Chis Hayes, for example, is one of the cable commentators who sees that the empire wears no clothes. According to MEDIAite, “Chris Hayes blasts ‘well of evil’ that fuels Trump’s ‘dark sorcery of racial hatred.’” On Monday night, Rachel Maddow and some of her colleagues called out Trump’s “well of evil” in segments such as, “Trump ignores elephant in the room: his own racist rhetoric.”Trump ignores elephant in the room: his own racist rhetoric.”

If you want to read the case for the factual assertion that Trump is racist and a Goebbel’s style propagandist who calls non-whites vermin, rats and rapists, read my Sunday commentary. His damning television appearances, his tweets and his policies are all on the record.

Other print publications were more subtle in amplifying Trump’s disingenuous messaging and not frontally reputing his easily refutable claim to be leading the nation toward unity and against racism. Even the progressive The Guardian headlined its story on Trump’s performance: “Trump blames 'glorification of violence' but not guns after mass shootings. President identifies video games, the internet and mental illness but makes no mention of new restrictions on firearms.”

Obviously gun control is an important issue in firearms deaths in the US, and arises like clockwork — without any progress because of the opposition of Trump, McConnell and most of the NRA-linked (campaign contributions) GOP. The Guardian’s framing of the shooting sprees leaves out Trump’s racist rhetoric as the most compelling issue to take away from the El Paso shooting and others that have preceded it by white Christian nationalists. The Guardian does offer some strong criticism of Trump in its article, but only coming from the mouths of Democrats. The paper didn’t call Trump to account for his role in the carnage, but rather accepted his binary framing of gun violence as an issue that must balance “mental illness” vs. gun control.

A column in the Daily Kos focused on how much of the media was overlooking the fact that the El Paso shooting was a hate crime directed at people Trump calls “invaders” and an “infestation”:

But the Los Angeles Times’ own Esmeralda Bermudez… listed a slew of other newspaper covers on which Latinos and their voices were largely erased. “Reading headlines across the U.S. today you wouldn't know that one of the deadliest hate crimes against Latinos happened 3 days ago,” the journalist tweeted. “You wouldn't see victims faces or get any hint of how Latinos feel.”

She points out that papers did breathlessly cover Trump’s scripted remarks, even though everyone knows he’ll be back to chuckling over shooting asylum-seekers in no time. Rather than the media continuing to waste airtime on noted liars who literally have nothing to contribute but Hatch Act violations, such as Kellyanne Conway, it should give that space to Latino leaders such as Rep. Veronica Escobar and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who have been among the voices pointing out Trump’s ties to white supremacist violence.

What much of the press is doing is what it has been doing during Trump’s administration and the campaign preceding it, normalizing dangerously toxic behavior. Trump understands how to manipulate the media, and that they are generally willing megaphones for whatever his message of the day is. He knows that most of the media will not factually contradict him, or if they do not for long.

News cycles, in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and cable news, grow increasingly shorter and ahistorical with each passing day. Moreover, as Trump has said on several occasions, much of the corporate media is appreciative of how Trump pumps up the audience for news, bringing in more profits from ads.

In February of 2018, I wrote a commentary entitled, “Trump Knows the Corporate Media Literally Profits From His Presidency as a Chaotic Spectacle and Daily Shock. They Hang on His Every Tweet and Interview Inanity.” This passivity of the press, which has a sadomasochistic relationship with being repeatedly called “fake news,” is threatening our safety and democracy. Journalism needs to return to applying the facts to what it reports.

Otherwise, Trump will continue to reign supreme by employing the big lie that so many journalists — particularly most White House reporters —write up as if it they were taking stenography, not ferreting out the truth.