“Trump just launched his 2020 re-election campaign with, essentially, the same speech he used at Trump Tower in 2015, when he first ranted about Mexican rapists and murderers. And the media paid for it.”
By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams (1/9/19)
After President Donald Trump exploited the enormous free platform he was needlessly granted by America’s major television networks Tuesday night to deliver an immigration address replete with the same disinformation and dehumanizing rhetoriche has deployed since stepping foot on the campaign trail, critics denounced the corporate media’s continued role in amplifying Trump’s speeches despite knowing they will be full of harmful lies.
“Trump just launched his 2020 re-election campaign with, essentially, the same speech he used at Trump Tower in 2015, when he first ranted about Mexican rapists and murderers. And the media paid for it,” wrote progressive radio host Thom Hartmann, capping off his tweet with the hashtag #Suckers.
As some critics accused the corporate networks of getting “played” by Trump into airing the primetime speech—particularly after they refused to carry a 2014 immigration address by former President Barack Obama—Vox‘s Matt Yglesias argued that media executives are not being duped at all.
Rather, Yglesias wrote on Twitter, they are acting in a way that advances their material self-interest by pursuing whatever is best for ratings.
“The view that rich powerful media executives continually get ‘played’ like this seems to me to be a seriously weak analysis of the situation. They derive concrete material benefits from Republican Party election wins,” Yglesias noted.
As many were quick to point out, Trump used his primetime address to fundraise for his 2020 reelection campaign, firing off at least two emails soliciting donations to his so-called “Official Secure the Border Fund.”
“This was a campaign event disguised as a presidential message and the networks all fell for it,” noted Andrew Lawrence, a senior researcher with Media Matters for America.
The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent—who predicted with “near-certainty” that Trump would use his speech to spew hateful lies—condemned America’s major television networks for carrying the president’s “absurd display of destructive disinformation and demagoguery.”
“You knew this was coming,” Sargent wrote, “but acquiesced because Trump spent two years trying to destroy your profession’s institutional role, perversely rewarding him for this.”
While Trump’s announcement that he would deliver a primetime Oval Office speech stirred much fervent speculation—right-wingers hoped the president would declare a “national emergency” to build the border wall—the president didn’t reveal any news in his scripted remarks, nor did he present a path forward to ending the ongoing government shutdown.
Rather, as Indivisible’s Ezra Levin noted, Trump’s speech was predictably full of “racist pablum,” raising once again the question of why networks would feel compelled to broadcast the address in the homes of millions of Americans and on massive television screens in Times Square.
“Networks turned over their airwaves for a stream of lies,” declared Judd Legum, author of the Popular Information Newsletter.
While some expressed hope that, at the very least, media outlets would adequately fact-check the president’s falsehoods, the Associated Press and the New York Timesquickly dashed these hopes by engaging in “embarrassing” both-sides analysis that downplayed Trump’s lies and central role in causing the ongoing government shutdown, which has reached its third week with no end in sight. …
“Disinformation campaigns repeat falsehoods long after they have been debunked, even by friendly outlets like Fox News. Fact-checking is powerless in the face of shameless demagoguery. The networks’ decision to air Trump’s remarks on Tuesday with a few tart chyrons or on-air fact-checks is just not enough to offset the damage. Trump is unworthy of the airtime.”
–George Zornick, “Networks That Air Trump’s Address Are Endangering Immigrants—and the Country”, The Nation (1/8/19).
The Networks Blew The Call On Trump’s Oval Office Speech
It’s been nearly four years since Trump came onto the national-candidate scene. In that time, the “normal” media outlets have shown their near-helplessness against three of Trump’s most important weapons and tools.
[Editor’s Note: this was published shortly before Trump’s Tuesday media event. James Fallows raises essential points about the Trump capture of the television networks. — Mark L. Taylor]
By James Fallows
The Atlantic (1/8/19)
On Tuesday night, Donald Trump is planning to give an address on immigration, the southern border, and the government shutdown that has arisen from his insistence that any budget measure must include money for “the wall.”
When plans for the speech were announced on Monday evening, I opined on Twitter that it would be better for the major broadcasts not to carry the speech. There would have been crystal-clear precedent for their turning him down: In 2014, when Barack Obama gave a speech on his immigration-policy plans, neither CBS nor NBC nor ABC aired it live, on the argument that circumstances made the message “too political.” A closer parallel would be hard to find.
The definition of news is that it attempts to explain things that matter, things that a democratic society needs to know about in order to make sane decisions.
There was also a clearly unprecedented reason not to carry the speech: namely, that nearly everything Trump says on this topic is intentionally inflammatory and either carelessly or deliberately untrue. Politics always involves spin and selective emphasis, but the networks would know for sure ahead of time that they were using their resources to advance untruths.
But the networks said yes, they’ll presumably air the speech, and the question now is what else they can do to cope with the reality of an office holder who doesn’t care that he lies.
Below I make the case that the networks and other news organizations must themselves break precedent, to keep up with what Trump is trying to do. Knowing that Trump is going to attack the truth this evening, they must take active measures to defend it. They have this day to prepare. A commitment to real-time, onscreen fact-checking is at this point the most feasible goal for a speech mere hours away. In the longer run, all major media need to think about how to deal with the endless skein of choices like this they’ll face in the next two years. …
The Daily / New York Times (1/9/19)
Millions of Americans watched on Tuesday night as President Trump made his case for a wall on the southern border, and as Democratic leaders dismissed his talk of crisis.
On today’s episode:
Michael M. Grynbaum, who covers the media for The New York Times.
Mark Landler, a White House correspondent for The Times.