Thinking about this since posting Part I yesterday, I have realized that the denial of toxic mainstream media bias, and particularly the media’s efforts to bring down President Trump, is the ultimate Jumbo-–“Elephant? What elephant?” on a grand and unforgivable scale. Want some more elephants? There were oh-so-many of them in 2018, like…
The unethical methods used by the anti-Trump mainstream news media to ensure public fear and hostility and to minimize support for the President are familiar by now. They include…
- Framing facts and events, whenever possible, in ongoing anti-Trump narratives rather than just reporting them.
- Outright fake news, including misleading headlines, negative spin that distorts understanding, innuendo without evidence, and giving prominence to minor or insignificant stories to imply that they are significant.
- Using unethical leaks and hearsay without verification to embarrass or impugn the President.
- Deliberately under-reporting positive developments.
- Hyping developments by speculating on worst case scenarios for the President.
- Publishing “future news,” suggesting dire events that might happen.
- Applying hyper-critical standards to all Presidential words and actions, and actively seeking “gotcha!” fodder.
- Applying news standards for Trump that have never been applied to past Presidents.
It isn’t necessary to review the whole ugly year of unethical journalism. The steady state of hostility was spectacularly demonstrated over Christmas when CNN and many other news sources reported that President Trump had broken a tradition among recent Presidents by not visiting the troops. Indeed, this embarrassing fiasco could stand as the ugly monument to what our journalism has become. Wrote NBC:
On Christmas Day, President Donald Trump took part in a long-running practice of presidents who called troops stationed around the country and the world.But he broke from a recent tradition of actually visiting troops and wounded warriors….By staying home on Tuesday, Trump became the first president since 2002 who didn’t visit military personnel around Christmastime.
This was the epitome of fake news, because the President and First Lady were deplaning in Iraq as the false story was published. Only the eagerness of the news media for a negative “gotcha!” can explain such shoddy and nasty journalism. Nobody checked with the White House. The Trump-hating journalists couldn’t wait until after Christmas to report on what the President didn’t do on Christmas, which is as incompetent as it is unethical. Incredibly, some sources have still not removed the original false story.
Once that mode of attack failed, the news media seamlessly and apparently without any self-awareness slipped into attacking the President for making the visit and manufacturing outrage over how the visit was handled.
Both CBS and NBC framed the troop visit in negative terms. CBS Evening News fill-in anchor and NFL Today host James Brown announced, “But we begin with a historic trip today for President Trump. His first-ever to a combat zone. The President and First Lady paid a surprise visit today to U.S. troops in Iraq. The Commander-in-Chief had been criticized for not visiting a war zone sooner.”
Let me state right now that I think it is certifiably nuts to send Presidents into war zones, ever. Nobody criticized FDR, Truman, or the multiple Presidents who presided over Vietnam for not visiting the troops to boost their morale. That was Bob Hope’s job. Send Bill Maher.
Then CBS chief White House correspondent Chip Reid found a way to compare Trump’s visit unfavorably to President Obama’s time in office, saying, “It’s the first time the President has traveled overseas to visit U.S. troops in a war zone. Critics say it took far too long, especially compared to President Obama, who visited troops in Iraq in his first three months in office.”
Note the standard “critics say” trope in both instances, which is pure deceit. You’re the critics whose saying it, you hacks.
Next CNN decided, having been among the first to attack the President for not visiting the troops, to bash the President for going! Don Lemon, who no longer even makes a pretense of objectivity, said that he and his family “turned on CNN and we saw the President politicizing a Christmas message, it was like– we kept saying, ‘he’s like the Grinch.’ I’m being honest.”
Every Presidential troop visit is political, of course. It isn’t necessary, it is costly and dangerous, and it is political theater. Only in Trump’s case, however, is this considered a legitimate target of criticism.
Then Lemon attacked the President’s words and demeanor during the visit:
Instead of being positive with the troops, saying, “this is about the troops, it’s not about me. I’m here to thank you for your service,” whatever, even if reporters ask him questions. “This is not about me. This is about the troops, they serve out country well.” Maybe he should have said, “it’s unfortunate that some of them are not getting paid and I wish they were. We’ll come to an agreement and make sure everyone gets paid, the 42,000 members of the Coast Guard who are not getting paid. So, you know, let’s be positive about Christmas.” The same thing during Christmas– It was so negative and so — you want positivity when it comes to Christmas. It is perplexing. Why would he visit the troops and do that?
Meanwhile, here was the Washington Post opening paragraphs in its story about the visit:
President Trump touched down Wednesday in Iraq in his first visit to a conflict zone as commander in chief, a week after announcing a victory over the Islamic State that his own Pentagon and State Department days earlier said remained incomplete.The president’s visit to Al Asad Air Base west of Baghdad, which was shrouded in secrecy, follows months of public pressure for him to spend time with troops deployed to conflicts in the Middle East and punctuates the biggest week of turmoil the Pentagon has faced during his presidency.
The Wall Street Journal, among others, flagged this as the partisan bile it was, writing in an editorial,
“[C]an anyone reading those opening two sentences wonder why millions of Americans believe Donald Trump when he tells them that he can’t get a fair shake from the press? These reporters can’t even begin a news account of a presidential visit to a military base without working in a compilation of Mr. Trump’s controversies, contradictions, and failings…such gratuitously negative reporting undermines the credibility of the press without Mr. Trump having to say a word.”
Oh, sure they can. “Elephant? What elephant?” If Facebook would allow me to post this essay—but pointing out the “Get Trump!” lynch mob the news media has turned into violates Facebook “community standards,” so I can’t—I guarantee that a large group of my damaged Facebook friends would deny that there is any mainstream media bias at all.
Caught in journalism malpractice, the Post stealth-edited the story to tone down the bias, as if a single story was the extent of its two year war on the President. Now it begins,
President Trump greeted U.S. troops on an unannounced trip Wednesday to Iraq, where he defended his decision to withdraw forces from neighboring Syria and declared that the Islamic State is “very nearly defeated” while making his first visit to a conflict zone as commander-in-chief. The president used his visit to al-Asad Air Base to amplify his call to draw down the U.S. presence in foreign wars and assert his personal influence over the military at a moment of tremendous turmoil at the Pentagon.
But the news media quickly found other ways to be negative. Melania, it seems, wore the wrong kind of boots. CNN mocked her for wearing sunglasses. (If anyone can find a single example of Michelle Obama ever being criticized for a fashion choice, let me know. I can’t recall any.) On “New Day,” Brian Karen said,
“This entire trip we should look at, from our perspective, when we cover this man, is it’s just another flash-over-substance type of thing . . . Everything with this President is staged events . . . It seems very disingenuous . . . It seems to contrived and so disingenuous . . . He should have made it earlier. He only made it because Mattis quit and he had a lot of pressure saying he hadn’t gone anywhere . . . If you put it in the larger context of what’s going on, it does seem disingenuous.”
CNN also found something sinister about the President handing autographing MAGA hats at the request of some of the troops, and attempted to frame it as some kind of scandal.
During Wednesday’s edition of “The Situation Room,” fill-in host and chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta asked CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr to comment on the President’s turning the trip into a “campaign stop.”
(Pssst! CNN! The election isn’t for another two years!)
“Is that unusual, to see the President doing that on base? Does this run the risk of the President, you know, facing some accusations that he’s turning some of this into a campaign stop? What do you think?” Acosta asked. Typically not checking his facts, Acosta assumed that the President brought the hats. He did not.
Starr, of course, didn’t have the guts to say, “See, this is why you got banned from press conferences, Jim!” She dutifully replied,
“We will have to see if that actually proves to be the case. The question is, if they brought them or if the President brought them; what commander allowed that to really happen…Because this is very much against military policy and regulation. Troops are not supposed to be involved in political activities. The U.S. military is not a political force. And there’s no question, the saying “Trump 2020” and “Make America Great Again,” those are political slogans of a Trump campaign they are not governmental sayings, to say the least.”
Showing support for the Commander-in-Chief is not a political act, except among the news media who believe that the patriotic and responsible position is to hate his guts. What other President would be criticized for signing autographs for combat troops?
The New York Times, however, took the prize. Taking its cue from various Hollywood Resistance Troops on social media who attacked the visit because Trump was a “draft dodger” during Vietnam, the Times put a story on the front page that represented a new low. “A Foot Doctor’s ‘Favor’ May Have Helped Trump Avoid Vietnam” was the print headline. Online, it was “Did a Queens Podiatrist Help Donald Trump Avoid Vietnam?”
Whether the story was gossip, hearsay, or rumor, whatever it was, it shouldn’t have been reported as news anywhere, much less the front page of America’s “newspaper of record.” The gist of it is that the daughters of the man who diagnosed young Donald Trump with bone spurs in his feet now speculate that he may have done so as a favor to Trump’s father. That’s it. The doctor himself is dead. There is no documentation. One of the daughters, both of whom admit to being Democrats and opposed to the President, even says, “But did he examine him? I don’t know.” That’s enough, apparently, for the Times to make an unprovable accusation that the President’s draft deferment was fraudulent, though deep in the article there is mention that IF the doctor falsely stated that Trump had the bone spurs, there is no evidence that Trump himself didn’t believe the diagnosis.
Over at Fox News, former Washington Post and CNN ethics watchdog Howard Kurtz said,
“I’m not saying they are making it up. I am saying that they don’t know, they acknowledge that they don’t know. You know, they are used to be at least journalistic standards — I’ve been an investigative reporter for years. There are times when you smell a story. You think it’s true, you just know in your heart that’s its true, but you can’t quite prove it. You have to wait until you have the piece of paper, the document, the first-hand evidence. All of that is missing from this New York Times story — which says maybe the paper wanted it to be true, but it simply hasn’t proven it.”
The paper wanted it to be true, and especially wants the public to believe it’s true, especially the naive and gullible members of the public who don’t believe the New York Times would ever put such a story on the front page if it wasn’t true. That is because the Times’ objective, along with most of their industry, is to destroy an elected President by any means possible, and if this permanently damages the nation, its institutions and the public’s trust in democracy, so be it.