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Why the media hypes ‘Daffy’ Donald Trump

| Friday, September 16, 2016

Conspiracy theorists like my sister — a Notre Dame graduate like me, an American Studies major like me and a Lyons Hall resident like me — fervently articulate, unlike me, a distrust of large media conglomerate broadcasting. Her premise is that today’s for-profit media companies mandate news coverage in such a way that they chase the almighty bottom-line dollar rather than the truth. In her view, gone are the days of unbiased, well-researched reporting services that once existed during the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon presidential campaign. While her premise may be technically true that news groups are not as thorough as days past, I ascribe the change to a journalistic role-play mindset.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is this campaign’s political carnival barker. His salesmanship style is an over-the-top rhetorical buffet of “believe me” peppered with Hillary Clinton is the “worst,” the “weakest,” a “total disaster” or “clueless.” How do journalists — or perhaps, more accurately, do they ever? — challenge his campaign narratives in such a forceful way in order to report the actual truth? Will reporters ever successfully persist when campaigns sidestep and do not address their questions?

My sister contends that corporate control conspires with journalists to favor the candidate who will support corporate interests. I, on the other hand, subscribe to the theory that journalists who cover the presidential election trail travel on a political monopoly board that in all quarters attempts to tear down the frontrunner and build up the underdog. To me, more outlandish, brazen candidates like Trump cause more drama that can assure the advertising support for the mother companies that in turn feeds their news outlets. However, I do not believe that most journalists conspire to slant their coverage to protect corporate interests, but rather perpetuate their merry-go-round in an effort to tear down the frontrunner while building up the underdog. They simply recycle their efforts of tearing down the new frontrunner and building up the next underdog until the electoral clock expires.

Aside from the quite obvious right-leaning Fox News content, my sister contends that all reporters fall prey to our current 24/7 news cycle society. As a consequence, journalists will not challenge a candidate’s truthfulness, but additionally tilt their reporting to protect their own paychecks. She notes that after the Commission on Presidential Debates chose Chris Wallace, who hosts Fox News Sunday, to moderate a presidential debate, Wallace spoke about the difficulties to “ask smart questions” and “engage the two [candidates] in conversation.” In response to how Wallace planned to manage falsehoods or unfounded accusations, Wallace said, “That’s not my job. I do not believe that it’s my job to be a truth squad. It’s up to the other person to catch them on that.”

Yet a mere four years ago, during the second debate between the GOP’s Mitt Romney and President Obama, CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley — a blood relative cousin of former President George W. Bush — corrected Romney’s criticism of Obama in the wake of the attacks in Benghazi. While the Romney campaign howled that Crowley had chosen sides, Crowley, in fact, corrected the record that Obama had characterized the Benghazi attack as terror both on September 12 in the Rose Garden and on September 13 in Las Vegas. It was known as the “Please proceed, Governor” debate moment:

ROMNEY: I — I think interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack, he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
OBAMA: That’s what I said.
ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did, in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror …
OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

Recently during the Commander In Chiefs Forum at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, NBC’s morning host Matt Lauer found that his relaxed “Today” show approach to moderating failed when he seemed not only ill prepared but not optically neutral. Lauer never had the strength to challenge Trump’s “I was totally against the war in Iraq” statement by citing a Howard Stern interview that Hillary Clinton earlier that evening had quoted of Trump in 2002. Lauer blew about a third of Clinton’s time on her private email server, then rushed her when she was laying out her plan to defeat the Islamic State by saying, “As briefly as you can.”

Earlier this month, CNN’s Dana Bash intimated the media’s double standard in coverage of Trump and Clinton. She noted that the stakes in the upcoming debate are higher for Clinton “because she’s a seasoned politician … a seasoned debater” while “Trump is a first-time politician … Maybe it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. The onus is on her.”

Perhaps Bash had just passed GO, collected her $200 and blindly sought Free Parking ahead.

 

 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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