Biased news media reinforces Trump’s popularity
The mainstream news media’s bias is empowering President Donald Trump. So far, every one of their predictions has been wrong, from asserting he could never with the presidency to claims he would be impeached before completing his first year. What the news media is doing is helping Trump by taking the focus away from a balanced and fair discussion about the issues and putting it on a politicized emotional battle. If the media were to treat Trump fairly and separate the truth from their exaggerations, he might not fare as well as he has.
By Ray Hanania
The mainstream American news media is in an unprecedented war with President Donald Trump that is both vicious and journalistically unprofessional. But it is a war that the mainstream news media is losing and that President Trump is winning.
It’s not that the news media isn’t right about some of the issues. They are right. President Trump’s behavior has been erratic, in comparison to professional politicians.
Twitter has created a new environment that he has exploited to reach past the bias in the mainstream news media, and it is effective. The rapidness of Tweeting and the limitations on content has caused Trump problems, forcing him to summarize at the expense of specifics and create spelling errors. The mainstream news media has jumped all over both, expanding and spinning to their political favor his Tweets and they use the typos as a bludgeon to challenge his credibility.
Not being a politician, Trump tells you what he thinks before he puts it through the Kitchen Cabinet of spinmeisters who normally swarm and control elected officials on the national level. No experienced politician says what’s on their mind. They don’t react to events and issues from their gut. Instead, they mull the controversy and develop a response, with the help of media consultants, that enhances their image, often at the expense of truth, accuracy and the best interests of the American people.
But that’s the way the mainstream American news media wants it. That’s what they are used too. They enjoy the disruption that Trump’s election, as they do any political disruption in elections in the past, but they are also engaging in an overreach that grabs Trump’s literal responses, denies him the benefit of the doubt and exaggerates the worst aspects of the controversy to intentionally make him look bad or worse than he might appear.
In many cases, the mainstream American news media is also lying, twisting facts to make things appear worse than they are. They are showcasing Trump’s critics by giving them more airtime to attack Trump while minimizing Trump’s responses by selecting the worst responses and avoiding positive interpretation. The mainstream news media takes Trump at his worst at every opportunity and then grinds it out to the public in an environment that is hostile and driven by hatred.
News reporters are no longer reporting the news but instead are interpreting the news and wrapping their coverage with their opinions, using all of the techniques available to the news media, and managing how the issues are presented to make Trump look worse.
This evokes anger from Trump who takes it personally, justifiably so, and causes him to lash back at the bias in the news media in a personal way.
The news media’s bias is further augmented by the ani-Trump hatred from the “entertainment” media, including the Late Night taking heads like Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon. But it’s not really entertainment at all, just more politically driven hatred, some criticism justified, some not.
And that’s the problem for the people who hate Trump, though. They don’t realize that all they have done is refocus the world away from facts and issues and reality to a debate that they have manufactured driven by pure emotion. That kind of distraction is common in politics, but it has never been taken to these heights. Normally, politicians viciously attack their rivals in the hopes of brutalizing them and burying them in obscurity but oftentimes, all they end up doing is “legitimize” their rivals and give them credibility bolstering them and helping the rivals unseat the more powerful incumbents.
That was the case in Chicago in August 1979 when newly elected mayor Jane M. Byrne reacted more with emotion and anger against the threatened rivalry of Richard M. Daley, the son of the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. The truth was that at the time, Richie Daley was not that popular among voters. He was not well known. While he was personable, his public dialogue and speech was horrendous. Some of his supporters acknowledged he couldn’t speak well. And had Byrne left him alone, he would have drifted off into oblivion.
But Jane Byrne just couldn’t get past Daley’s name and the fear that as the former longtime mayor’s son, he posed a serious political threat to her. She believed she had to destroy him, fueled by her new rivals. Byrne and Daley had started out as allies, but that alliance quickly deteriorated when Byrne was convinced to suspect Daley’s motives by her original foes, the “Evil Cabal of Men” (aldermen Byrn campaigned had destroyed city services and were driving corruption). Although it was true Daley wanted to “manage” Byrne, he was a long way from becoming a serious political threat. She easily would have finished her first four-year term in office before Daley could have evolved into a serious candidate during her third term.
But Byrne continued to attack Daley and in doing so she shifted the public’s focus away from Daley’s faults to the bigger political and emotional battle. In a sense, Byrne helped make Daley into a much stronger candidate. Daley ran for Cook County State’s attorney in 1980 to create a political base to respond to Byrne’s massive political power as Chicago mayor and head of the new Democratic Machine.
Daley easily defeated Byrne’s candidate in the March 1980 Democratic Primary, and then went on to sweep the November 1980 General election as the Cook County State’s Attorney, unseating a longtime Republican incumbent, Bernard Carey, in the process, mainly because much of the public (not all) sympathized with Daley in the emotional and high profile political fight with Jane Byrne. Byrne had endorsed the Republican, Carey.
That election gave Daley the base from which he began to build his political campaign for mayor to challenge Byrne in the February 1983 Democratic primary election. As it turned out, both Byrne and Daley lost to Harold Washington, an African American who united the huge African American vote while Byrne and Daley divided the larger White and Hispanic vote.
The media scrutiny and attacks against Jane Byrne were often vicious and unfair. I was a City Hall reporter and I know that oftentimes Byrne would feed the animosity with the media by refusing to speak with reporters she didn’t like. But while that hurt her image, it did more to help Daley rise from political illiteracy to become a formidable force. After Washington died of a heart attack, Daley went on to defeat his acting successor Eugene Sawyer to become mayor and to hold on to that office longer than his father, 22 years.
Byrne’s achievements and Daley’s failings were never acknowledged as a result.
In a sense, that is what’s happening in the battle between the mainstream news media and President Trump. Voters are not able to really scrutinize Trump’s performance fairly or objectively. The people who hate him believe all the negative coverage while the people who love him ignore the negative coverage. In fact, the negative media coverage empowers Trump’s base even more.
Every prediction by the anti-Trump media has proven to be false. They predicted he would never win the Republican primary, and they were wrong. They were wrong when they predicted almost across the board that he would never win the presidency. They were wrong when they predicted he would be impeached before completing his first year in office. They were wrong when they predicted he would be indicted for collusions with the Russians.
So far, the focus has been on hating Trump, rather than on dissecting the issues in a way the public can accurately weigh and assess the facts of those issues.
A good example fueling Trump’s support is the recent battle involving CNN Commentator Don Lemon and basketball star LeBron James. James appeared on the TV show to promote his program to help needy children int he inner-city. During the interview, Lemon led James into politics asking him provocatively anti-Trump questions. James criticized Trump, called him a “bum” and said that Trump is using sports to divide the public. He said he would never meet with Trump.
In seeing the interview, Trump was provoked to react and he did on Twitter attacking Lemon and James.
What was the media response? The mainstream news media focused mainly on Trump’s attacks against Lemon and James, minimizing the importance of the fact that the attacks were initiated by Lemon and James. They put the burden and the criticism of the fight on Trump, never holding Lemon of James accountable for their own vicious comments.
Worse is that Lemon, whose popularity ratings on CNN were low, has fueled the fight by attacking Trump even more, with the media presenting Lemon’s personal attacks as being a justified response rather than a continuation of Lemon’s intentional provocations. Lemon even asserted that Trump’s criticism of him was “racist” and typical of a culture of racism the media asserts surrounds Trump’s supporters.
All the Don Lemon/LeBron James assault did was to reinforce Trump’s popularity among his supporters and add another notch to the noticeably obvious mainstream news media bias.
There are so many instances of where the news media has manipulated the sequence of events to place the blame on Trump, and to even distort facts. For example, weeks before, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell falsely stated on his news show that Trump, as “a sitting president,” had paid hush money to silence a woman who alleges today she had an affair with him while he was a candidate in early 2016. Trump wasn’t the president, but it led to a discussion about how Nixon used hush money to try and cover-up the Watergate burglary.
If the news media wants to undermine Trump, they need to step back and stop attacking the president. They need to treat him as fairly as they treated their preferred candidate Hillary Clinton. They need to acknowledge his successes and strengths and in that acknowledgment place their criticism. But if all they do is attack Trump, all they will accomplish is enshrine Trump among his supporters who are far greater in numbers than the biased mainstream news media will admit or the anti-Trump activists will acknowledge.
The Trump haters are only ensuring that the same false perceptions that led them to believe Clinton would win the November 2016 General election will strengthen his re-election bid. The issue won’t be whether Trump should be re-elected. Instead, it will be who is really better to be his rival. And so far, none of the Democrats really fill those shoes.
Trump’s base is far larger than the news media is prepared to acknowledge.
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Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
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His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.
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