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“He Has A History”: As Journalists, Let Us Not Tiptoe Around Trump, The Nominee

Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president, and now journalists must decide how to cover him.

How do we reconcile the carnival act he’s been with the seriousness of what is now at stake?

Do we cast him as a man equal to the gravitas of the position he seeks instead of the guy, for example, who proudly harangued President Barack Obama for proof that he was born in Hawaii?

Do we cover him as the contender with a suddenly measured tone without also reminding voters of his long habit of misogynist commentary? For another example, commentary such as this about Rosie O’Donnell: “I’d look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’” Or this, about Megyn Kelly after she dared remind him during the first Republican debate that he has called women he doesn’t like “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals”: Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever.”

“Women,” Trump has said, “you have to treat them like sh-t.”

Yes, I’ve written about this before. And yes, I will continue to write about it. How can we possibly pretend Trump never said stuff like this — that it doesn’t really matter — and expect any thinking American to take us seriously?

I’m going to watch this coverage with the fierce focus of a hound on the hunt, and I am confident that I will not be the only columnist or the only woman to do so. As I’ve written a number of times in recent months, this is not the misogyny of the 2008 campaign, but only because so many of us women are older now and we are so done with this.

This morning, by the way, I listened as several male panelists on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” talked about how Hillary Clinton is so unlikable compared with garrulous Trump. I heard this on satellite radio as I drove to work. I don’t recommend doing that if you want to have any faith in Beltway punditry or if you have an interest in driving within the lines. To quote my friend Joanna Kuebler, it’s as if they start their day with a heaping bowl of testosteroni.

It is one thing to cover Trump as the Republican nominee. It is quite another to pretend that he isn’t the same man who has repeatedly used the language of misogyny — and racism and xenophobia, too. He refused to rebuke an endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke. He told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that women should “face some sort of punishment” for getting legal abortions. He said Muslims should be banned from entering our country. He has a history, this man, this billionaire reality TV star, and it must follow him every day of this presidential race.

As I pointed out in a public post on Facebook earlier this week, I understand the challenges of reporting about Trump, one of which is to avoid appearing as if we’re punishing him for hating us. He openly disdains the media and enjoys inciting crowds to mock journalists at his rallies. We tread a fine line in describing his behavior without looking as if we are taking it personally.

Add to that problem some editors who can be too quick to temper their reporters’ coverage to avoid another avalanche of outrage from Trump fans. This tentativeness chips away at the sharp edges of journalism while accomplishing nothing in the way of placating our critics. A person who loves Trump has no use for us anyway. Why are we worried about defending the truth to people who’ve decided they’re so over that?

I ask that we journalists not tiptoe around the obvious hallmarks of who Donald Trump is. He may attempt to dial back the rhetoric, but that doesn’t change who we know him to be.

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and Professional in Residence at Kent State University’s School of Journalism; The National Memo, May 5, 2016

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Journalism, Journalists, Reporters | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Here’s How The Media Should Fight Trump (It’s Easy!)”: Ask Him Questions Presidents Need To Know How To Answer

This week we’ve seen a flurry of media activity that, up until the start of this election, wouldn’t have been noteworthy at all. Three days in a row, the likely Republican presidential nominee was… challenged by a journalist.

Yep, that’s it. Welcome to 2016.

On Monday, #NeverTrump-er and conservative Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes held Trump’s feet to the fire on his bullying and complete lack of policy knowledge.

On Tuesday, Anderson Cooper challenged Donald Trump to defend the hallmark of his campaign, acting like a semi-matured toddler on Twitter, and then didn’t let up when Trump tried to dodge it.

On Wednesday, Chris Matthews wouldn’t let Trump snake out of a question about punishing women for having abortions, even though it was clear mid-interrogation that Trump didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.

Good. These aren’t “gotcha” questions. They’re questions. Anyone who wants to lead the free world should have to answer them.

I’m not asking for much. All I want is for the national media, rather than asking Donald Trump about the controversies he purposefully creates to divert their attention, to ask him about him. Ask him questions he hasn’t heard before. Ask him policy questions to which you know he doesn’t know the answer, but that you would expect any other presidential candidate to answer easily.

It’s no secret why this hasn’t happened: Donald Trump is a money machine for media outlets. Personalities like the Morning Joe bunch don’t want to lose access to Trump’s campaign, so they let him call in to their show, or lob him softball questions at a specially-programmed town hall.

Or they simply let him have the floor, like when Fox and Friends asked, “Were you right?” in response to the Brussels bombings. Trump had previously called Brussels a “disaster.”

Donald Trump calls everything a disaster.

If there’s a single quote that explains this entire election cycle, it’s from CBS Chairman Les Moonves, about all of the free media his company gave Donald Trump:

“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

The news networks can hide behind a false sense of neutrality — Look at how many millions of his supporters agree with building an impossible wall— but to do so ignores their responsibility to report for the sake of the public good, instead of just for the… public.

When you really listen to them, it’s crystal clear: If Trump goes down, so does our bottom line.

Enough is enough. The overlap between “Questions presidents need to know how to answer” and “Questions we haven’t asked Donald Trump” is incredibly large, and perhaps larger for Trump than any major candidate in recent history. We need to ask them — and demand a straight answer.

Better to ask those questions now than find out how Trump answers them with his finger on the gold-plated nuclear button. It’s a beautiful button, really. The best.

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, March 31, 2016

April 1, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Press, Donald Trump, Media | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The Worst Possible Version Of Himself”: Yeah, MSNBC, Mark Halperin Will Solve All Your Problems

What do the thought leaders in the liberal blogosphere think about Mark Halperin? Well, Markos Moulitsas says he’s “a useless piece of shit who is always wrong about everything,” “has no political acumen,” and has been “engaged in a long-running jihad against the truth.” Duncan Black says that Halperin “sucks ass” and is “proud of the fact that Matt Drudge rules his world.” Gawker’s new boss, Alex Pareene says Halperin is “the world’s laziest dispenser of conventional wisdom” and “the worst hack in America.” Also he’s so bad at what he does that “the most offensive thing about the existence of Mark Halperin is that he’s the worst possible version of himself.” Esquire‘s Charles Pierce says Halperin is one of “the worst two things that have happened to American political journalism in the past 30 years” because “he long ago invented the kind of Beltway insidery railbird bullshit that passes today for analysis.” Heather Digby Parton says that Halperin is “the quintessential Villager, a man who exhales conventional wisdom the way the rest of us exhale carbon dioxide.” Ed Kilgore is especially brutal on this subject:

Mark Halperin is one of the most famous, and certainly one of the most richly remunerated, journalists in Christendom—yet is capable of writing graph after graph and page after page of palpable nonsense, expressing not only an indifference to but an active defiance of any objective evidence that transcends the “insider” information he purveys…

…He writes what Villagers want to read, and is rewarded with unequaled access to their most avaricious thoughts and intentions. And because they do matter in politics, albeit not as much as they would wish, there is a sort of “journalism” going on, but not of the sort that should be taken seriously…

I bring this up because MSNBC wants to do something very silly.

The talks, first reported by New York Magazine, center around rebroadcasting Bloomberg’s 5 p.m. show “With All Due Respect” at 6 p.m. on MSNBC, sources at both networks who are familiar with the discussions said.

“With All Due Respect” is hosted by “Game Change” co-authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, who are regular guests on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

For many at NBC, the idea of rebroadcasting a competitor’s show feels desperate. “Talk about out of ideas,” one on-air talent at MSNBC said. “We’re going to run a rerun of another rival network’s show? As a programming decision that is completely insane.”

That last quote there is pretty easy to put in Rachel Maddow’s mouth, don’t you think?

In any case, who’s the audience for MSNBC’s political programming? Who are their fans? Who do those fans read on the internet? Who do they respect?

And even if much of the MSNBC audience has never heard of weird names like Atrios, BooMan, digby, and kos, they’re still cut from the same kind of cloth. They do not want to listen to Mark Halperin for ten minutes, let alone a full hour. If they don’t already, they will hate Halperin with the white hot heat of a thousand suns.

Maybe the management should ask the greatest blogger of all time, The Rachel Maddow Show producer Steve Benen, what he thinks about airing Mark Halperin Bloomberg reruns at 6 p.m.

Here’s what Benen had to say about Halperin back in August 2008:

It’s difficult to identify with any real certainty the single worst political analysis of the presidential campaign, but if you missed ABC News’ “This Week” yesterday, you missed Time‘s Mark Halperin offering analysis that was so bizarre, it was tempting to think it was intended as satire. Only in this case, Halperin was serious.

So, if this is what MSNBC Chairman Andrew Lack wants to do, he should resign before he humiliates himself and pisses off all the actual talent he’s already assembled.

It’s also unclear that either side would get a significant ratings boost from the deal. MSNBC’s 5 p.m. show, “MTP Daily,” hosted by Chuck Todd, has floundered in the ratings. The show has averaged 499,000 viewers since it launched, and just 65,000 of those viewers are in the coveted 25-to-54 year-old demographic.

But sources at NBC say Lack may be less concerned with ratings than with relevance. Halperin and Heilemann are big names in New York and Washington, and their addition could buy MSNBC a greater stake in the political discussion during the 2016 campaign. To that end, sources said, he may be willing to overlook the hurdles.

Trying to be more relevant by running reruns of Mark Halperin that first aired on a rival network that no one watches?

Good luck with that.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor for the Washington Monthly, November 20, 2015

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Journalism, Mark Halperin, MSNBC | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Non-Journalistic Instincts”: Joe Scarborough, Mike Allen Form Journalistic Axis of Evil

One of the more fascinating sidelights of the crisis in Ferguson is the way it has revealed the complacent, obedient, and fundamentally non-journalistic instincts of certain leading centrist establishmentarian journalists. The precipitating event was the arrest of Wesley Lowery, a young Washington Post reporter who was illegally ordered to leave a McDonalds near the demonstrations and, correctly, refused, leading to his arrest.

This angered Joe Scarborough. And by “angered,” we should be clear, we mean angered at the presumption of Lowery for refusing. The avuncular host of Morning Joe instructed him, “Next time a police officer tells you that you’ve got to move along because you’ve got riots outside, well, you probably should move along.” (Because nothing says “journalism” like following orders from authorities, however questionable, self-interested, or illegal they may be.) Scarborough attributed Lowery’s refusal not to any commitment to continue doing his job but to his desire to “get on TV and have people talk about me the next day,” because the desire to get on television in any way possible is the only motivation that makes sense to Joe Scarborough.

Lowery replied sharply. Riding to Scarborough’s side today, forming a kind of journalistic Axis of Evil, is Mike Allen. In Allen’s world, which is defined by overlapping and possibly coterminous circles of sources, friends, and paid advertisers, the sort of effrontery displayed by Lowery first toward the police and then toward an esteemed television commentator was thoroughly intolerable. Sniffs Allen, in today’s Playbook:

YA CAN’T MAKE IT UP – Wesley Lowrey, 23-year-old Congress/politics reporter for the WashPost, responding on CNN to suggestions that he should have obeyed police amid a riot: “[L]et me be clear about this: I have LITTLE PATIENCE for talking heads.”

FYI, his name is spelled Lowery, and his age is 24. But if Lowery wants more favorable coverage from Allen, maybe he should think about sponsoring some ads in Playbook.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencier, New York Magazine, August 15, 2014

August 18, 2014 Posted by | Journalism, Journalists | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christie’s Creepy Misogyny”: Behold His Despicable “Blame Bridget” Strategy

Gov. Chris Christie’s million-dollar taxpayer-funded self-exoneration in the Bridgegate scandal certainly found a bad guy — and it’s a gal.

Randy Mastro’s report put the blame squarely on two fired staffers, David Wildstein and deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly. But its treatment of Kelly was mind-blowingly mean, describing her as “emotional,” “erratic” and as a liar; confirming Trenton gossip that she was “personally involved” with chief of staff Bill Stepien, and that Stepien apparently dumped her; alleging that she asked an aide to delete an incriminating email when the investigation began, thus implicating her not only in the plot’s execution but its coverup.

It even recommended that Christie abolish the department Kelly headed and fold it into another office. Mastro stopped just short of suggesting the state torch Kelly’s office and salt the earth it once stood on. That may be what Christie plans to announce at his press conference this afternoon.

Christie’s lawyers’ treatment of Kelly was so shoddy that Stepien, formerly the governor’s former right-hand man, was forced to release a statement denouncing the report’s “gratuitous reference” to his “brief” relationship with Kelly as “a regrettable distraction.”

Blaming the woman goes back to Eve, so it shouldn’t be particularly surprising. But I still find this story bizarre: Why is Christie so determined not only to blame his former allies, but to shame them? He himself called Kelly “stupid” in his two-hour pity-party last January, while he depicted Wildstein as a high-school loser to his student-athlete-president demigod. Now his lawyers have used Stepien to smear Kelly – and that’s pissed off not only Stepien but Kelly’s friends, who took to the New York Times to denounce the report’s heaping dose of sexism in its depiction of Christie’s once fiercely loyal aide.

Mastro’s report maligns Kelly’s competence from the beginning, noting that she was promoted to Stepien’s old job “though she lacked Stepien’s expertise and background.” It even resorts to inaccuracies to heap blame on Kelly, the New York Times reports, accusing her of canceling meetings with Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop after he declined to endorse Christie, when documents show others in the administration canceled the meetings.

Mastro’s report has done the seemingly impossible: It cost Christie the affection of the guys at “Morning Joe,” which has been Christie’s clubhouse throughout the scandal. As Taylor Marsh details (I missed it), Mark Halperin called the attacks on Kelly “sexist and gratuitous,” while Scarborough compared Mastro to “Baghdad Bob.” Of course, they’re still protecting Christie by blaming the sexism on Mastro, when it’s unthinkable that the million-dollar report would have dumped on Kelly without Christie’s say-so.

Knowing Christie’s M.O., if the Mastro report becomes a new liability for him, he’ll probably throw the former prosecutor under the bus with Kelly and Wildstein. But he won’t do it with the textbook misogyny he broke out for Kelly. Christie is delusionally headed to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of Sheldon Adelson at the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting this weekend, still believing he has a chance to run for president in 2016. Good luck courting the women’s vote, Gov. Christie! Bridgegate is turning into Bridgetgate, another story about Christie’s bullying sexism.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, March 28, 2014

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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