The Media, Still Throwing a Fit Over Trump

The Media, Still Throwing a Fit Over Trump
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The news media, in the aftermath of their self-perceived failure to prevent a Donald Trump presidential victory, are throwing a temper tantrum.

 Thwarted in their collective effort to coronate Hillary Clinton, they have resorted to holding their breath, stamping their feet and screaming shrilly, all in an apparent to assure that the guy who beat them is a miserable flop.

To be sure, the mainstream media see the win by Trump as a defeat for them. They had their thumbs on the scale for Clinton all the way. It didn’t work, and they are out for revenge. All you need for evidence is to look at the largely critical and negative news coverage of and commentary on Trump since his unexpected election some three weeks ago. It reeks of disdain.

 From trashing most of Trump’s Cabinet selections to bashing his demand for an apology from the Broadway cast of “Hamilton” for their “rude” treatment of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the media are out to demonstrate Trump can’t do anything right.

The Washington Post, arguably the news organization most outraged by Trump’s victory, can hardly hide its alarm. Just two days after the election, under a snarky headline that read, “Yeah, That Did Just Happen,” were four side-by-side opinion columns, each with a negative angle on Trump:

  • “Stop saying ‘This isn’t my America.’ Sorry, but it is.”
  • “Breaking the news to kids who expected a shattered glass ceiling.”
  • “The ringmaster didn’t execute one key trick: Looking presidential.”
  • “In the angry face of Trumpism, media must speak truth to glower.”

 The Post is not alone in its anger. The New York Times is wringing its hands, too. Such headlines as “Focus on Generals for Top Jobs Stirs Worries on Military Sway” and “Newly Vibrant Washington Fears Trump’s Effect on Culture” are typical of its collective dismay.

 The first cover of The New Yorker magazine after the election featured a red brick wall. A glance at Politico’s website this past weekend featured headlines such as “Trump’s education secretary pick supported anti-gay causes” and “Trump’s team of rivals: Fighting spills into public.”

 From ABC News last Sunday: “Cruz Doesn’t Disown Prior Claim That Trump Lies”  and “Nine Questions Democrats Want Answered About Trump’s Transition Team.” And from the November 14 front page of USA Today: “Sanders says people are ‘very frightened of Trump.” Moreover, although Trump still hasn’t taken office yet, USA Today assured readers on November 18 that it is already “Keeping track of Trump’s promises.”

 Whatever happened to the so-called “honeymoon” new presidents usually get with the media? In the interest of a little balance, where are the feel-good stories Americans usually get about their new first family? Even most of those have a negative tint.

 Melania Trump’s decision to stay in New York City until her son finishes the school year was met with derision. Her fashion sense has been compared unfavorably to that of Michelle Obama. Her post-election appearance on “60 Minutes” with her husband was panned.

 American Music Awards host Gigi Hadid on November 20 did a tasteless impersonation of Melania on national TV: "I love my husband, President Barack Obama and our children, Sasha and Malia,” Hadid purred, lampooning Melania’s Slovenian accent (and her appropriation of lines from a Michelle Obama speech).

 One day after the election, there was reason to believe the errant news media had finally come to their senses. In a New York Times apologia under the headline “A ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ Lesson for the Digital Age,” media columnist Jim Rutenberg wrote, “The misfire on Tuesday night was about a lot more than a failure in polling. It was a failure [by the media] to capture the boiling anger of a large portion of the American electorate that feels left behind by a selective recovery, betrayed by trade deals that they see as threats to their jobs and disrespected by establishment Washington, Wall Street and the mainstream media.”

Why the media failed to capture those things is hard to explain. It was out there as plain as a page on Facebook. All it took was to step out of the cocoon many live in and do some real reporting among real people rather than pontificating in their own closed circle of like-minded pals they preen with on Twitter.

 But this is the same Rutenberg who wrote back in August about the reporters covering Trump: “If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes…then your reporting is going to reflect that.”

 Other media mea culpas surfaced shortly after the vote. Will Rahn, managing director of politics for CBS News Digital, criticized campaign reporting under the headline “The unbearable smugness of the press.” He offered some solid suggestions for improvement:

“Our theme now should be humility. We must become more impartial, not less so. We have to abandon our easy culture of tantrums and recrimination. We have to stop writing these know-it-all, 140-character sermons on social media and admit that, as a class, journalists have a shamefully limited understanding of the country we cover.”

Sound advice, but, sadly, few news reporters covering the election aftermath were listening. They are busy acting like kids who didn’t get their way. Humility? Impartiality? No way.

Richard Benedetto is a retired USA Today White House correspondent and columnist. He teaches politics and journalism at American University and in The Fund for American Studies program at George Mason University. Follow him on Twitter@benedettopress.

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