President Trump’s speech in Arizona on Tuesday night was broadcast by the enemy: Trump devoted almost half of his roughly 70-minute campaign rally to attacking the news organizations who were dutifully reporting his attacks on them. Trump unleashed invective against “the very dishonest media.” They are “crooked”; “bad people”; they “don’t like our country”; they are “the source of division in our country.” Who was he thinking of? He cited ABC’s “little” George Stephanopoulos by name, but the primary target was CNN, which was castigated so frequently, the Arizona crowd chanted, “CNN sucks.”
The president casually lied to the crowd, pointing over their heads at the cameras trained on him, saying, “They’re turning those red lights off fast. … Oh, those cameras are going off” — the message being, the media stops broadcasting him when he says something hostile to the media. This was false, of course. Arch-enemy CNN carried the whole speech; even if you’re cynical, wouldn’t you know Trump was wrong, if only because this was, on some level, free publicity for CNN?
“They’re very nervous to have me on live television,” he said. No: TV news executives are constantly trying to get Trump in front of live cameras, because they know he’ll say something — well, interesting is the polite way of putting it.
Once he concluded, CNN’s Don Lemon took the bait. “A total eclipse of the facts,” was Lemon’s description of the speech. “There was no sanity there,” he said. “Unhinged.” “Madness.” “If you watched that speech, as an American, you had to be thinking, What in the world is going on? This is the person we elected?” Lemon’s hostility was nearly equal to Trump’s — indeed, sometimes the only reason Trump’s seemed worse was because he got to shout his accusations, and Lemon was stuck using his indoor voice in a CNN studio. As usual, CNN was doing itself no favors with its viewing audience by positioning Lemon as a news anchor reporting on an event while also editorializing incessantly.
Trump hurled a lot of other insults at other targets, chiefly “obstructionist” Democrats and John McCain, whom he did not name but about whom Trump bellowed over and over, “One vote, one vote” — a reference to McCain’s health care reform bill killer. But it was the media against whom he held a greater grudge. Saying he didn’t want to bore them, Trump proceeded to bore his followers by reading selected passage of his responses to the horrible events Charlottesville, whining about how the media covered him.
A lot of people continue to buy into the notion that no news source other than Fox News covers Trump accurately, and Trump was slavish in his praise on Tuesday. Fox is “very fair” to him; Fox & Friends is “the best show in the morning,” and Sean Hannity — well, “How about that Hannity? Great guy.” Trump’s businessman view of the press — it’s great when they’re positive, they’re bums when they’re skeptical — just keeps eroding public trust. Soon after Trump concluded, the writer Tom Carson tweeted, “You young people will never know what a beautiful country this was before Trump came along.” The president of the United States’ words on Tuesday just made the country a little uglier.
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