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The Media: Donald Trump's Best Friend

Bill Press, Tribune Content Agency on

Breaking News! Last week, Donald Trump urged Vladimir Putin not to free Wall Street reporter and American citizen Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested by Russia on bogus charges of espionage in March 2023 and has been held in prison ever since.

I repeat. An American reporter, just doing his job in Moscow, has been in prison for over a year, accused by Russia of being a spy – and a former president of the United States, the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, has asked the leader of Russia to keep him in prison. At least, until after the election.

Unbelievable? Outrageous? Of course! But you probably never heard about it. Even if you did, you didn’t hear much about it. Why? Because Donald Trump said it. And even when one of their own, a top reporter and colleague, is the victim of Trump’s venom, the media gives him a pass.

Imagine if Joe Biden had made the same suggestion. Every newspaper in the country would be demanding his resignation and Congress would already be holding impeachment hearings.

You may recall another outrageous example of playing politics with imprisoned Americans: in 1980, when candidate Ronald Reagan sent emissaries to Iran, urging them not to release American hostages until after the November election.

Here’s the big difference. We didn’t know about that deal until years later, because the Reagan campaign kept it secret, knowing they’d be crucified in the media if it became public. But Trump doesn’t have to worry about that. He knows that, no matter how outrageous what he says or does, the media will shrug it off as just “Trump being Trump.”

The case of Evan Gershkovich is all the proof you need of the media’s bias for Trump. I consider it the most serious threat of 2024. It’s not just that Donald Trump could win. It’s that the media doesn’t care. In fact, I think it’s worse than that. I believe the media is on his side. And I don’t mean just the obvious Trump media outlets: Fox News, Newsmax, or One American News (OAN). I include the mainstream media.

Look at mainstream media coverage of the 2024 election. They give Donald Trump unlimited airtime to repeat his lies. They make a huge deal about any occasional verbal slip Joe Biden makes, while ignoring the racist insults, slurring of words, and crazy verbal salads we hear from Donald Trump every day.

And, worst of all, all they focus on is the horse race– who’s up and who’s down in the latest poll – without talking about the disastrous consequences to this country, to journalism, and to democracy were Donald Trump ever to win a second term.

 

Here’s the problem. In this election, the media’s using the same set of tools they’ve always used to cover elections. As if this campaign were like any other: two parties, two candidates, each qualified, some differences on the issues, but both sides accept the results and move on.

But this campaign is different. Donald Trump’s not just any candidate, he’s a dangerous demagogue, a twice-impeached former president who has promised to suspend the Constitution, pardon the January 6 criminals, and weaponize the Justice Department against his critics and the media, while demanding total immunity for anything he does as president – even assassinating his political opponents.

Trump's the first president ever impeached and indicted for trying to overturn an election; the first president ever to refuse to accept the results of an election; and the first president ever to be indicted on 88 felony counts. So the media can’t cover Trump as one of two candidates who just happen to differ on policy. They have to talk about how dangerous Donald Trump is in every sentence. As ABC’s George Stephanopolous said this week, “We have to make sure we don’t equate trying to overturn an election with tax policy.”

On my podcast, Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at NYU, challenged the media to treat this election differently. In 2024, he said, it’s important for reporters to focus on: “Not the odds, but the stakes.” As if channeling Rosen, President Biden made the same point at this year’s White House Correspondents' Dinner: “I’m not asking of you to take sides, but asking you to rise up to the seriousness of the moment: move past the horse-race numbers … and focus on what’s really at stake.”

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any signs that most members of the media are listening. They helped elect Donald Trump in 2016, and I’m convinced they’re trying to do it again.

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(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of 10 books, including: “From the Left: My Life in the Crossfire.” His email address is: bill@billpress.com. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)

©2024 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



 

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