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  • The Problem With The Media’s ‘Trump Is Pivoting’ Narrative

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures have repeatedly claimed that presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “pivoting” to the general election every time he does something that they think makes him look or sound “presidential.” Media’s constant search for Trump’s “pivot” effectively whitewashes all of the racist, sexist, slanderous, and conspiratorial attacks Trump has doled out, and mainstreams the idea that Trump’s past diatribes can be forgiven so long as he assumes a veneer of conventional, tempered behavior.

    Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump and the media have engaged in a cycle wherein Trump launches offensive broadsides and character attacks; He gets bad press; Republican leaders clamor for Trump to tone down his rhetoric; Trump obliges, often using a teleprompter to restrain himself; Media figures claim Trump has “pivoted” and is “becoming more presidential”; and repeat.

    As MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said, Trump constantly shatters the “pivot” narrative “by trotting out conspiracy theories” -- or, as others have noted, outrageous insults -- within hours of being lauded as “presidential.” 

    In following this pattern, the media are both applauding Trump for having simply mastered “campaign 101,” as CNN’s David Gregory noted, and excusing his past remarks as political maneuvering and electoral showmanship.

    In early June, after Trump launched a multiday racist crusade against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over Trump University lawsuits, Republican leaders beseeched Trump to “get on message” and “quit attacking … various minority groups in the country.” That very night, Trump delivered a speech -- devoid of any attacks and with the aid of a teleprompter -- that “sought to calm fretful Republicans bolting from his side over his latest controversy,” CNN reported.

    Media figures immediately claimed that Trump’s restraint showed he was “pivoting.” NBC News reporter Ali Vitali wrote that Trump “acted presidential” in the speech, which “finalized his pivot to the general election.” CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.” Unsurprisingly, Trump also received praise from right-wing media for sounding “more presidential than ever.”

    CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill explained the phenomenon:

    “It's kind of a good outcome for Trump, because we're not talking about a Mexican judge anymore. We're not talking about something controversial. We're talking about Trump changing the direction of his campaign. That can only be good news for him, based on what the last three weeks have been.”

    GOP leaders condemned Trump’s repeated “offensive” suggestions that President Obama had sympathies for terrorists, but changed their tune once Trump delivered his next teleprompter-guided speech following the mass shooting in Orlando, FL. Some media figures said Trump sounded “more presidential” and was “behaving like general election nominees behave,” and Trump’s slanderous accusations against the president quickly fell out of the news cycle.

    The “pivot” claim, which has repeatedly surfaced since at least February, has also helped wash away many of Trump’s past actions and comments: his doubling down on his proposed Muslim ban, his accusations that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination, and his questioning of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s faith.

    Some media figures have noted the journalistic malpractice associated with the constant fallback on the “pivot” narrative. New York Times Magazine correspondent Mark Leibovich, calling the narrative “absurd,” wrote:

    But really, how do you pivot away from saying that Mexicans are rapists? (Will he negotiate “great deals” with more moderate Mexican rapists?) If your campaign is a cult of personality, how can you modulate that personality and still have the cult? In Trump’s case, a “pivot” would constitute a complete overhaul of his very essence.

    Similarly, Washington Post opinion writer Kathleen Parker lambasted media’s “softening of criticism” of Trump and warned “the commentariat,” “Nothing makes Trump more acceptable today than yesterday or last week — or six months ago.”

    The "pivot" narrative has become a reset button, allowing media to excuse or forget all of Trump’s past rhetorical assaults. Media figures are essentially condoning all of his racism, sexism, and conspiracies, so long as he sounds and acts subdued and presidential.

    Image by Dayanita Ramesh and Sarah Wasko. 

  • James O’Keefe Is Still Not a Journalist

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Since 2009, self-described “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe has repeatedly embarrassed himself while attempting to launch undercover stings targeting government agencies, media outlets, and  liberal organizations and institutions.

  • Trump Suddenly Encounters Media Attention He Doesn’t Want

    Citing “Sensationalism,” Trump’s Lawyers Fight To Keep Trump U. Videos Away From Media

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A media coalition is pushing for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to release video of his depositions in lawsuits against Trump University, his now-defunct real estate seminar business, but the candidate’s lawyers have expressed concern that the footage would be “used by media and others in connection with the presidential campaign.”

    On June 11, a coalition of media organizations filed a motion seeking the public release of video footage from Trump’s taped depositions connected to two of the three lawsuits Trump University currently faces. The coalition included all major television networks, aside from Fox News, and several major newspaper publishers. Fox News joined the effort yesterday.

    In response, Trump’s lawyers in the two related class-action lawsuits presided over by Judge Gonzalo Curiel -- whom Trump himself has attacked with racist remarks -- argued that media and rival groups would use the video footage out of context to smear Trump. As Politico reported:

    In a court filing late Wednesday night, Trump's attorneys argued explicitly for the first time that the deposition videos should be kept under wraps because they would become weapons in the ongoing presidential contest.

    "Undoubtedly, these videos...will be used by the media and others in connection with the presidential campaign," Trump's attorneys wrote in a motion filed with U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego.

    "'[V]ideotapes are subject to a higher degree of potential abuse than transcripts. They can be cut and spliced and used as "soundbites" on the evening news or sports shows....' And unlike in other cases where it was unclear that 'out of context snippets' would be broadcast because the 'media frenzy' around the case had died down...the 'media frenzy' surrounding this case is certain to continue through the election," Trump's legal team added, quoting cases from federal trial courts in Indiana and New York.

    [...]

    "The need to prevent such 'sensationalism' is particularly acute here because of Mr. Trump’s unique circumstances in running for President of the United States," wrote Trump attorneys Daniel Petrocelli and David Kirman of law firm O'Melveny & Myers and in-house Trump lawyer Jill Martin. They cited a federal appeals court ruling rejecting a media bid for access to videos of President Bill Clinton's testimony played in court during a criminal case related to the Whitewater affair.

    This is a notable shift from the Trump campaign’s previous attitude about the huge amount of media attention he receives. In March, The New York Times released a study showing that Trump had racked up $2 billion worth of free earned media throughout his presidential campaign to that point, and the paper stated that “he is far better than any other candidate -- maybe than any candidate ever -- at earning media.” Trump won the Fox Primary, doubling any other Republican presidential primary candidate in airtime on the news channel. Trump’s campaign has bragged about all the free media he has received, and it reportedly plans to “just use earned media to compete on the airwaves” instead of raising money for ads. But perhaps what Trump truly wants is only adulation, not actual scrutiny from the media.

     
  • Fox News Joins Media Coalition Asking For Release Of Trump U. Depositions

    Fox’s Move Ensures Right-Wing Media Spin Of Trump Deposition

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News joined a media coalition asking the judge in the Trump U. fraud case to release videos of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump being questioned over the real estate program. The move by Fox comes after defending Trump from allegations of fraud surrounding the Trump U. controversy.

    On June 11 Politico reported that a number of media organizations asked Judge Gonzalo Curiel to release video of Trump’s testimony in the Trump U. case. Lawyers for the media coalition argued that the lawsuit “has become a prominent election issue” and that Trump himself had cited Trump U. “as an example of his business success.” The initial coalition included all major TV news networks except for Fox News, as well as newspaper publishers from The New York Times, Washington Post, and Tribune Publishing.

    On June 15, Politico reported that Fox News joined the effort, stating that they were not aware of the request and became interested in joining as soon as they learned of the move:

    Fox News is joining a media coalition seeking to obtain full access to depositions presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave in a class-action lawsuit over his Trump University real estate seminar program.

    When an array of news organizations moved last week to loosen restrictions on the deposition transcripts and videos, all the major news networks were part of the effort, except for Fox. Also on board were the New York Times, the Washington Post and Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

    In a filing Wednesday with U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego, lawyers for the media coalition said Fox was joining the consortium supporting the drive to remove confidential designations on parts of Trump's testimony. If those restrictions are lifted, either side in the case would be free to release the transcripts in their entirety and likely the videos of the depositions as well.

    Fox News’ decision to join the media coalition now ensures that right-wing media can continue their struggle to defend Trump by selectively using any video released.

  • Right-Wing Media Fearmonger Over Washington State’s New LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Conservative media are fearmongering over Washington state public schools’ new LGBT-inclusive education standards that aim to teach students “the importance of treating others with respect regarding gender identity.” Outlets are reporting that the state will soon begin to “teach transgenderism to kindergartners” and suggesting that Washington is promoting transgender “recruitment.” But education professionals and advocacy groups say students benefit from learning about gender identity at an early age.

  • Hannity Answers Trump’s Call To Attack Detractors Of His Racist Attacks On Federal Judge

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    A day after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump ordered his surrogates to “go after” critics of his racist attacks against the federal overhearing the Trump U. case, Fox News host Sean Hannity took to his radio show and attacked Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for their “willingness” to go criticize Trump, but being “too weak, too timid, too afraid” to criticize President Obama.

    On June 6, Bloomberg Politics reported that during a conference call, Trump instructed his surrogates to “go at” the people criticizing his racist attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, and described his detractors as “racists.”

    The following day, on the June 7 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity defended Trump by attacking Republicans who have criticized Trump’s racist attacks:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): How do you explain Hillary saying that Robert "the former Klansman" Byrd was her mentor? Or that J. William Fulbright, a known segregationist, was Bill Clinton's mentor. Oh, we can ignore those little happenings in the past, why shouldn’t we, that's not textbook. We got Hillary's brother in law on tape, Roger Clinton, using the N word 15 times.

    [...]

    OK I don't want to hear it, I can't stand hearing people that are ignorant like that. I just can't. So, there's a lot of political conflicts galore here. You got a judge, anyway, the federal judge here who actually takes this thing to class action, this is a judge that probably should have recused himself. This is a judge who is part of a radical, or at least associated with the radical wing of La Raza and I think Trump's mistake was making it not about what it was, which was politics. I think that’s what it should have been about from the beginning. And he pretty much said as much and it’s time to move on. But not in the minds of Republicans. Republicans want to hit the self-destruct button. Republicans want to teach we, you, the people a lesson because you didn't vote for any of the candidates of their choice. So they’re just jumping on the bandwagon, admitting as quickly as possible things they'd never do against Obama.

    [...]

    I see more willingness to fight Trump by Republican leaders than I do in their willingness , in any of the eight years Obama has been in office now, to fight and stop Obama’s radical agenda. Starting with the campaign in ‘07 and ‘08. They were too timid, and too weak, too afraid to bring up anything involving Obama's radical past. Well, you know what? What's worse? Trump's comments about this judge, which was obviously inarticulate, I didn't hear Paul Ryan talk about Reverend Wright being racist, I didn’t hear Paul Ryan making the case that somebody that hangs out with, gave speeches with,sits on boards with and starts his political career in the home of a domestic -- unrepentant domestic terrorist isn't fit for the job. I didn’t hear Lindsey Graham make that case either and it was his buddy John McCain running at the time.

    Anything that they can do; I didn’t see the stuff in his two books Audacity of Hope or Dreams of My Father, “white man’s greed runs the world in need” Obama said? Is that worse than Trump’s comments? Everybody’s got selective moral outrage. Everybody’s all offended by words but it only depends on who utters the words that offends them. Because they’ll make all sorts of excuses, time and time again, if they don't want to pick that particular political fight.

    Hannity’s reputation as a Trump sycophant has been widely criticized and mocked, with media outlets calling out Hannity’s “unapologetic advocacy” for Trump,  including Hannity telling Trump during an interview that he was a supporter of his and stating that “I don’t hold back that I’ll be voting for Donald Trump.”

  • Review-Journal Drums Up College Debt Myths To Blame Borrowers For Student Debt Crisis

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    An editorial published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal insisted that student debt is “manageable for most students” and recycled previously debunked conservative talking points to fault student loan forgiveness programs and federal aid for America’s college debt crisis. The paper also echoed right-wing myths to argue that tuition “costs inevitably go up” in response to low-interest federal loans and dismiss progressive concerns about for-profit schools.