Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America praise the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold an Ohio law that cuts inactive voters from the rolls if they haven’t voted in the past six years or asked the state to keep them on. They also blast a self-described intersectional, Muslim feminist, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Keith Ellison’s Minnesota congressional seat, over her ugly tweet about Israel. And they unload on the New York Times for their sudden embrace of Mitt Romney.
Media critic Howard Kurtz says the mainstream media are in grave danger of irreparably damaging their credibility by so blatantly and viscerally attacking President Trump on a daily basis, and he says those reporters are actually doing the president they loathe a huge political favor.
Kurtz is a longtime media analyst and columnist. He hosts “Media Buzz” on the Fox News Channel and is the author of the new book, “Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War over the Truth.”
Kurtz says mainstream journalists effectively declared war on Trump from the moment his campaign started in 2015.
“There was something about Donald Trump that just gets under their skin. First, they just wrote him off. He was a clown. He was a sideshow. He was never going to win the nomination, and of course he wasn’t going to win the election,” said Kurtz.
Since getting elected, the media have only intensified the negative coverage.
“Many journalists try to be fair but the overwhelming tone from most news organizations and many journalists is negative to the point that it’s almost a tsunami of negative coverage. I think there’s something cultural there, there’s something visceral, there’s something about Donald Trump that just has made them change the standards they used in the past,” said Kurtz.
Kurtz also points out that this media wear goes in both directions, with Trump frequently blasting what he considers “fake news,” sometimes mentioning reporters by name. Kurtz believes Trump “punches down” against the media too often and that some rhetoric goes too far but he says Trump’s frustration with the coverage of his presidency is understandable.
“I didn’t agree with Steve Bannon when he said the press was the opposition party, but sometimes we do a pretty good imitation. It’s not just opposing the policies. It’s all the personal stuff, attacking his family. There’s a lot in the book about all the horrible unfair press she gets because some social moderates and liberals think she should change her dad’s mind on every single subject,” said Kurtz.
And he says the onslaught often devolves into petty matters.
“Trump cheats at golf. Trump had two scoops of ice cream. Trump eats pizza with a fork. It’s just relentless, and it’s fueled by celebrities that also say very harsh things about him,” said Kurtz.
In the book, Kurtz is clearly pained by journalists shedding all pretense of objectivity and seeing it as their duty to combat the president and his administration.
“But the mainstream media, subconsciously at first, have lurched into the opposition camp, are appealing to an anti-Trump base of viewers and readers, failing to grasp how deeply they are distrusted by a wide swath of the country,” wrote Kurtz.
“I am increasingly troubled by how many of my colleagues have decided to abandon any semblance of fairness out of a conviction that they must save the country from Trump,” he added.
Kurtz then details the impact this incessant hostility against Trump is having on journalism as a whole.
“My greatest fear is that organized journalism has badly lost its way in the Trump era and may never fully recover. Even if the Trump presidency crashes and burns – in which case the press will claim vindication – the scars of distrust might never heal,” writes Kurtz.
In our interview, Kurtz expanded on those concerns.
“I hope I make the case in this book that there’s a real imbalance among some journalists who just think it’s their mission to stop Donald Trump from what he’s doing and maybe to knock him out of office. I think the damage is very real, really troubling, and it’s not good for he country,” said Kurtz.
However, the great irony, says Kurtz, is that this perpetual media venom over every action Trump takes only helps the president.
“It enables him to dominate and drive the news agenda every day. Also, many of his supporters out there in the country not only have more sympathy for the guy they see as their champion when he gets overwhelmingly negative coverage, but they also believe the elite media in New York, D.C., L.A. and so forth, look down on them and view them condescendingly. There are examples in the book of how that’s pretty true,” said Kurtz.
Trump often has a strategy to his media battles, rather than just shooting from the hip or the lip as his critics conclude. In June 2017, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski ridiculed Trump on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” including jokes about his small hands. Trump fired back on Twitter.
“I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” tweeted Trump.
While the media reacted in horror and others found it unbecoming of a president, this passage from Kurtz’s book reveals that Trump accomplished his real goal.
“Trump asked Anthony Scaramucci what he thought of the tweets against Mika and Joe: ‘I know what you’re going to say – unpresidential. Then what?’
“I don’t think you needed to go there,” Scaramucci said.
“‘Is Korea off the TV?’ Trump asked. Yes, the Mooch replied. North Korea’s nuclear buildup had been eclipsed
“Is health care off the TV?” True, the impasse over the Senate bill had faded.
“Sounds good to me,” said Trump.
The investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections dominates mainstream media coverage. Kurtz says some developments warrant major coverage but most do not.
“It’s a perfectly legitimate story. There’s a special counsel. There have been indictments and guilty pleas, but every incremental development gets hyped like it’s the next Watergate,” said Kurtz.
He says in the media rush to convict Trump of heinous crimes, they are failing to corroborate critical accusations and losing credibility in the process.
I think there’s too law a bar and I think there’s too much of a trigger finger when it comes to this president. CNN had three high-profile mistakes involving the president last year. One of them was about Anthony Scaramucci, who later became communications director for about 10 minutes, and three journalists got fired over that,” said Kurtz.
CNN also reported that Trump and his son, Donald Trump, Jr., received copies of Wikileaks releases of hacked emails before they went public. That was also not true. ABC News suspended reporter Brian Ross for stating that Trump campaign officials met with Russian officials, when the meeting actually happened during the transition period.
However, Kurtz asserts that Trump operates a bit recklessly as well.
“There’s a term that some of his advisers have coined called ‘defiance disorder.’ What that means is they all get together and say, ‘Sir, you can’t do this. Don’t do this. It’ll be political suicide, don’t do it,’ he does it anyway because he’s Donald Trump and nobody tells him what to do,” said Kurtz.
Kurtz also says Trump’s constant blasting of the media could wear thin on his marginal supporters.
“I think it really excites the people who really like this president and think they’re viewed with disdain by the elite media, but I don’t think it helps him expand his base beyond that 38-40 percent that are very loyal to Donald Trump,” said Kurtz.
But long term, Kurtz says the the media is doing themselves the greatest damage. He says the initial results of higher ratings for MSNBC and CNN and higher digital subscriptions for the New York Times show the open hostility is paying off in the short term. So he expects the negative barrage to continue.
“I don’t see any daylight there. I don’t think it’s good for the country. I think there’s damage on both sides, but I particularly worry about my profession, which I love,” said Kurtz. “There’s going to come a day when Donald Trump is no longer in the White House, but I think it’s going to be hard for us to get much of this credibility back,” said Kurtz.
One of America’s top political analysts says he and just about every other expert were wrong about the 2016 elections, noting Donald Trump is unlike any of his predecessors and his win promises to gut much of the Obama legacy.
Dr. Larry Sabato runs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, where he teaches political science. He also heads up Sabato’s Crystal Ball, which predicts presidential, Senate, House, and gubernatorial races. In more than 40 years of tracking presidential races, has he ever seen a campaign like this one?
“Never, and no one in my field has,” said Sabato. “I’ve talked to a number of historians and people who focus on politics and political history. Everyone agrees that this election stands out in all of American history. Whether you liked the result or didn’t like the result, it’s just different,” said Sabato.
He says the Trump’s background is one of many things that distinguish him from previous presidents.
“Donald Trump is the only president-to-be who has not served in any political office or military office. He is an outsider complete and total. He’s the richest president by far. There’s just so many categories that make him unusual,” said Sabato.
When 2016 dawned, Trump was the front-runner for the Republican nomination, and other than an opening loss in Iowa, was the clear favorite throughout the chase for 1,237 delegates. Sabato says Trump benefited from a crowded GOP field.
“During the competitive part of the primary…Trump only received about 38 percent of the vote. Sixty-two percent of Republicans voted for other candidates. The problem (for the other candidates) was there was so many of them. So 38 percent was more than enough to win the nomination,” said Sabato.
All the supposed experts declared that Trump’s style, persona, and policy positions couldn’t possible win him the general election, but again Trump proved them all wrong. Sabato says it’s always hard for a party to win three consecutive terms in the White House. He says the only exception in modern history is the transition from Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush..
Another big factor that Sabato says was overlooked was a massive enthusiasm gap between supporters of Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“The turnouts in small town America, in rural America among the blue collar workers and white working class were enormous. It was just enormous, whereas Clinton was unable to excite even solid Democratic groups like millennials and African-American voters,” said Sabato.
He points out that Clinton won those groups handily but their turnout numbers were way down compared with 2012.
Sabato also notes that the media became fixated on Trump’s negatives and failed to pay attention to Clinton’s unpopularity.
“Hillary Clinton was more unacceptable than we realized. Yes, we knew she had high negatives. That was obscured by the fact that Trump had even higher negatives so we didn’t focus on her negatives. But it turned out her negatives unenthused the Democratic base, to a much greater degree in the end, than Trump’s negatives unenthused the Republican base,” said Sabato.
While Democrats offer excuses for Clinton’s defeat such as the influence of the Russians and the FBI to the existence of the Electoral College, Sabato says the real answers cut much closer to home.
“Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to talk about her inability to generate a large turnout among Democratic groups. She doesn’t want to talk about her inability to attract the white working class that got Bill Clinton elected in good part in 1992 and 1996. She never had a message that reached them,” said Sabato.
“Her slogan, although technically it was ‘Stronger Together’ whatever that means, was really ‘It’s My Turn. It’s My Turn.’ Well, people rarely elect a candidate because it’s their turn. They want to know what’s in it for them,” said Sabato.
But Clinton was not the only loser on election night. Sabato says President Obama took one on the chin as well.
“It hurts him a great deal. Why did he campaign so hard for a woman who gave him such trouble in 2008 and very nearly won the nomination instead of him?” asked Sabato. “He understood, just as Ronald Reagan understood, that if you don’t get a successor of your party elected to succeed you, much of what you’ve done is going to be reversed rather quickly and probably easily.”
For Sabato, 2016 leaves him with two major takeaways about the state of American politics. First, he says we need to pay more attention to who the most motivated voters are.
“A constituency that is ignored and feels angry or abused is going to turn out in larger numbers. It may be African-Americans for Barack Obama in 2008 or it may be white working class, rural or small town voters for Donald Trump in 2016. Always ask yourself, where’s the energy in the electorate,” said Sabato.
However, for all the big wins Republicans enjoyed in 2016, they still have some demographic problems.
“Republicans still have some of the basic problems they had before Trump was elected. They still don’t appeal to many minorities. They still don’t appeal to millennials. They have to get a larger share of more groups in the electorate if they are to win not just the electoral vote but the popular vote in future elections,” said Sabato.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review discuss Florida’s fight against the Justice Department to remove dead people from the state’s voter rolls. They talk about three more pieces of evidence showing our economy is hurting. Also, they examine the President’s reason for not personally campaigning for the Wisconsin recall.