By almost any standard, President Donald Trump’s rally on Tuesday evening in Milwaukee was a bizarre affair. The president went on a lengthy tirade about lightbulbs, toilets, and showers; touted war crimes; joked about a former president being in hell; and said he’d like to see one of his domestic political foes locked up.
I tried to capture some of the speech’s disconcerting oddness in my write-up of the event. In many ways, the remarks the president made were typical of him. And that provides the media with a challenge: Describing Trump as he really is can make it seem as if a report is “anti-Trump” and that the reporter is trying to make the president look foolish.
But for media outlets that view themselves as above taking sides, attempts to provide a sober, “balanced” look at presidential speeches often end up normalizing things that are decidedly not normal.
A brief report about Trump’s Milwaukee speech that aired Wednesday morning on NPR illustrates this phenomenon. It presented Trump’s at times disjointed ramblings as a normal political speech that “ranged widely,” and characterized it as one in which he “snapped back at Democrats for bringing impeachment proceedings.”
“Trump was taking on Democrats on their own territory,” the reporter said, when in reality Trump heaped abuse on them, for instance, suggesting former Vice President Joe Biden is experiencing memory loss.
Listen for yourself:
This NPR clip illustrates how the media subtly normalizes Trump. His speech last night in Milwaukee in which he ranted about lightbulbs and toilets, touted war crimes, and joked about a former president being in hell is presented as a typical political speech. pic.twitter.com/NaJB9BhWfE
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 15, 2020
On Twitter, Georgetown University public affairs professor Don Moynihan noted that NPR’s report about the rally “mentioned specific topics like Iran and impeachment but carefully omit the insane stuff. This is one way the media strives to present Trump as a normal president.”
NPR is far from alone in struggling to cover Trump.
As I wrote following a previous Trump rally in Wisconsin last April, outlets including CBS, USA Today, the Associated Press, and the Hill failed to so much as mention in their reporting that Trump pushed dozens of lies and incendiary smears during his speech.
The irony is that the media is one of Trump’s foremost targets of abuse. He calls the press the “enemy of the people,” yet the very outlets he demeans regularly bend over backward to cover him in the most favorable possible light.
The disconnect between the real Trump and the whitewashed version that emerges from mainstream reporting was captured nicely by Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor in a piece she wrote last September headlined, “As a foreign reporter visiting the US I was stunned by Trump’s press conference”:
I’ve read so many stories about his bluster and boasting and ill-founded attacks, I’ve listened to speeches and hours of analysis, and yet I was still taken back by just how disjointed and meandering the unedited president could sound.
I’d understood the dilemma of normalizing Trump’s ideas and policies – the racism, misogyny and demonization of the free press. But watching just one press conference [in real time] helped me understand how the process of reporting about this president can mask and normalize his full and alarming incoherence.
It is difficult to cover Trump, and it is important to honor the public’s trust in the press by providing fair and balanced coverage. But we also have to pay attention to how much more alarming the unfiltered Trump is when compared to the sanitized version that often emerges in mainstream media reporting.
Aide: Media ignores Trump’s loving bond with 13-year-old son – CityNews Vancouver
WASHINGTON — A top aide to President Donald Trump complained Friday that the news media doesn’t pay enough attention to the president’s loving relationship with his 13-year-old son, Barron.
“The president’s just a really caring father and you don’t see that,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering for conservatives. “The press would never show you that because it doesn’t fit.“
Mulvaney said he noticed on his first trip with the president that Trump had called his son multiple times to check in and let him know when his helicopter would be returning to the White House.
The first lady’s office has requested that the media respect the privacy of the youngest of the president’s five children and discourages writing about him. Her office declined to comment on Mulvaney’s remarks.
The Associated Press
Kew Media’s Lenders Call In Debts, Pushing TV Group Closer To The Edge – Deadline
Kew Media Group’s lenders have called in the Canadian TV producer-distributor’s debts, pushing the company closer to the brink of collapse after it was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange last month.
In a statement issued to Kew Media Group’s investors on Friday, the company said Truist Bank has “demanded repayment of all amounts owing under the senior credit facilities,” adding that the bank intends to enforce its security under Canada’s Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. The company’s net debt stood $117M, according to its most recent earnings.
“Following a 10-day notice period, Kew’s senior lenders may take steps to enforce on their security,” the statement added. It is the latest chapter in a disastrous downward spiral for the company after it defaulted on its credit facility last year because it filed “inaccurate” financial information.
Kew Media Group’s subsidiary, the once-thriving British sales house Kew Media Distribution, is also staring down the barrel of a winding-up order, with a court hearing set for next week. Producers including, Leaving Neverland indie Amos Pictures, are fighting to claw back the royalties they are owed from the international sales of their shows.
Other Kew Media Group subsidiaries have also been fleeing the sinking ship. The latest was Frantic Films today after CEO Jamie Brown bought back the company, which makes HGTV’s Backyard Builds. Others who have left the group include UK producer Two Rivers Media, while Dance Moms executive producer Jeff Collins left Kew-backed Collins Avenue Entertainment in January.
Networks Ramp Up Coronavirus Coverage As White House Accuses Media Of Fearmongering – Deadline
Networks are ramping up their coronavirus coverage, as concerns escalate of a worldwide spread, major public events are postponed or canceled, and Wall Street experienced its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.
The White House contends that the media is raising unnecessary alarm about the virus and its spread in the U.S., even with the intent of hurting President Donald Trump.
As he headed out to a rally in South Carolina on Friday, Trump told reporters, “I think that CNN is a very disreputable network. I think that they are doing everything they can to instill fear in people.”
Earlier in the day, his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference and told the crowd that “the reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be the thing that brings down the president. That’s what this is all about it.”
Mulvaney advised people to tune out the news.
“I got a note today from a reporter saying, what are you going to do today to calm the markets?” he said. “Really what I might do today to calm the markets is tell people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours.”
The administration’s attacks on the media are not unusual. But they are coming at a time when public communication of accurate information is essential, if anything to reassure the country that the White House has a handle on the crisis and the risk is still very low.
Trump tried to assuage fears on Wednesday by holding a briefing where he announced that Vice President Mike Pence would be leading the administration’s effort to contain the disease.
But markets continued to slide on Thursday and Friday — the S&P and Dow Jones were down by more than 10% for the week. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell issued a statement to try to calm nerves, saying that “we will use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.” But he said that the virus poses “evolving risks to economic activity.”
Trump defended the administration’s response, noting that the administration placed limits weeks ago on travel from China that limited its spread in the U.S.
“Some people are giving us credit for that and some people aren’t. But the only ones who aren’t, they don’t mean it. It’s political. It’s politics,” Trump told reporters.
Pence went on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show on Friday, where he said that the threat of the coronavirus spreading in the U.S. “remains low.”
“With that being said, out of an abundance of caution, we are going to continue to take very, very strong measures and to put the health and safety of the American people first,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Limbaugh claimed that the coronavirus was being “weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump.” Pence told him that he has been speaking to Democratic leaders and governors like Gavin Newsom in California, and that “we’re all in this together.”
Meanwhile, networks are announcing plans to boost their coverage of the coronavirus.
NBC News launched a live blog with feed from the network’s medical, business, political and investigative reporters and updates on known cases and new infections. They also are doing a morning newsletter, Morning Rundown Special Edition: Coronavirus Crisis, starting on Monday, with updates from medical correspondent Dr. John Torres and on business ramifications from Ali Velshi. The newsletter also will provide tips to readers.
Among other highlights, Pence will appear on Meet the Press on Sunday, and investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen will answer questions from viewers on Today on Monday.
Fox News is presenting a coronavirus special at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday featuring Leland Vittert.
While increasing their focus on the virus, media outlets also have provided a bit of context.
ABC News’ chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton co-hosted ABC’s The View on Friday, where she noted the greater threat currently posed by flu season and addressed misinformation about the disease.
Among the topics: The idea that Americans should be wearing surgical masks. “They are not to protect the healthy from something coming in,” she said, noting that the Centers for Disease Control was not recommending that the average American wear them now.
“Right now, according to the CDC, this is a highly transmissible virus with a low mortality or fatality rate and that’s really important right now,” she said.
She added, “One of the biggest problems with this story is where people get information and where people get misinformation, and you have to get your information from credible, credentialed sources. If you don’t, not only does it not do you any good, it can actually endanger public health and the response.”
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