There is obviously a war between the Trump administration and much of the media. This war is two-sided and the American public is caught in its crosshairs. Trump needs to stop exaggerating and making completely untrue statements. For the media’s part, they need to reduce both the aggressiveness of their coverage as well as the volume of stories they report. Here I will address four recent topics Trump has been at odds with the media about: Flynn’s Russia contact, Chicago crime, voter fraud and terror coverage.
Many of us exaggerate to get our points across, but we are not the leader of the free world. President Trump is free to discuss an issue he thinks is important. He should not; however, try to make the problem worse than it is. If the media is out to get him, as he thinks, then he should not give them fuel. The bigger issue is that the over the top accusations he makes gets all of the focus, leading people to ignore the point he was trying to make; often a good one.
Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn was terminated when it came out that he spoke to Russian officials prior to Trump taking office. President Trump said the call was not illegal and the focus should be on the leaked phone call. They clearly didn’t agree. Many suggested there should be an investigation to see if Flynn’s actions were criminal; largely ignoring the leak or, worse, framing it as whistleblowing.
How were Flynn’s actions dissimilar to Obama’s Sr. economic policy advisor, Austan Goolsbee, assuring Canada on its position on NAFTA during the 2008 campaign? This, in spite of Obama claiming no one contacted Canada about NAFTA. A memo disproving this was released in March of 2008. Yet, the sky was not falling.
Trump also continues to mention the violence plaguing Chicago. He falsely claimed that in 2016, Chicago had the highest murder rate in 45 years. He later claimed 47 years. These are ill-advised statements as the real numbers are bad enough. The Chicago murder per capita for 2016 was 28. This is seven times the national rate of 4. The focus should be on the horrible volume of shooting and not his misstatement. It is fine for reporters to point it out and he should choose his language better but I cannot understand how his statement gets more national press than hundreds shot or 22 shot, 11 killed in 48 hours.
He also stated at yesterday’s press conference that drugs are ‘cheaper than candy’. Some in the media jumped on this statement as well. I took it as anecdotal, however, if you think this is a problem, you should have also had a problem with Obama saying, “it’s easier to buy a gun than a book” and “some want machine guns in bars”.
Next we move to his claim of millions voting illegally. I, like many, am convinced that he has no evidence of this. This should be reported as such. The problem is that the media leads the public to believe that voter fraud itself is false. Lack of arrests doesn’t prove a lack of a crime. The system is set up to make it easy to do so. If no one is aggressively checking for fraud, you are less likely to find it. While the number is unknown, it is likely far less than three million but it could be enough to swing an election. Why not do what every other nation holding democratic elections does; require ID to vote.
Lastly, Trump said that the media doesn’t cover much of the world’s terror attacks. For this claim, he was unanimously attacked. Even many conservative outlets said his claim was false. His problem was creating a list which included some well covered attacks and, itself, left off some. I took it differently because I’ve been saying something similar for several months.
CNN took the list and did a search for the number of stories written about the attacks to debunk his claim. That is the wrong way to look at them. The problem isn’t that they don’t cover them; it’s that most are ‘below the fold’. Here’s a recent example. Yesterday I went to the Washington Post’s online paper. There were 12 stories on their home page, 11 were about Trump. I then did a search for terror attacks and found two that day; one in Iraq, killing over 50, the other in Pakistan, killing 88. Ironically, the story I found on the Pakistan attack was from the Washington Post, yet, it wasn’t on their home page.
I find this happens often. They cover the largest of the attacks but not constant attacks. You don’t hear the media constantly covering terror attacks on Christians. If you Google this, you will be amazed by the volume. No less than the NY Times had an article on July 22nd, “Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?” The problem is most of the coverage is in the paper. Fewer people read the papers and they don’t end up on the front page. Not exactly the same coverage Trump’s comments on crowd size gets.
The argument many will have is that Trump lies constantly where Obama may have simply had a couple of gaffes. This is not exactly true. In 2007, Obama was speaking at Brown Chapel AME in Selma, AL commemorating the 1965 civil rights march. In that speech, he claimed his parents ‘got together’ and he was born after that march. The problem is, it took place four years after he was born. In 2008, Obama told the Today Show he won the Michigan primary even though he wasn’t even on the ballot? In 2009, Obama promised there would be no earmarks in his stimulus package? The final bill had over 9,000 earmarks in it. In May 2011, he stated that the border fence congress approved was ‘basically complete’; it was closer to 5% complete.
As you read this, the media is reporting that Trump’s administration is in chaos. Let’s look at Obama’s first 100 days to compare. In 2009, he had four cabinet nominees withdraw their names from consideration due to scandal. Charles Freeman – National Intelligence Council, Tom Daschle – HHS, and Bill Richardson and Judd Gregg both nominated for Commerce. Was his presidency called ‘chaotic’?
The point here is that both the Trump administration and the media are complicit in this war. At least there’s nowhere to go but up. The media scrutiny should incentivize the Trump administration to be more detailed and professional. The media needs to see that their personal attacks compromise their integrity. We are all truly better off if they do a better job but there are no signs of this happening anytime soon.
C. Douglas Love