And of course, on the campaign trail last year, Trump regularly called reporters “disgusting” and “horrible people.” His ardent followers soon picked up his cues and began raining down insults and death threats on journalists covering the Trump campaign.
All of which made Fox News’ ratings performance on the night Ailes died even more shocking: On Thursday, Fox News came in last place among the three cable news channels among viewers between the ages of 25 and 54. And it wasn’t a fluke.
The push is extraordinary because Republican officials, led by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, are aggressively fabricating claims about the bill that’s now pending before the Senate.
Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus announced that Trump’s “populist revolution” is “already over — at least for now.” The Week agreed that Trump is “beating a hasty retreat from populism.” And even The New York Times, which has been an aggressive promoter of the “populist” meme, recently noted that Trump, “has stocked his administration with billionaires and lobbyists while turning over his economic program to a Wall Street banker.”
Murdoch cut ties with the host last week after multiple women’s reports of sexual harassment became public. Since then, seven black Fox News employees indicated that they plan to join a racial discrimination suit filed last month by two colleagues, according to New York magazine, and three former Fox employees — Margaret Hoover, Alisyn Camerota, and Kirsten Powers — said on CNN that the culture of sexual harassment at Fox News is deeply ingrained. “The culture … is still there because the executives are still there,” said Hoover.
Like a modern-day Walter Mitty, O’Reilly just concocted the tall tales in order to make his life seem more compelling and make himself seem more accomplished. It seems the closest O’Reilly ever came to combat duty was filing dispatches from the channel’s never-ending War on Christmas.
Overall, the taxpayer expenses for Trump’s domestic travels, including his golf trips to Florida, have been staggering: $20 million in less than three months, a clip that would add up to $80 million a year. As CNN recently reported, Trump’s outings are “putting the president on pace in his first year of office to surpass former President Barack Obama’s spending on travel for his entire eight years.”
Eager to bestow a mantle of seriousness and normalcy upon him, some commentators rushed to proclaim the U.S. military strike on an airfield to be a defining presidential moment; to stress how the bombardment meant that Trump had elevated himself in stature and was now conducting himself in a somber, statesmanlike manner.
O’Reilly, Ailes, and Trump are putting a particularly disturbing face on the conservative movement: that of a triumvirate of wealthy, elderly, and powerful men towing behind them a list of public accusers stretching back decades. These three men unequivocally helped shape the Republican Party and right-wing media in recent years.
Claiming that “the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle,” the Journal relentlessly mocked Trump’s evidence-free wiretapping claim, using the type of biting rhetoric the page usually reserved for attacking President Barack Obama or the Clintons.
While laughing about Donald Trump’s mendacity on employment numbers isn’t as outwardly egregious as laughing along with Bush’s WMD bit, normalizing his radical agenda — and especially his penchant for casual lying– is not funny, nor should it be treated in a lighthearted manner.
Perhaps nowhere outside the West Wing is that retreat more apparent than at the State Department, which for the first six weeks of the Trump administration essentially shut off all communication with the public and the press.
By wrapping his agenda in radical initiatives, lashing out wildly at his enemies, and generally conducting himself like an adolescent, Trump has provided pundits with scant opportunities to praise him, or to portray him as presidential.
Desperately searching for someone to blame for the generally chaotic start of Trump’s controversy-filled administration, the conservative media are refitting the former Democratic president as an all-powerful gremlin who’s to blame for Trump’s laundry list of political woes.
It was impossible to watch the full-on Beltway media gushing and not think that the administration’s daily, unprecedented and weirdly personal attacks on the “dishonest media” had paid off.
Now the collective outrage about President Trump’s many attempts to bully journalists needs to be institutionalized. It needs to be backed up by the power and prestige of the country’s largest news organizations. In other words, it’s time for institutions to take collective action and fight back.
Presidents from both parties have always enjoyed partisan cheerleaders in the press who will defend an administration from attacks and enthusiastically support its agenda. But what the Trump team is trying to assemble is something else entirely. It’s trying to build its own self-sustaining, hermetically sealed information bubble so that Trump, his aides, and his supporters don’t have to acknowledge everyday facts.
This current crisis of confidence is about an entire White House philosophy of dishonesty driven by Trump himself. And that certainly includes Trump TV surrogates such as Spicer and Miller, who are quickly amassing resumes built around pushing daily falsehoods. If news producers are avoiding Conway, they should also be pondering the worth of hosting Spicer and Miller.
President Trump, who spent 2016 chronically boasting about his ability to spike TV news ratings, clearly falls short of the ratings successes Obama posted early in his presidency. As the least popular new president in modern American history, Trump seems to having trouble connecting with the masses.
The good news is Conway’s awkward “massacre” fabrication was quickly and aggressively debunked, and her reputation may have suffered a long-term hit. The disturbing downside: The Conway incident isn’t a random, dismissible incident. As the Trump White House has proven repeatedly, making things up is becoming the rule, not the exception.
Downgrading the scrutiny given to right-wing radicals has long been a goal of conservative media in America. Now Trump is moving to turn that desire into policy. Today, with the threat of homegrown, radical-right extremists still looming, the Trump administration is following the Fox News lead. Rather than increasing scrutiny, it’s proposing to scale it back.
If newsrooms understand that falsehoods are the currency that Trump and his White House aides trade in each day, then reporters should stop treating unconfirmed claims from the White House as fact. Even when the supposed facts revolve around everyday matters like diplomatic phone calls.
Like his attempts to spread lies about the U.S. unemployment rate (not to mention lies about the size of his inauguration crowd), Trump’s argument for building a wall is built on the fabrication that America is under siege from undocumented immigrants. It’s not. Trump’s proposal is a radical fix for a dilemma already in decline
Yes, Trump’s a dishonest conspiracy theorist. But he’s also much more than that. He’s a remorseless liar and a grievously insecure man who seems to feed off spite and revenge. It’s not a political strategy, it’s a character defect. Especially for someone like Trump who appears to have no deep ideological moorings.
Trump’s weird post-inauguration obsession with puffing up the numbers of his celebration might seem like a baffling, insecure tick. It is — he’s just advertising that insecurity via an established right-wing media tactic. The pattern of lying about how many people assemble en masse enjoys a long history within the right-wing media; a history Trump has revived.