Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, now -president elect, is seen through a monochrome video camera monitor on the press riser as he speaks at a campaign rally in New Orleans, Friday, March 4, 2016. (Photo: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
For people who are still wondering "how did this happen," do not waste precious time trying to figure out the voters. Look no further than your TV and at your local newspaper. There was news to be reported, but the media was more interested in a soap opera. They were the real drivers of the "clown car" this year.
First there were the desperate attempts by the media to normalize Trump's behaviour with constant false equivalences. When Trump did something insulting or controversial, the media felt an odd need to even this out by constantly going back to talk about Clinton's emails. It's not just that they reported the non-scandal as being bigger than it actually was, they reported it as being as big as everything else combined.
Imagine a scale where, on one side, was everything from Trump University to rape allegations to tax returns to ties with Russia to "Grab 'em by the p**y" to "Second Amendment People" to "Mexicans are sending rapists" to "He founded ISIS" to Trump Foundation money to "I like people who weren't captured" to A BIG WALL. Now, on the other side of that scale? Clinton's emails. It wasn't enough that the media showed that scale as being equal; it went and put its thumb on it, too.
The media treated one person this year like a candidate for president. It treated the other like an entertainer.
Midway through the election, the media decided to stop fact checking or reporting anything else. It hammered home a scandal that, only two days before the election, turned out to not be a scandal at all. This would all be fine if what was going on was actual reporting. Instead, it was a lot of talking. It was two people on TV going back and forth with their opinion on not right or wrong, true or false... but left versus right.
While barely even mentioning the stack of lies Donald Trump was spewing all year long, the media devoted time talking about Clinton's smile. Yes, her smile. And then this same media seemed baffled whenever told that sexism might be at play.
Donald Trump, prone to go off on Twitter feuds in the middle of the night, was praised for "staying on message" simply when he didn't lose his marbles onstage. Clinton, acting like any other male politician before her, was deemed "cold". Over at CNN, Wolf Blitzer embarrassingly called Clinton "emotional" when she was being stoic. And then there was the endless talk about Clinton's pantsuits. Cable news actually treated a presidential candidate like a guest on What Not To Wear, never mentioning the fact that Trump constantly wears the same unflattering black suit.
(Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
They gave billions of dollars in free press to one candidate all year long, treated every wild accusation he made as if it were fact, and then made endless accusations about a non-scandal seem to share equal footing with real controversies... only to then scratch their heads and wonder why voters had trust issues.
Forget whether Clinton should or should not have won. That's history now. The voters spoke. There's no part of me that will say that the media itself is responsible for who won.
But the media treated one person this year like a candidate for president. It treated the other like an entertainer. Meanwhile, its flippancy with one compared to their thirst for blood with the other is exactly why they now come out of the election with egg on their faces. Because the entertainer's supporters treated him like a serious candidate all along. The media should have as well.
The media's role is supposed to be to find the news itself, not to be led by the hand. Much of that was thanks to the awful behavior by The FBI and, specifically, by FBI director James Comey. Forget partisan politics for a moment, because even Republicans thought Comey poorly did his job. Legal experts shook their heads at the fact that FBI directors just don't talk about these things until there's actually something to report. But Comey opined just like the political hacks on cable news. And then he talked again. And then again. That rabid media jumped each time and -- rather than report the fact that there was really nothing to report -- kept speculating. And debating. Two talking heads went back and forth about "what if" rather than "what is." For the first time in U.S. history, the head of the FBI became one of them.
The real story should have been that Russia and the FBI both had a hand in influencing the U.S. presidential election; the fact that an FBI director acted like a publicist rather than the top law enforcement agent. This is the same media who spent more time vetting Clinton's emails than it did actual stolen emails from Wikileaks. The media had more trust in Julian Assange than it had in itself. They gave him far more credit than they deserve from us.
Then there's the constant talk about "white working class." The media kept repeating that "people are angry, and Trump is talking to them." It should have been telling them the truth, which is that America is doing far better than people feel. Rather than tell the facts, the media repeated the myth. And it stuck. Just like the myth of Trump supporters as this, "working class" average joe from the Rust Belt, rather than mostly white men earning seventy grand per year. The media never took the responsibility to report that maybe that anger was misdirected.
The media never took the responsibility to report that maybe that anger was misdirected.
And it continues today. The media has totally stopped talking about the inflammatory language tossed out by Trump and his supporters. They've switched the narrative to "White Working Class" and how this election rejected "The Elites." Rather than point out that The president-elect is a billionaire Manhattanite who has spent his life exploiting the very system the "white working class" despises, they're calling the candidate who actually got the most votes "out of touch." There needs to be more talk about the very reality that millions of voters are incredibly misinformed. The Democrats may indeed be out of touch with the people. But the people are terribly out of touch with the facts. It's supposed to be the media's job to inform them.
Ward Anderson is co-host of the SiriusXM talk radio program Ward & Al, heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST on the "Canada Talks" channel. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, he doesn't need to move to Canada because Trump won... because he already lives there.
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