When I was a child, I took great delight tormenting my little sister. I’d pull off the heads of her dolls, mess up her coloring books, and throw her toys across the room. If that didn’t get the rise I wanted, I’d poke and prod her. Out of frustration she’d eventually push me away. “Mom, Susan hit me!” I’d shout feigning victimhood.
NBC White House reporter Peter Alexander and most of his colleagues attending President Trump’s coronavirus briefings remind me of my childhood shenanigans. They know full well that Trump isn’t a nice or empathetic man, that he’ll never assume responsibility for anything regardless of his evident culpability, and that he rightly knows how much the media despises him. Rather than simply let the public see and judge for themselves that Trump is bullshitting his way through the coronavirus crisis, Alexander & Co. want to provoke Trump with questions that will invariably cause him to lash out and allow them to declare their victimhood.
Alexander on Saturday asked Trump “What do you say to Americans who are scared, nearly 200 dead, 14,000 who are sick, millions who are scared right now, what do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?” The question was akin to the proverbial tabloid question, “Do you still beat your wife?”
Had Trump answered that Americans have nothing to fear but fear itself, the media would have attacked him for downplaying the severity of the virus. Had he said, “Look, here’s the deal: Millions are going to get very sick, hundreds of thousands will die, and God only knows where we’re going to find enough ventilators,” the media would have attacked him for his insensitivity and incompetence.
Trump, who has less self-control than my sister had when she was three, took Alexander’s bait and lashed out after Alexander kept needling him.
I would say you are a terrible reporter. I think it is a nasty question. I think it is a very bad signal that you are putting out to American people. The American people are looking for answers and hope. You are doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and Comcast. I don’t call them Comcast. I call it Con-cast. That’s really bad reporting. You want to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism. Let’s see if it works. It may not. I happen to feel good about it, but who knows. I have been right a lot. Let’s see what happens.
Trump’s response was inappropriate and demeaning of his office. But Trump’s mean spiritedness and lack of decorum is well known, so all Alexander accomplished badgering Trump was calling attention to himself. Reporters from the liberal media immediately rushed to his defense, decrying how Trump was seeking to delegitimize journalists when America needed them most. Alexander innocently maintained that he was only asking a “softball” question intended to give Trump an opportunity to speak to the American people.
Experienced journalists who know how the media game is played called out Alexander for his grandstanding. “Legitimate question my **,” tweeted Fox (and former ABC News) reporter Brit Hume, who is often critical of Trump. New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin, who previously worked at the New York Times, declared “at too many news outlets, the aim is not to inform. It’s to render the harshest possible judgment on the man journalists love to hate.”
Journalists are using Alexander’s martyrdom as a rallying cry to call for news outlets to stop carrying Trump’s coronavirus briefings live. “Put (Trump) on tape-delay so journalists can counter his rush of misinformation,” said Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post’s media columnist. Yes, the same Margaret Sullivan who declared a year ago that covering Trump’s press briefings live was critical for Democracy even if they were “exercises in futility.” (A position one would expect from a journalist at a publication whose motto is “Democracy Dies in Darkness”.)
There is no credible evidence suggesting the public has faith that the media will fairly interpret Trump’s remarks. Polls conclusively show the public holds the media in such low regard that a Morning Consult survey found that only eight percent of Americans trusted the media to do the right thing. And if there’s any network that can’t be trusted to cover presidential politics objectively, it’s NBC.
The “Proud as a Peacock” network is owned by Comcast, consistently ranked as one of America’s most hated companies. A responsible owner of a news operation would avoid any appearance of bias or favoritism, but that’s not how Comcast rolls. According to Sludge, a site focused on corruption and wrongdoing, Comcast’s top management are are major contributors to Biden’s campaign. As well, Comcast’s top lobbyist, David Cohen, co-hosted Biden’s kick off fundraiser and is a bundler responsible for raising $25,000 or more from others.
Comcast’s liberal MSNBC outlet understandably has been brutal in its coverage of Donald Trump. But it also has been excessively critical of Bernie Sanders. An analysis by In These Times found the network devoted considerably more coverage to Biden than any other Democratic candidate. More importantly, MSNBC’s coverage of Biden was overwhelmingly positive, while its coverage of Sanders was mostly negative. Bernie Sanders recently demonstrated his anger with MSNBC, reportedly jabbing a top network executive in the face and confronting top boss Phil Griffin.
Its understandable why Comcast’s top executives would want Bernie Sanders taken down. CEO Brian Roberts is a billionaire who would be heavily taxed if Sanders was elected. As well, Sanders for years has railed against the “corporate owned” media and he possibly would take meaningful measures to address the legitimate issue of the one percent having undue media influence.
As I’ve written previously, the Walt Disney Co. owns ABC and is known to have used its news programming to promote its movies and taking revenge on news outlets that report critically on the company. NBC, ABC, and CBS all own movie studios that have succumbed to China’s censorship demands to gain access to what is expected to become their biggest market. Think again if you believe the networks will ever aggressively report on China’s civil rights and other extensive wrongdoings.
The novel coronavirus is too serious and beyond the depth of the Ken and Barbie reporters employed at the compromised television networks. Trump needs to be held accountable, but it’s going to take experienced and knowledgeable reporters to pull off the task. Ben Rhodes, a former senior Obama aide who is now an NBC contributor, is on the record as saying that reporters covering the White House “know nothing.”
My solution: Clear the White House briefing room of the inexperienced journalists assigned to cover the president and only allow credible reporters covering the coronavirus epidemic full time to ask questions. Talented journalists will let America see Trump hang himself rather than going after him with a noose.