You know things aren’t going well for a Republican candidate for president when polls show him tied with the Democratic candidate in a region of southeast Wisconsin that is considered one of the most dependable GOP strongholds in the country.
That’s what the latest Marquette University Law School poll says about Donald Trump’s esteem among voters in a corner of the state, which includes Ozaukee and Waukesha counties, that favored Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by 14 points in 2012.
Trump is getting similar bad news from polls in areas of other states that usually vote Republican, and he’s making it clear in his boisterous rallies that he knows whom to blame: It’s the news media’s fault.
Trump may be a liar of unprecedented prolificacy among presidential candidates—the nonpartisan fact-checking organization PolitiFact rates more than 60% of his campaign statements as false or worse (“pants on fire”)—but he is telling the truth about the news media.
Political analysts attribute Trump’s slide in the polls to blunders such as his bizarre claim that President Obama founded ISIS, his provocative suggestion that gun enthusiasts could act against Hillary Clinton and his cruel attack on the parents of an American army soldier of the Muslim faith who was killed in action in Afghanistan, but it has really been the news media’s unwavering reporting of these disturbing statements that has given voters more reason to doubt Trump’s fitness for the presidency.
In each case, Trump reacted to overwhelmingly negative fallout by blaming the press for distorting his comments. This led to further scrutiny of his odd pronouncements, which led to confirmation that the mainstream print and electronic press had in almost every instance reported on them accurately and fairly.
The press, after a rough start, is finally doing its job covering a presidential race that is unconventional to say the least.
Early on, Donald Trump schooled the news media. He exploited news organizations, particularly those of ratings-hungry cable TV, with colorful behavior that garnered free exposure far in excess of that granted other candidates and propelled his surge in Republican primaries.
Meanwhile, the press, particularly the print variety, resorted to its old false equivalence habit to demonstrate its objectivity, equating the latest damning revelation about Trump with something negative about another candidate, suggesting the candidates were equally untrustworthy.
Hard lessons were learned. Today the same cable TV organizations, including CNN, MSNBC and others, that lavished uncritical attention on Trump now broadcast real-time fact-checking—pointing out misstatements on the screen as Trump speaks.
Newspapers, along with the Associated Press and network TV, now routinely add detailed context to reporting on Trump statements that exposes untruths, distortions and frequent factual mistakes.
Trump once merely ridiculed journalists (including a vicious impression of a respected reporter with a degenerative neurological condition), but he now rails against them in long diatribes. His frequent characterization of members of the press as “the lowest form of life” at campaign appearances is red meat fed to his true believers, who have been known to physically menace reporters while excoriating them as “fags” and “traitors.”
Trump’s performance at his rallies has been likened to playing to a mob, an assessment that is supported by a widely viewed video compiled by a team of New York Times reporters who have covered the rallies for the past year. In the video, Trump is heard inciting his audience to a frenzied point where a mention of Hillary Clinton elicits chants of “hang the bitch” and a reference to the current president of the United States is met with repetitions of an epithet that includes both the F-word and the N-word.
Trump blames the news media for his problems. He’s right to the extent that accurate reporting on a candidate’s penchant for spewing a toxic mix of vitriol and lies may to be leading Americans of various political beliefs to the conclusion that he should not be allowed anywhere near the White House.