Opinion » Letter From The Editor

The Deplorable State of the Media

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After Hillary Clinton suffered a fainting spell at a 9/11 memorial service in New York City last weekend, her physician revealed that the Democratic candidate was suffering from walking pneumonia. Pundits spent the next few days analyzing the candidate's health and what it might mean for her campaign, and taking shots at her "lack of transparency" for not announcing that she was ill prior to the incident. At this point, I am amazed that they didn't begin investigating whether she might also have the boogie-woogie flu.

But that's how it's going for HRC, these days. She can't win for losing.

The New York incident marked the end of what already had been a tough week for Hillary's campaign, coming on the heels of her now-infamous "basket of deplorables" comment, in which she said half of Donald Trump's supporters were "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it."

The media blowback from this remark was just the latest example of how poorly the American public is being served by the television journalists and pundits charged with "covering" this campaign. How dare she make such a foolish and negative remark, the commentators whinnied. ABC's John Heilemann called it the "very definition of bigotry."

Trump, taking his cue from the softballs tossed his way by the chattering class, spent the next couple of days demanding an apology. "The disdain that Hillary Clinton expressed for millions of decent Americans disqualifies her from public service," Trump said. "You cannot run for president if you have such contempt in your heart for the American voter."

Really, Donald? I guess Muslims, Hispanics, African Americans, women, the physically handicapped, the American military, your GOP primary opponents, Gold Star parents, and every other group of citizens you've insulted and disparaged during your campaign aren't American voters?

The fact is, the election is going in this direction — she said, he said, let's you and him fight — because the corporate media are invested in prolonging and provoking this contest. They are throwing logs on the fire — then helpfully adding gasoline —because it drives ratings, it fills hours of viewing time, it generates clicks for websites. It may even sell papers.

What would happen if the media did their job and investigated Clinton's claim before reacting to it? For one thing, they would have discovered that she spoke the truth. According to an Ipsos poll conducted in April, 49 percent of Trump supporters believed blacks were inherently "more violent than whites"; 47 percent believed blacks were "more criminal than whites." Other surveys have shown that more than half of Trump's supporters believe President Obama is a Muslim and/or was born in Kenya. Sure, you can quibble about whether "half" of Trump's supporters are deplorable, but a quick look at some videos from his rallies and speeches makes it clear that many of those folks fit into one or more of the categories cited by Clinton. "Hang the bitch" is one of their favorite rallying cries these days. Nice.

Look, calling out racists, sexists, anti-semites, misogynists, and xenophobes is not "bigotry." It's what every politician worth our vote should be doing. Instead, Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, won't even say noted white supremacist David Duke is deplorable. Nor will Trump. And that's because Trump and Pence need the votes of Duke and his followers, and, yes, of America's racists, xenophobes, homophobes, and Islamaphobes. It's their freaking base! To pretend otherwise is turning a blind eye to the obvious.

The Trump campaign has normalized behavior that would have gotten any candidate before 2016 laughed out of the presidential race. The shenanigans (and outright crimes) of Trump's bogus foundation that were uncovered this week by The Washington Post would have sent candidates in prior campaigns straight to perdition. But Trump sails on, because the country's corporate media need a horse race.

I'm cynical enough to believe we're being gamed. Just as Trump has changed the standards by which we judge candidates, Fox News has changed the rules by which the major television networks cover politics. Keep the electorate stirred up, and you keep them tuning in. "Trump is closing the gap" gooses the ratings. Exposing him for the fraud that he is with responsible reporting? Not so much.

We're less than two months away from an election that could see the most powerful country on earth elect an unqualified, narcissistic fool to its highest office. It's terrifying. It's unthinkable. You might even say it's deplorable.


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