Picture for just a moment, say, Jake Tapper. He’s a fantastic political journalist and a seemingly decent guy, someone who’s always above-board and who tends to call it like he sees it, minus any of the usual ass-kissing or side-taking we see in a lot of others of his ilk. You can easily imagine Tapper succinctly putting political miscreants in their place because he’s competent and dedicated enough to understand that politics isn’t simply a horse race; there are real-world consequences to who the people choose to represent them and the decisions those leaders make while in office. And yet, while he’s called out a few individual transgressions during this election cycle, for reasons no one with a working frontal lobe will ever comprehend Jake Tapper has yet to just stand up and quit on national television in protest of what the hell this election season is saying about America. He should. He should lose his mind on-air. In fact, anybody covering this miasma should lose his or her mind.
And yet nobody does. Nobody is willing to openly admit what most of us have been able to see for months: that if Donald Trump is the best the Republican party can do, and if he winds up becoming the nominee for president, we’re fucking doomed. The political press just keeps right on plugging along, pretending that while this is an unusual and surprising election season there’s nothing completely offensive and undeniably dangerous about it. Donald Trump is calling immigrants rapists and killers, he’s for banning all Muslims from entering the country, and he’s regularly encouraging his rabid followers to rough up protesters, and yet as a whole our nation’s political media is covering Trump’s rise as if it’s something to marvel at — or to hardly notice at all — rather than something to be utterly ashamed of. The job of the political press is to hold candidates accountable — but our political press for the most part isn’t doing a damn thing when it comes to Trump.
On Sunday, MSNBC correspondent Katy Tur tweeted out a depressing but not all that surprising incident that happened on the trail. She claims that at a campaign rally, Trump worked the audience by going after the media — not at all the first time he’s done it — and that led to the angry crowd hurling insults and threats at the press covering the event. According to Tur, at least one guy in the audience turned toward her and shouted, “You’re a bitch!” while another flipped the press gaggle off. In response to this, Chuck Todd fired off a tweet accusing Trump and his nutjob acolytes of engaging in “outrageous and dangerous behavior,” and saying that the “campaign rhetoric” needs to be “ratcheted back.” Trump singles out Katy Tur, accusing her of saying something negative about him, then whips the crowd into a frenzy against her until people are basically ready to tear her head off, and that’s just “campaign rhetoric?” No, it absolutely isn’t. It’s the frightening ravings of a would-be fascist dictator, one who refuses to behave decently or responsibly and who all the admonition in the world won’t stop. Remember, this is the same guy who responded to a protester being punched at a rally in November by agreeing that “maybe he should’ve been roughed up.”
As our own Tommy Christopher noted over at Mediaite today, the incident Tur describes didn’t happen this past weekend. It happened three months ago. In the wake of it, NBC News did absolutely nothing. Nothing to keep its reporters safe. Nothing to call out Trump’s horrid behavior or his supporters’ furious taunts and threats. Nothing. What’s more, not only has MSNBC continued to broadcast Trump’s rallies live — because you never know what might happen! — but the network ran a fawning pretend documentary about Trump and is now accused of purposely looking the other way as the hosts of its perennially low-rated Beltway circle jerk, Morning Joe, cozy up to him. Trump brings in the ratings and that’s just too juicy a proposition for any news network, let alone MSNBC, to thumb its nose at, apparently. The same can be said for Fox News, which defended Megyn Kelly from a series of vicious and juvenile attacks by Trump and his fanatical followers only to attempt to repair the strained relationship with Trump a short time later. Nobody’s willing to stand up to this asshole. Nobody in the political press is willing to put his or her credibility and sense of civic duty above the network or outlet’s bottom line.
Eventually, some member of the media is going to get hurt when Trump singles them out for a scathing rebuke. Back in January, he tore the head off a poor camera operator in the middle of a Trump rally for the unforgivable sin of not moving the camera to show the size of the crowd. (As if the people covering the rally work for Trump and are therefore required to take orders from him.) When Trump went after him, the crowd followed suit and launched into the same kind of mass tirade Katy Tur was on the receiving end of. And yet, again, not only does the media not take steps to protect its own people, it otherwise behaves as if Trump isn’t a threat to the public and America as a whole. Granted, the easiest way to correct itself on both counts would be to simply stop covering Trump, but given his status as ratings and page-view catnip that’s just never going to happen. Barring that then, the political media should be willing to take a stand and at every turn portray Trump as he is: a dangerous, megalomaniacal demagogue.
Anything else makes the press complicit in Trump’s ongoing scheme to remake America in his own horrific image.