A few weeks back I wrote a piece for The Daily Banter that lambasted the American political press for not putting its foot down when it comes to Donald Trump. While it’s true that the media bears an immense amount of responsibility for Trump’s rise, given that they can’t say no to the ratings catnip he regularly provides for them, it’s tragic to see that when it comes to Donald Trump, the press isn’t even willing to stand between his frenzied yokel minions and its own representatives.
Trump regularly vilifies the members of the media unfortunate enough to be assigned to cover his campaign: he points out the correspondents and photographers in the press pen and shouts them down as “dishonest,” leading, of course, to the predictable response from the angry army of lunatics who attend Trump rallies. MSNBC’s Katy Tur recently described personally being called out by Trump and how the crowd reacted by flipping her off and yelling that she was a bitch. And last week, my friend and ex-CNN coworker Jacki Schechner published an anonymous report from a colleague in news which claimed that the mistreatment of reporters — and protesters — seen on TV doesn’t even hold a candle to the Jerry Springer-esque carnival of violence that actually goes on at Trump rallies.
And that brings us to today, and the story of Michelle Fields. She’s a conservative pundit who’s appeared on Fox News and a reporter for the flaming garbage pile that is Breitbart. Say what you will about that particular pedigree, while civilized people can disagree on the quality of journalism to be found at Breitbart or on Fox News, civilized people can also agree that even a reporter for those outlets doesn’t deserve to be roughed up at a campaign appearance. But apparently that’s exactly what happened to Fields. In a piece published late yesterday, she recounts trying to ask Trump a question at one of his rambling press conferences a couple of days ago — a question about affirmative action — when Trump’s own campaign manager yanked her away from the candidate and almost pushed her down to the floor.
Fields say that Corey Lewandowski was the one who was so aggressive with her and that The Washington Post’s Ben Terris was right there and can confirm her story. In the wake of this incident, you’d expect Breitbart‘s management to hammer Trump and demand the immediate firing of Lewandowski. But the media in general don’t fight back against Trump — and many in the conservative media, apparently, won’t respond with anything more than a barely tepid defense of their own people. Breitbart‘s response was to write that it was “obviously unacceptable that someone crossed a line and made physical contact” with Fields. The publication goes on to say that Lewandowski — whom Breitbart refers to by his first name, Corey — owes Fields “an immediately apology.” No, Lewandowski needs to be shit-canned at least and charged with assault at most.
According to Lloyd Grove at The Daily Beast, Lewandowski’s excuse is that he didn’t realize Fields worked for Breitbart. Even pencil-necked conservative man-child Ben Shapiro, long a boil on the ass of our national discourse, called out that bullshit, asking the obvious question about whether it would have been okay for Lewandowski to assault journalists from other outlets. The bottom line here being that Breitbart should’ve stood up for Michelle Fields and Corey Lewandowski should be facing a world of shit right now.
On a day when the other big story of violence du jour at a Trump campaign appearance involves a black man being sucker punched by a white guy as Trump’s security frog-marched him out of a rally in North Carolina, this is yet another reminder of the damage Donald Trump is doing to our nation even without winning the White House. He’s created a toxic environment where brutality and racism angrily pushes aside civility and understanding. There are so many questions worth raising about why Trump’s security — and his Secret Service detail — continue to do the bidding of this demagoguing monster. But beyond that is the question of why media outlets large and small won’t flex their considerable muscle and bring Trump to heel.
It’s one thing to declare that it’s necessary to remain objective, but to treat what we’re seeing now — what the Trump campaign represents — as just an oddball anomaly in the political horserace and a chance to milk a showman for all the ratings and page-views he can deliver is a dereliction of duty. An aggressive press is supposed to be the one thing standing between us and tyrants like Trump. It’s about time it started living up to that responsibility, for the good of its own people and the rest of us.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.