Donald Trump’s campaign promised that his speech today would provide details of his foreign policy agenda. The location he chose for the address was the deck of the USS Iowa battleship currently docked in San Pedro, California. But as usual, Trump arrived, greeted the crowd, and gave his standard stump speech that consisted mainly of glorifying himself and tossing out nearly incoherent, monosyllabic cliches and insults. No doubt his brain-dead fans ate it up.
What was unusual about this speech was that ordinarily all of the cable “news” networks would obediently fall in line to broadcast Trump’s irrelevance and inanity live. That didn’t happen today. Perhaps they are wising up and realizing that Trump has nothing to say and that he has been exploiting them to get free advertising.
So this day marks a milestone for media independence and journalistic discretion. Except for one thing. While CNN aired about a minute of Trump’s speech before cutting away to a panel of pundits, and Fox News ignored the speech entirely, sticking with their regularly scheduled broadcast of Bill O’Reilly, MSNBC cut away from the Rachel Maddow Show and aired Trump’s speech in full and uninterrupted. Yes, MSNBC.
Something is terribly wrong when Fox News employs a more appropriate editorial policy with regard to a Republican candidate than MSNBC. And ironically, throughout most of the segment MSNBC’s graphic read “Trump Gives Major Policy-Free Speech.” Which begs the question: Then why are you airing it? Even Trump recognized the absurdity of the constant live coverage he drew when he said in Alabama last month “Why don’t they just cover me like anybody else where they go the next day and they show little clips? Every time I speak it has to be live? It’s ridiculous.”
Indeed, why don’t they cover him like anybody else? A few weeks ago I wrote a column lambasting all three cable “news” nets for their flagrant whoring to one candidate for the ratings they expect to garnish. But now I fear I must remind the one network that ought to have known better in the first place. So MSNBC, pay attention:
“Even after Trump taunts them about how tightly they are wound around his fat finger, they still bow down to him. Even after he correctly notes that it’s ridiculous, they persist in following him around like lovesick puppies. Even though there is nothing in Trump’s stump speeches that makes them newsworthy, other than some fresh bit of noxious racism or ignorance, his arrogant mugging is carried live. His circus sideshow offers no justification for preempting regular programming to broadcast his ego-ranting as if the fate of the nation depended on it, but they do it anyway. […]
“The media should cover Trump like any other candidate. No more, no less. By arbitrarily providing live broadcasts of only his campaign speeches they are violating their professional duties by serving as the PR team for one candidate. Trump’s public appearances are pep rallies for his own aggrandizement, not news events. […]
“The live coverage needs to stop, or at least be reserved for only events that warrant it for their news value. Absent that, the networks should register as lobbyists for the candidate and be required to report their airtime as in-kind donations […] to benefit a raging demagogue whose primary appeal is that he could spontaneously combust at any moment.”
It’s impossible to say whether CNN and Fox declined to air Trump’s speech out of principle or if they just weren’t in the mood today. We will see what happens when Trump gives his next speech. But MSNBC has got to stop embarrassing themselves by demonstrating lower standards than Fox when it comes to campaign coverage.
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