CLAMPDOWN: Trump’s Politburo Bars Dr. Fauci and Others From Appearing on CNN

The abhorrent tyrannical tendencies of Donald Trump continue to be revealed with each passing day. His admiration for brutal dictators like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong Un, has long been established in his own words. They are the models of unchecked power to which he aspires. And they are the political figures he most often refers to as his friends, even while he’s bitterly lambasting fellow Americans like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.

Donald Trump

On Thursday morning it was reported that Trump has taken another step toward the authoritarian government he craves. And, not surprisingly, it comes in the form of an attack on the media that he despises and routinely refers to in Stalinist terms as “the enemy of the people.” CNN is reporting that Vice-President Mike Pence, who Trump appointed to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force, is prohibiting the health experts on the team from appearing on CNN:

“Vice President Mike Pence’s office has declined to allow the nation’s top health officials to appear on CNN in recent days and discuss the coronavirus pandemic killing thousands of Americans, in an attempt to pressure the network into carrying the White House’s lengthy daily briefings in full.”

This could not be a more blatant assault on the free press, as well as a flagrant breach of the free speech rights of the doctors and other task force members who have critical knowledge and advice about the deadly pandemic that is spreading throughout the nation and the world. Trump is deliberately depriving the American people of potentially life-saving information in order to extort CNN into complying with his self-serving demands.

UPDATE: While these health experts are forbidden to appear on CNN, they are all over Fox News.

What’s more, Trump is imposing the very same sort of quid pro quo that he used to attempt to strong-arm Ukraine into digging up dirt on Joe Biden. Trump is floating access to these health experts, but with a caveat: “I’d like you to do us a favor though.”

The “favor” that Trump is seeking this time is for CNN to submit to his demands to air all of his task force briefings live. That is a wholly improper ultimatum for a president to impose on news organization. But it’s even more ludicrous considering that Trump has transformed those briefings into thinly veiled campaign events to advance his 2020 reelection prospects. Since he can no longer hold the cult rallies that feed his voracious ego, he is hijacking these briefings and expecting the media to roll over and give him all the free ad time he wants.

The press has been struggling with the question of whether to carry the briefings live, or to delay them for a few minutes so that Trump’s avalanche of lies can be fact-checked. There is no reason to air Trump’s ego-fest when it is so devoid of newsworthy content. Both CNN and MSNBC have exercised some limited editorial discretion to avoid airing Trump’s dangerous disinformation and allowing him to engage in politics in the guise of virus updates. That’s something Fox News would never imagine doing. But Trump is singling out CNN, which he regards a his media nemesis, for this fascistic censorship. CNN reports that…

“Fauci, Birx, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Surgeon General Jerome Adams have all appeared on NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox during the last week, despite the fact that the broadcast networks have generally not covered the briefings that have included the vice president and health officials.”

The media must not give in to this presidential blackmail. They must continue to report honestly about Trump’s tragic failures in addressing this crisis. They must fearlessly expose his negligence, incompetence, and brazen self-interest. They must independently seek the judgment of experts like Dr. Fauci, in defiance of Trump’s orders. They should ask those experts if they agree with Trump’s gag order when they see them at the briefings.

Finally, the media must stick together. If Trump tries to silence any media organization, the others need to show their support by boycotting his briefings and other public events. That’s the only thing that will get through to the Narcissist-in-Chief. Any acquiescence to Trump’s bullying is a severe blow to the principles enshrined in the Constitution. And it’s as deadly to American democracy and freedom as the coronavirus is to it’s citizens.

UPDATE: After significant bad PR, the prohibition on CNN has been lifted.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Trump Freaks Out Over the Press Fact Checking His Lie-Riddled Coronavirus/Campaign Briefings

Donald Trump fears nothing more than being held accountable for the abhorrent things he actually does and says. He proves this every day with his virulent attacks on the free press that he routinely maligns in Stalinist terms as “the enemy of the people.” And Trump’s fears are justified considering that he lies with such frequency and shamelessness that it’s hard for the press keep up.

Donald Trump

On Wednesday morning Trump unleashed a raving Twitter tantrum that illustrated just how profoundly deranged he’s become. He is a densely packed heap of desperation and paranoia that is on the verge of bursting with atomic force. And he is utterly incapable of containing his rancid outrage:

This outburst is such a bizarre departure from presidential behavior that it requires some additional examination. Let’s start with Trump’s leading attempt to insult his political adversaries as “radical.” Because Trump uses this rhetoric nearly every time he mentions any Democrat, it’s lost any meaning. It’s just a childish, knee-jerk swipe at those he regards as his enemies. As is his baseless and impotent accusation that Democrats have “gone absolutely crazy.”

Getting more into the meat of Trump’s whining, he makes the completely unsupported assertion that Democrats want him to stop doing daily presidential news conferences. That isn’t possible since he has never done such things. What he’s doing now is hijacking the daily Coronavirus Task Force press briefings. And those he should stop doing because he has absolutely nothing to contribute. He has no experience or knowledge of the medical or public health issues at hand. He simply reads a bunch of data (that could be done by an intern), then spends the rest of the time lying about imaginary accomplishments, paying tribute to himself, and yelling at journalists. This is only wasting the time of the experts standing behind him and depriving the public of useful information.

During Tuesday’s briefing Trump dispensed numerous falsehoods including his ridiculous claim of rampant fraud in mail-in voting. Not only is there nearly zero such fraud, Trump himself voted with a mail-in ballot this year. He also continued to offer potentially deadly medical advice by promoting the use of an unapproved drug that can have severe side effects, and that he has a financial interest in. And he spent several minutes attacking the U.S. Postal Service for not not charging Amazon more to ship products (which would just be passed on to consumers). He claimed that companies like Amazon were bankrupting the Postal Service, when the truth is that they are supporting it.

Trump’s assertion that Democrats complained that he didn’t do enough news conferences before is wholly fictional. There were complaints about the White House press secretary discontinuing daily briefings, but no one was looking for more propaganda and bombast from Trump. And no one has ever suggested that he not be allowed to do any briefings. That’s just more of Trump’s invented victimhood. As for his press secretary, he just fired one and replaced her with an even less qualified spokes shill that he poached from his campaign operation.

Eventually, Trump got something right. There has been an effort by clear thinking people who have respect for democracy to “shame” the media into rethinking their coverage of the Task Force briefings. Due to Trump’s flagrant torrent of lies, and his thinly disguised efforts to transform the briefings into de facto campaign events for his 2020 reelection, many people in politics, the press and the public believe the media should alter its coverage. They need to show more deference to truth telling and not allow themselves to be exploited by Trump for his personal political ambitions. The press loses nothing by delaying their reports a few minutes so that what they air can be reviewed for accuracy and relevance. The press is not obligated to air Trump’s lies unchallenged, or to give him free airtime for his campaign.

Finally, Trump demonstrated his pitifully poor comprehension skills by bragging about the ratings for these briefings. He thinks that high ratings are an indication of his popularity. That is decidedly untrue. There are at least as many Trump opponents as supporters who are tuning in to get information about COVID-19. But in Trump’s cartoon brain all that matters is what feeds his voracious ego: ratings and what’s in it for him. He even expressed his disappointment that he wasn’t making a buck off the briefings. Referring to the press, he sarcastically lamented that “sadly, they get it $FREE.”

What is driving this twantrum is Trump’s innate fear of being exposed as the pathological liar that he is. And in an attempt to cut the criticism off at the pass, he is now actually confessing to his deliberate falsehoods. When asked about his prior dismissals of the real threat that COVID-19 represented, he told reporters (video below) that “You have to understand, I’m a cheerleader for this country.” In other words, he lied in order to pacify people with a phony rosy scenario, rather than tell them the more difficult truth, which would have saved lives. And that is as clear a dereliction of presidential leadership as you’ll ever see.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

BAD FOR AMERICA! Trump Delights In the Suffering of American Workers and Business

In times of crisis, the American people want and expect their leaders to exhibit wisdom and compassion. Difficult problems require both intelligence and judgment to resolve, and at least the appearance of sympathy for the hardships facing the average citizen. The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is just such a circumstance. Unfortunately, the United States is currently stuck with Donald Trump who has none of these qualities.

Donald Trump Climate Change

The single most reliable feature of Trump’s character (or lack thereof) is his unflinching determination to always do only what is best for him. This selfishness is evident in his reckless and greed-driven proposals to “reopen” the country before any public health expert considers it safe. It’s obvious in his obsession with the polls and TV ratings that define his self-worth. There is virtually nothing that Trump addresses in his Coronavirus Task Force briefings (that he has hijacked and turned into 2020 reelection events) that isn’t directly attached to his personal welfare.

On Monday morning, while the nation was trying to cope with ever more troubling news concerning the spreading pandemic, Trump was, as usual, manning his Twitter machine and pounding out dangerous falsehoods, childish platitudes, and tributes to himself. Among the tweets that he posted was one that was particularly offensive:

What’s “bad for America” is a president who repeatedly maligns the free press in Stalinist terms as “the enemy of the people.” It’s fair to say that it’s also bad when a president is so stupid that he doesn’t understand that all businesses are presently struggling due to a virtual economic shutdown made necessary by Trump’s negligence and incompetence. Among the businesses that are experiencing financial difficulties are those owned by Trump. In fact, many are currently closed and his net worth has declined by thirty percent.

However, what’s truly repulsive about this tweet is that Trump is openly gleeful that American media companies are being hurt financially along with the rest of the country. These are businesses whose mission is to keep the American people informed, sometimes at great risk to themselves. This is especially difficult when the president is a pathological liar. But they are also businesses that employ tens of thousands of Americans. Clearly Trump couldn’t care less about these people, their families, and communities.

It’s further proof of Trump’s ignorance that he doesn’t know whether the press is suffering financially because of the quality of their reporting or the impact of a global pandemic. Trump is just exploiting the issue to bash the media, which prior to this coronavirus outbreak was having a banner year in both viewership and revenue. And it must be driving him crazy(er) knowing that according to most polls, the American people still trust the media more than they trust Trump.

It’s that public disapproval that is likely contributing to Trump’s downward spiraling emotional state. Not only has Trump not enjoyed a sustained “rally round the flag” polling bounce, he is at a four month low (44%) with his favorite, unabashedly biased, right-wing pollster, Rasmussen. That’s gotta hurt. But it shouldn’t hurt so much that it drives Trump to celebrate the misfortune of thousands of American workers. That’s on Trump.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

GLOVES OFF: America’s Future Depends on Brutally Honest Media Coverage of Trump’s Failures

The anxiety of the American people continues to grow as they witness more and more of their fellow citizens becoming ill and dying from COVID-19 (coronavirus). Medical experts are not predicting a peak until at least late April or early May. In the meantime, our families, friends, and neighbors can be seen suiting up in masks and gloves before daring to venture outside.

Donald Trump

However, it is now time for journalists to take the metaphorical gloves off. Historically there has been a protocol for the conduct of reporters who cover the president of the United States. They have generally complied with the rule that respect must be shown to the office, if not its current occupant.

Consequently, reporters are accustomed to behaving with a certain meekness when addressing the President. They ask their questions with deference and patiently await a reply. They resist any impulse to interrupt or correct the President if he wanders off topic or supplies a false answer. They lean toward overextending courtesy in order to avoid being seen as rude.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump requires a total rewriting of how the press interacts with the President. His innate paranoia and hostility toward the media that he repeatedly slanders in Stalinist terms as “the enemy of the people” poses unique challenges for covering him. For example, Trump often won’t allow a reporter to complete a question when he senses that it will be difficult for him to answer. And since it is the reporter’s job to be probing and even provocative, that happens with some frequency. The result is that Trump’s response often fails to address what the reporter was asking. And the reporter isn’t given an opportunity to complete the actual question or to ask a follow up.

This is a tactic that Trump uses to avoid scrutiny of his words, actions, and intentions. It is a bully’s tactic that relies on the victim being too submissive to object. And that is where the conduct of the press needs the most work. Without a more aggressive posture, Trump will simply roll over the press and escape any real accountability. This can be observed daily at the Coronavirus Task Force briefings that Trump has hijacked and is selfishly exploiting as de facto campaign events.

There is no compelling reason for Trump to attend these briefings since he has no relevant knowledge or experience to contribute. He upstages the doctors and scientists whose information is actually useful. Trump’s presence merely allows him to lie with abandon, brag about things he hasn’t done, and insult the press corps and his political foes. He even tracks the ratings of these briefings and vainly attributes any increase in viewership to himself. Which is preposterous since there are at least as many Trump opponents tuning in as supporters.

It’s time for the press to start fighting back. They need to insist that they be allowed to ask questions without being cut off. They need to demand that Trump give answers that are responsive to the question. If necessary, they need to interrupt his incoherent filibusters to drag him back to the topic of the question. And they need to confront him when he tells another obvious, provable lie. He may get away with that when he’s “interviewed” on Fox News (the only cable news network he isn’t afraid to appear on), but that should not be the standard anywhere else.

The press needs to make these adjustments, not for any partisan objective or to disparage the President. They need to do it because at this critical time in our nation’s history people’s lives are dependent on getting credible information and holding the powerful to account. Trump’s ego, belligerence, and pathological lying cannot be allowed to divert the media from its traditional role to shine a light on the darkness of self-serving and/or corrupt politicians. They must meet Trump’s rancor with renewed determination and devotion to the public that relies on them. In the language of the TV reality world that Trump ought to understand: “It’s time to stop being polite and start getting real!”

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

WTF? While Americans Suffer, Trump Brags (and Lies) About TV ‘Ratings’

Well, it had to come to this. With more than 132,000 cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) confirmed in the United States, and 2,300 plus deaths, Donald Trump is showing us what really matters to him. He isn’t expressing condolences to those who have lost loved ones. He isn’t implementing a coherent strategy for combating the pandemic. He isn’t even adhering to the social distancing orders his own task force is recommending.

Donald Trump TV Set

Nope. What matters to Trump now – and always – is his ratings. Trump’s ego is voracious. Throughout this ordeal he has spent more time paying tribute to himself than he has executing a national plan. Whenever he does address things his administration is doing, he prefaces those remarks with superlatives that applaud his actions as “the biggest,” “the most,” and “the best ever.” He simply cannot describe any effort on his part without asserting that it broke some imaginary record for fabulousness.

On Sunday morning Trump went even further to essentially admit that he’s exploiting this pandemic as a means to get free airtime to promote himself and his 2020 reelection campaign. In a flurry of frantic tweets, Trump shamelessly boasted about the ratings for the televised Coronavirus Task Force briefings. He began with a typical swipe at the media that he despises saying that “The Lamestream Media wants us to fail. That will NEVER happen!” And that “Polls are showing tremendous disapproval of Lamestream Media coverage of the Virus crisis. The Fake News just hasn’t figured that out yet!”

Trump’s assertion that the media (which he is now maligning as “lamestream” ala Sarah Palin) “wants us to fail” is not supported by reality. And Trump, as usual, doesn’t provide a single example to prove that reckless claim. Reporting accurately that Trump’s response is failing is not the same as wanting it to fail. As for polls on the public’s approval of coverage of the pandemic, they predominantly show that the majority of Americans don’t trust Trump on the subject of the virus. Even worse for Trump’s fragile ego, Americans trust the media more than they trust Trump. And then there was this:

Notice that Trump refers to the ratings of “my news conferences.” That is not what these briefings are supposed to be, They are supposed to be opportunities to keep the public informed and have questions answered by experts. They should be used to educate the public honestly about current circumstances, and to disclose what the government is doing to keep them safe. But Trump has never been a source of reliable, truthful information. As an example there’s the quote in this tweet from an unnamed “lunatic” whose existence is doubtful. That’s particularly ironic since just yesterday Trump was mightily perturbed about the use of unnamed sources.

However, Trump had only just begun saluting his ratings prowess. Not satisfied with his earlier accolades to himself, Trump unleashed a four-tweet rant quoting an article in the New York Times. Or should I say misquoting? The first tweet stated that…

“President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.’ Numbers are continuing to rise…”

However, here is what the article actually said with the parts Trump excised in bold:

“President Trump is a ratings hit, and some journalists and public health experts say that could be a dangerous thing.

“Since reviving the daily White House briefing — a practice abandoned last year by an administration that bristles at outside scrutiny — Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.'”

So Trump left out crucial information, but still put his edits in quotation marks. That is both dishonest and unethical. It should also be noted that viewers who both support and (mostly) oppose Trump watch these briefings. So the ratings are not an indication of Trump’s popularity. What’s more, they air on multiple networks simultaneously and, therefore, are not comparable to any single network program rating such as The Bachelor. Moving on to the second tweet

“…On Monday, nearly 12.2 million people watched Mr. Trump’s briefing on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, according to Nielsen — ‘Monday Night Football’ numbers. Millions more are watching on ABC, CBS, NBC and online streaming sites, and the audience is expanding. On Monday, Fox News…”

And now for the actual quote from the article with relevant edits in bold:

“Millions more are watching on ABC, CBS, NBC and online streaming sites. […] And the audience is expanding even as Mr. Trump has repeatedly delivered information that doctors and public health officials have called ill informed, misleading or downright wrong.

Most Americans would probably be interested in the fact that Trump is regarded as ill informed by doctors and public health officials. But Trump decided that they shouldn’t know that. Then, in the third tweet Trump said that Fox News…

“…alone attracted 6.2 million viewers for the president’s briefing — an astounding number for a 6 p.m. cable broadcast, more akin to the viewership for a popular prime-time sitcom…”

Really? Does Trump really want to associate his pandemic briefings with sitcoms? In the fourth tweet Trump said that…

“…The CBS News poll said 13 percent of Republicans trusted the news media for information about the virus. Michael M. Grynbaum @NYTimes”

Now don’t be surprised, but Trump left out pertinent information about this as well:

“The CBS News poll said 13 percent of Republicans trusted the news media for information about the virus, versus 72 percent of Democrats.”

What this tells is something we already know if we’ve been paying attention. Donald Trump is an egocentric, malignant narcissist who will lie about all things great and small in order to exalt himself. And he couldn’t care less about the suffering of the people, about whom he rarely expresses any sympathy or condolences. In this Sunday tweetstorm Trump has proved that he is only interested in his ratings. And that, sadly, explains why he has failed so tragically to protect the nation from a pandemic that could have been averted.

UPDATE: A reporter from the ultra-right OANN asked Trump about speculation that networks would cease coverage of these briefings and if his ratings were connected to that. After complimenting the question, Trump replied that “I don’t want high approval ratings from this.” Yeah, right. So what were these tweets all about?

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Trump-Fluffers at Fox News Make Excuses for His Hijacking the Coronavirus Briefings

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has exhibited an unprecedented hostility toward the media and the very concept of a free press as enshrined in the Constitution. He repeatedly refers to it in Stalinist terms as “the enemy of the people.” Trump is currently suing several news organizations and has recently threatened to revoke the broadcast licenses of stations that air ads critical of him. And in his flaming paranoia, he is convinced that the media is a collective entity that is unified in a covert mission to destroy him. “All I see,” whines Trump about every major news network (including Fox News), “is hatred of me.”

Donald Trump, Fox News, White House

Trump’s press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, has never held a press briefing since her appointment in July of 2019. However, she makes frequent appearances on Fox News, but no other network. Trump has been deservedly criticized for his shuttering of the White House from scrutiny by the press. But he believes that his rambling Chopper Talks suffice as an alternative to an orderly exchange of information and timely disclosures regarding White House activities. They are not. They are simply opportunities for Trump to rant incoherently and to berate his perceived foes in the press corps.

With the advent of an international pandemic, Trump is producing a daily, self-serving, reality show in which he is cast as the star attraction. It is a blatantly obvious attempt to exploit the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis for his own political benefit. These are nothing more than replacement vehicles for the cult rallies and campaign affairs that can no longer be held due to the risk of exacerbating the pandemic.

Not surprisingly, the press has been critical of this crass exploitation and many journalists are advocating that they not be covered, at least until after Trump’s remarks have been fact-checked and other extraneous campaign content is edited out. This has now caused Fox News to claim that there is some hypocrisy on the part of the press for first complaining about the administration’s abandonment of daily briefings, and now complaining that they are taking place. An op-ed on Fox’s website misconstrues that:

“The mainstream media were clamoring for regular press briefings from President Trump and his administration long before the coronavirus crisis escalated. Former press secretary Sarah Sanders stopped the daily routine in early 2019 and they eventually came to a halt altogether — much to the chagrin of many media members.

“But after Trump and his coronavirus team, including Vice President Mike Pence, Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and Dr. Deborah Birx, began providing them on a daily basis in late February, some media figures said their networks should stop airing them, leading critics to question the sudden about-face.”

What Fox News is missing is that the press was never “clamoring” for staged events where Trump would lambaste the media, brag shamelessly about things he hadn’t done, and lie his asinine head off for two hours. They merely wanted his press secretary to do her job and be accountable to the public that the press represents.

What Trump is giving them instead is an interminable bitchfest that is intended solely to advance his reelection prospects and feed his voracious ego. This is particularly offensive considering the briefings that Trump is hijacking for his own purposes is supposed to be dedicated to informing the public about a deadly and growing pandemic.

If Trump had any real concern for the nation he would leave these Coronavirus Task Force briefings to the experts and stop wasting time with his lies and petulant attacks on reporters. Then he would reinstate the daily White House press briefings with the press secretary. It’s questionable that even under those circumstances we would get much useful or honest information considering how integral lying is to this administration. But at least we would avoid the endless tantrums and dangerous disinformation that Trump is disseminating with things as they are.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Wannabe Dictator Trump Threatens to Revoke Licenses of Stations that Air Critical Ads

As Americans sees the rising number of their fellow citizens becoming victims of COVID-19 (coronavirus), they are simultaneously losing confidence in the “leadership” of Donald Trump. From the beginning he downplayed the threat that the virus represented, insisting that the number of those affected was small and that it would shortly be zero. He could not have been more wrong. On Thursday the number of cases in the U.S. surpassed China.

Donald Trump Tyrant Dictator

And while the virus infections and fatalities go up, Trump’s mental state spirals down. He is sinking into a defensive posture that resembles closely the behavior of paranoid authoritarians who perceive enemies all around them. And one of the most common reactions by such persons is to clamp down on what they believe is a hostile media. Thursday’s Coronavirus Task Force (which he really has no business attending) opened with Trump accusing the press of being “corrupt.” That’s nothing new for someone who has repeatedly referred to the media in Stalinist terms as “the enemy of the people.”

More troubling is that now Trump is going after a progressive group that produced an ad recounting Trump’s failure to respond to the budding pandemic. Priorities USA compiled some of Trump’s own dismissive statements and juxtaposed them with a chart showing the virus’s rate of growth. This upset Trump and resulted in a “cease and desist” from the Trump campaign organization. Here’s the ad that triggered President Snowflake:

It’s bad enough that Trump would try to intimidate a political group by infringing on their First Amendment rights. But it’s even worse than that. The Trump campaign is actually threatening to revoke the broadcast licenses of any television station that airs the ad. That’s a fascist strongman’s solution to pesky critics who dare to speak out. According to a report in Bloomberg News, Trump’s campaign warned that…

“Failure to remove the ad ‘could put your station’s license in jeopardy’ before the Federal Communications Commission, the campaign said in the letter. ‘Your station has an obligation to cease and desist from airing it immediately to comply with FCC licensing requirements.'”

First of all, let’s establish the fact that the stations do not have any obligation to comply with the Trump campaign’s request that they do not air the ad. That request has no legal standing, and would likely fail to succeed if tried in court. The ad is comprised of Trump’s own words, and they were presented in a manner that reasonably represents their meaning. However, the campaign appears to suggest that the campaign has some ability to influence the FCC, a federal regulatory agency whose members are appointed by the President. That would be a wholly improper arrangement and an unlawful abuse of power on the part of the White House. What’s more…

“The FCC doesn’t appear to have grounds to act against the stations for airing contentious ads, said Jack Goodman, a Washington broadcast attorney, said in an interview. The ad ‘is core political speech’ protected by First Amendment guarantees of free speech, Goodman said.”

The primary complaint by Trump’s campaign concerns an audio clip of him referring to criticism from Democrats, saying that “This is their new hoax.” Trump asserts that he wasn’t referring to COVID-19 itself, but to the Democrats criticism. However, in the full context of his remarks he is itemizing events that he considered to be hoaxes. They included the investigation of Russia’s efforts on behalf of his 2016 presidential campaign, and his impeachment over his attempts to coerce the president of Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. In both of those incidents his allegations of a hoax referred to the charges themselves, not criticism from Democrats. So why would his meaning be any different for the third item in that list?

This isn’t the first time that Trump has tried to use the courts to prohibit free speech. He is currently suing the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN for defamation. Trump is known for filing lawsuits – or threatening to – to harass his foes. But this time he has the power of the presidency to bolster those threats with punishment from agencies that are beholden to him. It’s the sort of authoritarianism that he so admires in his pals Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong Un. But it is anathema to American democracy and he must not be allowed to get away with it. So feel free to circulate the ad above, far and wide.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Trump Lashes Out at Reporter Who Made the Mistake of Telling Him the Truth

The media has an abysmal record for the way it has covered Donald Trump. From the very beginning of his campaign in 2015, to the present, the press has given Trump far too much latitude to lie and paid way too much attention to his reality show style hype. They really need to remember that their obligation is to the public, and to keeping them informed. Their mission is to present the truth, not an artificial facade of balance. Reporters are not stenographers.

Donald Trump

Trump is a confirmed self-promoter and a pathological liar. His words cannot be relied upon for anything other than evidence of his mammoth ego and infantile obsession with maligning those he regards as enemies. And considering his severe paranoia, there almost everyone is an enemy. Even under ordinary circumstances, these traits would require special treatment by the press to unravel the intentions of such a person in a position of power. But these are not normal times. The presence of a viral pandemic that is putting the lives of millions at risk makes these times unique and perilous.

On Friday morning Trump provided an outstanding example of what makes him such a difficult character to cover. It occurred at the daily press briefing from the White House. Trump actually should not even be attending these briefings. Presumably he would have more important work to do during this crisis, which is why he assigned his Vice-President, Mike Pence, to head the Coronavirus Task Force. But Trump has been showing up every day because it has replaced the ego-stroking cult rallies that he can’t hold anymore due to the risk of them becoming breeding grounds for the virus.

During the briefing, NBC reporter Peter Alexander was called on to ask a question. It all started off fairly mild, but Trump quickly changed his tone into one of reflexive defensiveness and overt hostility. Alexander began by asking Trump if it was possible that his “impulse to put a positive spin on things might be giving Americans a false sense of hope?” That led to this exchange:

Alexander: What do you say to American who are scared though? Nearly 200 dead. 14,000 who are sick. Millions, as you witnessed, who are scared right now. What do you say to Americans who are watching right now who are scared?
Trump: I say that you are a terrible reporter. That is what I say. I think that’s a nasty question. And I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the America people.

Seriously? What Trump has to say to scared Americans is that Alexander is bad reporter? That should make the nation feel better (see Alexander’s response below). Ironically, Trump inadvertently confirmed the premise of Alexander’s questions: that Trump is fixated on blanketing the media with his phony rosy scenarios. As a consequence of his tunnel-blindness, Trump simply cannot abide any discussion of the real-world hardships that the American people are enduring. That’s why he lashed out at Alexander’s reference to sicknesses and fatalities. And he rejected the opportunity to send a message of hope to worried citizens.

Trump cultists are fond of disparaging progressives as “snowflakes.” But what is more representative of that label than Trump’s pitiful inability to deal with the facts about the coronavirus crisis, and the reality that people are fearful for themselves and their families? Trump is only concerned about himself and his public image. And the only reason he wants to see this matter resolved is so that it doesn’t affect his prospects for reelection. Consequently, Trump is really the one who has something realistic to fear. And the sort of childish behavior he exhibited at this briefing will only make it more likely that his fears will come true. That’s the good news.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

It’s Time to Quarantine Trump From the Coronavirus Briefings

What’s a malignant narcissist to do when his primary source of personal gratification is deemed too perilous to continue. That’s the dilemma that Donald Trump is facing as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis puts an end to the cult rallies that feed his ravenous ego.

Donald Trump TV Set

For many weeks Trump denied the obvious signs that the coronavirus was spreading and endangering people’s lives. So he continued to appear at the rallies that may have served as a breeding ground for more infections. But that’s no longer possible as state and federal guidelines are uniformly advising that people refrain from gathering in groups of more than ten. In many cases such gatherings are expressly prohibited. And since his travel has been curtailed, he hasn’t been able to hold court at his “Chopper Talk” sessions on the White House lawn either.

Consequently, the craving for adulation that consumes Trump was going unsatisfied until he decided to show up at the daily press briefings held by his Coronavirus Task Force. There he found himself the center of attention again as he disgorged his hallmark brand of self-exaltation and rancid invective. But his presence there is less than useless, it’s distracting and even destructive.

Trump’s tendency to express everything in frenetic hyperbole was evident in this morning’s press briefing. He spent an inordinate amount of time praising himself for his “tremendous” response to the current crisis, for the best economy ever, and other assorted imaginary achievements. He repeatedly – and falsely – claimed that no one ever thought that this virus could become so harmful, and that “There’s never been anything like this in history. Nobody has ever seen anything like this before.” (Note: whenever Trump says no one has seen/heard something, he means that he hasn’t). He said that, due to the virus, he views himself as a “wartime president,” apparently having forgotten that the U.S. has had troops deployed in three wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria) throughout his presidency.

Trump lashed out at his usual foes, particularly the media. He bashed the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, as dishonest. And in the same breath he claimed that “I know the the truth. And people out there in the world, they really don’t know the truth. They don’t know what it is.” This is his way of advancing the code of the cult: Only the cult leader tells the truth. Everyone else is lying or stupid. However, the people out there in the world seem better able to discern the truth than Trump would like. A recent poll shows that a broad majority of 60% don’t trust what Trump says about COVID-19.

When he manages to stay on topic, Trump’s coronavirus remarks focus predominantly on unrealistic, rosy scenarios and happy-talk wherein there has been nothing but incredible progress being made. That is not only false, it’s dangerous. It seduces people into a false state of security, believing that they don’t really have to alter their behavior or heed public warnings. What’s more, his presence produces more political rhetoric as he tries to twist every question into something he can exploit for partisan benefit.

Worst of all, Trump lies with abandon. He has told reporters at these briefings that millions of virus tests would be available by now (they aren’t), and that anyone who wants a test can get one (they can’t). He said that vaccines and treatments that will take more than a year to produce, would be available shortly. He invents partnerships with private entities that are later disclaimed. And he interjects vile bigotry such as his now frequent references to the “Chinese virus.”

Trump really needs to be quarantined from appearing at these briefings. He has nothing productive to contribute because he is so pitifully ignorant about the issues at hand. Of course, he regards himself as an expert on everything, so he ends up rambling incoherently about medicine, epidemiology, economics, sociology, and whatever else pops into his shrunken head.

The American people are justifiably worried about their welfare and that of their families and nation. Trump needs to appreciate this and suppress his ego for a while. Just leave these briefings to the experts so that we can all focus on getting through this. He can stay in his bedroom and watch more Fox News.

Unfortunately, that may be too much to ask of Trump. He is too mentally dependent on the attention he steals to think about the needs of anyone else. And that same lack of empathy prevents him from doing what’s necessary to lead the nation to the conclusion of this crisis. Hopefully, saner heads will prevail and take charge. if not, it’s gonna be long pandemic.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Here’s a portion of Trump’s aimless rambling at today’s press briefing.

Trump’s Lawsuits Against the Media Could Produce an Avalanche of Evidence – Against Him

This election year has seen norms in political activity be swept away by Donald Trump’s continued rejection of decency and honesty as he tweets his way through a failing presidency. The observations that Trump is either pitifully ignorant and/or severely demented are impossible to dismiss. His symptoms range from bizarre assertions about windmill cancer and toilet flushing, to intense paranoia, delusions of grandeur, and authoritarian aspirations.

Donald Trump, Constitution

In recent weeks Trump has also been escalating his war against the media that he repeatedly refers to in Stalinist terms as “the enemy of the people,” which he did once again Sunday morning. Now Trump has set out on a path of litigation that is rooted in hostility and vengeance against the constitutional protections of a free press. This is behavior that reeks of fear, desperation, and the all-consuming mania of an unbridled persecution complex. It began with the announcement a week and a half ago that his campaign is suing his perennial nemesis (in his diseased mind), the New York Times for defamation. And in the short time since then, Trump has announced additional lawsuits against a couple of other perceived foes, the Washington Post and CNN.

Virtually every legal analyst who has commented on these lawsuits considers them not only frivolous, but dangerous. They are intended to inhibit free expression and punish those who dare to criticize Dear Leader. It’s a pure dictatorship play by a president who has repeatedly expressed his admiration for tyrants like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, and Xi Jinping. Each of these suits explicitly attack published opinions articles, not hard news. For instance, these are the specific citation in Trump’s legal complaints that he is alleging are defamatory:

New York Times
“There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration’s burdensome economic sanctions. The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo.”

Washington Post
The lawsuit cites a June 13 opinion piece by Greg Sargent that said Trump “tried to conspire with” a “sweeping and systematic” attack by Russia against the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It also cites a June 20 opinion piece by Paul Waldman that asked “who knows what sort of aid Russia and North Korea will give to the Trump campaign, now that he has invited them to offer their assistance?”

CNN
“The Trump campaign assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table.”

All of these articles are expressing opinions that are rational, fact-based, and affirmed by authoritative sources. Some are even affirmed by Trump himself. After all, he did ask Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails on national television. What’s more, an extensive investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller found that “Trump and his campaign welcomed & encouraged Russian interference.”

To this day, Trump continues to openly solicit political assistance from hostile foreign countries. And his actions prove that he is working in concert with our adversaries to boost his reelection prospects.

While Trump’s wrathful litigiousness is an assault on press freedom, and has an unambiguous chilling effect on journalists, there is a silver lining to his abhorrent conduct. Should any of these lawsuits ever see a courtroom, Trump will be obligated to comply with discovery orders to turn over documents relevant to his complaint. So the defendants can require him to produce materials that he has been refusing to provide to prosecutors and investigators in Congress. And should he do so, he will almost certainly reveal incriminating evidence that could subject him to criminal indictments.

Consequently, it is highly unlikely that Trump will pursue these lawsuits. He may try to use them for publicity for awhile, and to run up the legal fees for the defendants. But in the end he will probably run away (or try to), as he has done throughout his life. However, he may not be able to escape if the defendants countersue and seek a declarative judgment asserting their rights under the First Amendment. In which case, he might still be required to submit to discovery and even testimony. So even though his intentions are loathsome and anti-American, this could still wind up being kinda fun.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.