Trump and the media – is the Republican presidential candidate dominating the media as per his avowed strategy? Or has the media been biased against the Trump campaign from the beginning? From claims of media manipulation to Twitter tantrums over negative coverage to threats of changing the First Amendment, it’s been a complicated relationship, to say the least.
As a piece in the Washington Post blog notes, it was Trump himself who has said that he could win the presidential race by dominating media coverage. A case in point is the way Trump claimed to have seen a video of the plane carrying $400 million in cash from the United States to Iran – a story that he was touting as recently as two days ago. It’s also a story he now acknowledges was false.
The plane I saw on television was the hostage plane in Geneva, Switzerland, not the plane carrying $400 million in cash going to Iran!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2016
MSNBC getting sassy with Trump lying: pic.twitter.com/Y2uwZQdk1Q
— andrew kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) August 4, 2016
Yet, for days a slew of media outlets followed his story and his comments on that matter. Was it cynical manipulation of the press or a misunderstanding of what he actually saw? If it was the former, it’s a strategy that has backfired, at least in this case. He’s been publicly ridiculed for making what many claim was an outright lie.
Trump Using The Media
Trump’s strategy of media dominance is apparently one that he has had in mind since at least 2013, according to The Washington Post. At the beginning of the campaign, it seemed like he was on the right path. He was showered with media coverage of everything he did from boasting about his fortune to the inflammatory comments about race and sparring with Fox News‘ Megyn Kelly – the press followed him from one event to another with little critical context.
Most observers acknowledge that it was Trump’s media strategy that garnered him the Republican nomination. Trump’s attitude after the Melania Trump plagiarism scandal was to welcome the publicity the incident brought.
However Trump’s still ongoing public tiff with the family of Khazir Khan is another example where the strategy has backfired. Yes, it brought him a great deal of media attention, but it was almost universally negative, including a parade of GOP and military figures making statements critical of his comments.
In response, the Clinton campaign is staying silent on recent Trump controversies, choosing to let the media focus on his shortcomings while the Democratic candidate is highlighting issues like job creation.
nobody signed up to cover a pathological liar run for the WH. but it is what it is, and the press needs to adjust. https://t.co/yccMnykGuk
— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) August 5, 2016
Trump – The Media Perspective
As noted in a piece in Bloomberg News, if Trump was using the media, the media was also using Trump. His overblown statements and the constant stream of ever more outrageous actions and speeches provided media outlets with guaranteed ratings.
An opinion piece in USA Today captured the media’s dilemma, calling Trump “a headline machine” and “entertaining.” It quotes a report completed by The New York Times that estimates Trump benefited from almost $2 billion in media coverage generated by his “any press is good press” strategy. The piece points out that it is voters who are so far undecided who may be most influenced by the media at this stage of the campaign, making media coverage that much more crucial.
However, now that the presidential campaign is nearing the home stretch, the focus has become far more critical, and it’s no secret that Trump is not taking media barbs well. As summarized in a report in Huffington Post, Trump recently called CNN the “Clinton Network” and famously said that reporters at the venerable New York Times couldn’t “write good.” He’s referred to the New York Daily News as “a dying tabloid.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 5, 2016
Trump, Media, And Voters
As reported in the Politico blog back in February, Trump went on the record against freedom of the press – something guaranteed by the First Amendment – by boasting that he would “open up” libel laws to allow him to sue the media outlets who were critical of him. The statement wasn’t just empty words. So far, Trump has blacklisted or refused to give credentials to more than 20 media outlets. Lately, he has appeared more often on the Trump-friendly Fox News network.
However, Trump’s anti-media rhetoric has played well with his supporters, as a CNN piece reports. According to the Jacksonville Times-Union, he told thousands of his supporters at a rally in Florida just Wednesday that he has no regard for any media outlet.
“They’re all bad. Honestly, they’re all bad.”
It would seem all the media sparring isn’t making any difference to his supporters, and the Trump rally at Veterans Memorial Arena saw a packed house, with estimates of attendance at 10,000.
[Image by John Moore/Getty Images]