Yet again, we are faced with another major Trump related story and another tale of two very different news realities.
Two weeks ago, the story was that of law enforcement authorities firing tear gas at some members of the migrant caravan as they approached the American border near San Diego.
Right-wing media mimicked the president’s language and characterized the event as invaders “storming” the border. Mainstream media emphasized the presence of families approaching the border and quoted migrants who said they were trying to make verbal contact with U.S. border officials in hopes of talking their way into America.
The last three days, the story that has been framed two very different ways in right-wing and mainstream media involves the Friday court filings by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the the Southern District of New York on investigations involving Trump and possible obstruction of justice and collusion with Russia.
Not surprisingly, Fox News host Sean Hannity continued to characterize Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt.” During his monologue on the probe, the headline “Witch Hunt Exposed” appeared on screen alternating with another that said “No Collusion.” That was the core of Hannity’s analysis in five words.
The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, over the weekend, urged Mueller to “wrap up” his probe.
“Last week was supposed to be earth-shaking in Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe, with the release of sentencing memos on three former members of the Trump universe — Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen,” the Journal wrote. “Yet Americans learned little new and nothing decisive about the allegations of Russia-Trump collusion that triggered this long investigation.”
One the other hand, you have this headline from the New York Times of Dec. 7: “Is This the Beginning of the End for Trump?” The subhead says, “Sentencing memos reveal damning evidence about collusion and campaign finance violations.”
Here’s a Washington Post headline from the weekend: “The latest filings show that nobody can save Trump now.”
I was part of discussion about this coverage on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday with host Brian Stelter, Susan Glasser, of the New Yorker, and David Frum, of The Atlantic.
Both Glasser and I urged caution. Glasser said journalists need to “stick to the facts.” I said we have to be extra careful not to go beyond what we know to be true or what we believe to be true based on information from trusted sources. You can see the video below.
Because this is such an epic showdown and potent cultural narrative, the pressure to try and get ahead of the pack on predictions is tremendous. But giving in to that is a huge mistake. Any mainstream platform getting any part of this story wrong can absolutely count on getting pounded by Trump’s right-wing messaging machine and taking a serious hit to its credibility.
I really like what Frum said in response to Stelter asking him about the charge that we spend too much time covering Trump.
I don’t think its possible to spend too much time covering the person most responsible for this dangerous moment in national history. And just as was done with coverage of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, we will all have to live with how righteously — or not — we performed our duty to public service.
And here’s a Monday bonus video of the four of us and Washington Post columnist Max Boot discussing Trump’s planned nomination of Heather Nauert, former Fox News reporter and news reader on “Fox & Friends,” to be ambassador to the United Nations.
She left Fox to become spokesperson for the State Department in April 2017.
Check out this link to see how she once cited D-Day, the U.S. invasion at Normandy during World War II, in explaining the “strong relationship” between Germany and the U.S.