President Trump got himself into trouble over the weekend when he tweeted about a group of progressive freshman representatives who House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is having some problems with.
“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump tweeted.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
You’d be lying to yourself if you thought those comments weren’t controversial. Their obvious target seems to be a group of Democratic Reps. including Ilhan Omar of Minnesota (who tweeted about America’s racist history for July Fourth while uncritically celebrating the independence day of her native dysfunctional Somalia) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (who’s been publicly sparring with Speaker Pelosi).
The problem with Trump’s tweetstorm is that Ocasio-Cortez was born in the United States. Indeed, of the four progressive House Democrats who call themselves a “squad,” three of them — Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — were born in America.
There wasn’t any shortage of reporting on the controversy. And the establishment media didn’t downplay the opposition to Trump’s remarks.
According to CNN’s Brian Stelter, however, objective journalists weren’t being biased enough.
Stelter hosts CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” a show that exists mostly to air grievances about Trump and those in his orbit. (I suppose it’s “reliable” enough in that respect.)
In a Monday article for CNN Business, Stelter lambasted the press for not openly calling Trump a racist and instead reporting on how others refer to him as a racist.
“President Trump launched a bigoted attack against four minority congresswomen on Sunday morning. His tweets were straight up racist. Did the news media accurately describe it that way?” Stelter wrote.
“By and large, no, most major news outlets did not do that. Reporters and anchors took the story seriously but largely leaned on ‘critics,’ primarily Democrats, and cited their accusations of racism. The significance of Trump’s words risked being lost in a partisan fog.
“He said/she said is a tried and true journalistic technique, of course, but it is insufficient at a time like this. If telling Democratic congresswomen to ‘go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came’ isn’t racist, what is?”
He then patted his network on the back for calling the tweets a “racist rant” and “racist attacks.” (“Trump tweets racist attacks at progressive Democratic congresswomen” was the title of the network’s straight-news piece on the matter.)
Stelter cited networks that noted there was no shortage of people calling the tweets racist, including some at Fox News. But that wasn’t enough. He chronicled what he saw as the pusillanimity of nearly every media outlet. CBS, ABC, NBC and even the print press weren’t biased enough for his taste.
“The AP’s headline was blunt — ‘Leave the US, Trump tells liberal congresswomen of color’ — and its story noted Trump’s ‘long history of making racist remarks,’ but left it to Democrats to say Sunday’s tweets were racist. Same thing at the WSJ: The homepage headline was ‘Trump Targets Lawmakers in Tweets Decried as Racist.’ Later it was changed to say ‘Trump Targets Lawmakers in Racially Charged Tweets,'” Stelter wrote.
“I know that reporters in at least two newsrooms argued with their higher-ups about this language issue on Sunday. But in both cases they lost.”
Apparently a traditional bogeyman was responsible for Trump’s tweets, too: Under a section titled “Another tweetstorm provoked by Fox & Friends?” Stelter noted that “Ilhan Omar, one of the presumed targets of Trump’s tweetstorm, was on stage with fellow lawmakers Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Deb Haaland at the Netroots Nation conference on Saturday. Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz noted that ‘Fox & Friends’ ran a ‘DEMOCRATS DIVIDED?’ segment and played soundbites from the conference ‘about 20 minutes before’ Trump’s rant.”
Stop the presses. And keep them stopped until all of them are printing headlines like “Racist racist Donald Trump’s racist remarks are racist”
It’s worth noting that at least two of the individuals that Trump was referring to, Omar and Tlaib, have a history of anti-Semitic positions and remarks. Did Stelter or CNN call them anti-Semites? Of course not. They reported on the fact that they were criticized for being anti-Semitic — which is what they should have done. It’s just curious how talk of dual loyalties and Jews controlling the political purse-strings of America doesn’t merit the kind of talk Stelter wants, but the president’s tweets do.
What’s truly startling about Stelter’s piece is that the CNN host seems to believe that Americans can’t make up their own minds; they must be told what to believe. There was no shortage of coverage of how Trump’s tweets were condemned as racist. In Stelter’s mind, there was a shortage of “objective” reporters telling America what they believed.
Assume newsrooms across America followed CNN’s lead and expressly told their viewers what to think. (And it wouldn’t be the first time.) What would have changed?
Certainly not people’s opinions, at least not in the direction Stelter might have hoped. His contempt for media consumers, who he apparently imagines sit slack-jawed in front of CNN, waiting to be told what to think, is off-putting, at least from an outlet that claims not to engage in opinion journalism.
So if Stelter’s brand of coverage wouldn’t change opinions, then what? Would it have made reporters feel better about themselves? Would it have made them feel like characters in an Aaron Sorkin show, speaking truth to power … from a position of power? That probably has something to do with it — the idea that they don’t report the facts, they are the facts. And yet they wonder why so many Americans suffer media exhaustion, assuming they just need to be told what’s good for them in an even louder voice.
I engage in opinion journalism myself, much like Stelter does, whether he believes it or not. Unlike Stelter, though, I believe that to the extent that establishment media serves America, it does so by trying to remain objective and reporting the facts. He, on the other hand, is annoyed on one of those occasions when he doesn’t think they’re opinionated enough. That might not tell you a lot about Trump’s tweets or what motivated them, but it should tell you an awful lot about CNN.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.