October 26, 2020
Trump Outsmarts 60 Minutes…
The Media Should Take Note
President Donald Trump opened with a simple request to 60 Minutes: “Just be fair.” Leslie Stahl and CBS editors weren’t willing to comply, setting off a string of events that should alert media outlets their subjects won’t stand for dishonest framing anymore.
CBS breathlessly reported that Trump cut his interview short after Stahl asked a “tough” question about his domestic priorities. The accompanying video shows Stahl belittling Trump’s assertion that his administration created the “greatest economy in American history.” Reporter Nikole Killion bragged that 60 Minutes “has a history of asking tough questions of presidential candidates.”
After a few days of chiding Stahl on Twitter, Trump released the full interview. The White House had recorded it for archival footage but now they used it to expose the kind of media bias that has dishonestly framed this administration from the start.
The clip CBS used was excerpted from the first question. Trump offered a defense of his claim, citing unemployment numbers, especially for people of color, business successes, and stock market performance. And there was no connection between the question and his ending the interview 36 minutes later, despite what CBS disingenuously claimed.
CBS News scolded the video release, saying in a statement…
The White House’s unprecedented decision to disregard their agreement with CBS News and release their footage will not deter 60 Minutes from providing its full, fair and contextual reporting which presidents have participated in for decades.
There was a time when you wouldn’t mess with 60 Minutes. Its reputation was impeccable, its integrity unmatched. But those days are long over, and Trump is taking them on for good reason.
The interview was combative and rude. Almost every question was framed to put Trump on the defensive. But the deceptive edit and claim that a simple question pushed him to “storm off,” as some outlets reported, made it likely that the interview would be deceptively edited.
By releasing the raw footage, Trump forced 60 Minutes into a more fairly edited Sunday piece. Can you take the president out of context or help make Stahl less combative when the full material is already out?
Some media members still seem shocked that Trump will take them on… They’re not used to politicians pushing back. Prior to Trump, the media had all the power. Not anymore.
Media bias isn’t new, but has objectively worsened during the Trump presidency. ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl openly trolls Trump on Twitter, mocking the president for losing a ratings war with Joe Biden. Though CNN also used the term “Wuhan virus” in describing COVID-19, CNN’s Jim Acosta noted the president’s use of the term “foreign virus” was “smacking of xenophobia.”
Many conservatives accept media bias as inevitable, even as it makes their efforts more difficult to either win elections or persuade voters on policy. Beyond some complaints, conservative politicians have been unwilling to fight back. They still rely on the media for airtime, however unfairly they may be treated.
But Trump doesn’t need media coverage the way a member of Congress might. Consequently, not only does Trump criticize the media, he pulls effective stunts as he did with 60 Minutes. Few conservative politicians would make this move for fear that they’d lose all exposure.
Trump doesn’t worry the media will abandon him… They hate him too much to ignore him. He also knows he won’t ever get fair treatment. So the president leans heavily on a not-so-secret weapon in his arsenal… social media.
The Washington Post‘s public editor bemoans in the Columbia Journalism Review the very fact that the Internet has “destroyed one of the media’s most important sources of power: being the only place that could offer access to an audience.” Trump very much understands this.
Sure, Trump likely prefers fair media coverage (or the fawning it provided Barack Obama). But social media, for all its many flaws, has been an effective tool in getting his message out. Trump blasted the 60 Minutes video to more than 32 million Facebook followers. His video mocking Stahl for not wearing a mask during an interview break was viewed nearly 17 million times on Twitter.
Trump’s reach isn’t dependent on traditional media… So he doesn’t have to fear them as much. He can post a video monologue and it’ll be seen by more people than a whole week’s worth of Cuomo Prime Time trying to dishonestly frame a conversation. And conservative content driven by personalities like Ben Shapiro or Dan Bongino, Trump-related or not, is some of the web’s most shared and engaged.
Media outlets feel empowered to attack Trump. The seething hatred or disgust that some journalists feel toward the president has blinded them to the reality that they’re no longer seen as objective. It’s rendering them less meaningful, especially as their bias extends to conservatives in general.
Unfortunately, Trump’s war with the media has taken its toll on the industry. Highlighting anti-conservative bias has driven Republican viewing habits away from network news, failing viewer expectations of objectivity. Conservative news consumers go to Fox News, which has benefited from an unyielding fairness on the news side, buttressed by opinion shows that understand and respect conservative audiences.
Trump proves every day you can get an audience without being subjected to dishonest media members. That’s a lesson to the dangers of outlets that are unwilling to reel in clear bias… They are losing market share. And if some media outlets don’t make changes, regardless of whether or not Trump wins reelection, they may be rendering themselves irrelevant the next time they try to take on a politician… And maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
Jason Rantz is a Seattle-based talk radio host on KTTH Radio, a frequent guest on Fox News, and a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonRantz.
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Contributing Editor, American Consequences
with the Editorial Staff
October 26, 2020