The media giveth and the media taketh away. That is the lesson Donald Trump is currently learning — and he is learning it the hard way. His frustration with the “dishonest media” shouldn’t be surprising.
After all, his rise from self-promoting, self-proclaimed billionaire to Republican presidential nominee was abetted by the same press that is now in the process of pouring cold water on him.
In the year since announcing his candidacy with a splash, Trump has earned a staggering $4.3 billion in “free media” — a term that describes how much a candidate would have had to spend on ads for the exposure they received for free.
But it wasn’t just Trump who made out like a bandit. In riding Trump’s coattails, media moguls have been living the good life. They made tons of advertising money as their outlets fanned the flames during the Republican primary.
However, this symbiotic relationship was not destined to last. After all, it was always a marriage of convenience because most of the corporate media despises Trump and the notoriously thin-skinned tycoon did nothing to endear himself to journalists.
He mocked a disabled New York Times reporter, banned media organizations like Politico and The Washington Post from his campaign events, and said he wanted to weaken the First Amendment by changing libel laws to make it easier to sue newspapers. Trump also picked a fight with Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.
Now, after he has made them a lot of money, the media giants are turning on the GOP nominee.
In other words, the mainstream media that earlier enabled Trump is now atoning for that malpractice by trying to disable him. Even senior leaders of the Republican Party are repudiating him, although the hard-core party operatives and their down-ticket candidates are staying on board — so far.
One little-noted result of the media-engendered Trump candidacy is to deprive many Americans of a meaningful choice this November.
Here is how the Houston Chronicle editorial board put it in its endorsement of Hillary Clinton:
An election between the Democrat Clinton and, let’s say, the Republican Jeb Bush or John Kasich or Marco Rubio, even the hyper-ideological Ted Cruz, would spark a much-needed debate about the role of government and the nation’s future, about each candidate’s experience and abilities. But those Republican hopefuls have been vanquished. To choose the candidate who defeated them — fairly and decisively, we should point out — is to repudiate the most basic notions of competence and capability.
Journalists covering the race knew all about Trump’s competence, capabilities and temperament – or the lack thereof. However, the lure of advertising dollars caused most outlets to abdicate the role journalists once played as the Fourth Estate.
There wasn’t an inane Trump tweet or insult that didn’t warrant breathless coverage. By focusing on these banalities instead of issues and policy proposals, the media allowed Trump to sell himself as a straight-talking populist.
And now the man whom most mainstream journalists do not want to see in office is one step (or one
massive Clinton scandal) away from the presidency. While the press is doing all it can to prevent such an outcome, that is still cutting it very close.
Among those leading the charge, by the way, are the Post and Politico, the same publications that
Trump has blacklisted and targeted. Their coverage is living proof of the old adage, “Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”
The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these Creative Commons licensed images: Jeff Bezos, body, Les Moonves, Jeff Zucker, body, Roger Ailes, body, hot tub, and deck.