Monday, May 2, 2016 at 7:45 AM

Humping Trump Exposes News Anchormen as Worse than Used Car Salesmen

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

These days, news anchormen serve as little more than hosts of reality TV shows masquerading as news programs.

IMG_0680-0Their programming mantra – “if it bleeds, it leads” – used to reflect reporting on an increasingly violent society. Now it reflects reporting on anything that outrages, scares, or titillates – just to generate ratings. Which, of course, is the same mantra that explains outrageous movies like Borat, horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or erotic movies like Fifty Shades of Grey.

I was in the vanguard of those decrying this tabloidization of the news. Not because it exploits primal fears and desires; but because it betrays the news media’s role as a public trust. After all, the freedom of the press enshrined in the Constitution imposes a commensurate responsibility to serve as a source for news and information, not fun and entertainment.

Here is how I decried this betrayal a few years ago:

Don’t get me started on the way journalists now troll social media for news, and report on every tragedy as if it were the friggin’ Super Bowl. For journalism has become such a pathetic enterprise – so utterly bereft of principles like journalistic truth, professional independence, and duty to inform – that journalists think nothing of reporting what they think the public wants to consume as news, instead of informing the public about what is newsworthy.

Some purported news organizations even generate sensational (‘viral’) headlines and then have creative writers produce stories to match those headlines. Sadly, journalists are becoming just like investment bankers who think nothing of packaging a junk bond as a triple-A stock and selling it for a quick buck.

(“Nixonian Obama Right to Spy on Associated Press,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 13, 2013)

Top-Polling GOP Candidates Participate In First Republican Presidential Debate

Which brings me to the news media’s mercenary coverage of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Remarkably, they report every thing he says as “Breaking News”, especially the Tourrete-like insults he hurls at other candidates. In fact, you had to have been living on Mars over the past year not to have his boorish punch lines ringing in your ear.

AFP_A463KAs it happens, President Obama commented on this at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday. In a mocking tone, which did little to mask his abiding contempt, he chastised their obsessive coverage and summarized their abandonment of all journalistic principles with this dig at the host of CNN’s State of the Union:

Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN.

(C-SPAN, April 30, 2016)

Equally noteworthy, though, is the way Campbell Brown, former anchor for NBC and CNN, commented a day earlier. In “Why I Blame TV for Trump,” for the May/June edition of Politico, she lamented how “hunger for ratings” has induced journalists to abandon all hope of practicing real journalism.


campbell-brownMy friends in the TV news business are in a state of despair about Donald Trump, even as their bosses in the boardroom are giddy over what he’s doing for their once sagging ratings…

It is driven by a hunger for ratings — and the people who run the networks and the news channels are only too happy to make that Faustian bargain [i.e., giving Trump editorial control over their news programs in exchange for access to him]. Which is why you’ll see endless variations of this banner, once I saw all three cable networks put up in a single day: ‘Breaking News: Trump speaks for first time since Wisconsin loss.’


Brown’s prevailing lament is that the news media have become so focused on chasing profits that chasing news has become a distraction. Only this explains the networks and cable news channels deserting coverage of Obama’s historic trip to Cuba to cover Trump’s umpteenth campaign rally. This, even though they knew full well that his rally would amount to little more than Trump blurting out the same political slogans and personal insults he has on every other occasion.

Brown’s most poignant lament, however, is that media bosses will honor this Faustian bargain. This, even though they know full well that a Trump presidency “could destroy the country.” CBS President and CEO Les Moonves summed up this mercenary coverage in Barnumesque fashion as follows:

It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS…

Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now?… The money’s rolling in and this is fun.

(The Hollywood Reporter, February 29, 2016)

His corporate glee stands in dismaying contrast to GM CEO Charles Wilson’s patriotic vow (in 1953) that what was good for America was good for General Motors and vice versa. It also indicates how much the fourth estate has lost its way. Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite must be rolling over in their graves. For even putatively serious journalists now seem mandated to inflame passions rather than to inform minds. Which is why I had just cause to preempt Brown’s lament years ago in “Journalism Is Having a Very, Very, Pathetic Moment,” November 13, 2013.

megyn_trump-800x430Of course, the mandate to hump trump has not plunged all news anchormen into a state of despair. For, ironically, none other than Megyn Kelly of FOX News seems perfectly happy to ape Trump by playing a reality TV host – in what Trump himself has turned into a presidential version of The Apprentice.

Perhaps you recall the way she questioned him during the first GOP presidential debate last August; particularly how she put him on the defensive for using vile and misogynistic epithets when talking about women. In all too predictable fashion, Trump reacted by hurling vile and misogynistic epithets at Kelly, notably insinuating that she questioned him so aggressively because she was having her period.

But the unassailable way she challenged Trump’s misogyny made her both a feminist and journalist heroine; not least because she had the good sense to resist his taunts to respond in kind. This is why it’s all the more lamentable that she has now made a mockery of all that:

Donald Trump and the FOX News host Megyn Kelly met at Trump Tower on Wednesday morning…

Trump’s intense dislike of Kelly – whom he has called unfair, overrated and even ‘crazy’ – has been one of the subplots of his run for president…

‘Mr. Trump and I discussed the possibility of an interview, and I hope we will have news to announce on that soon.’

(CNN, April 23, 2016)

FOX is promoting her Barbara Walters-style special as an “exclusive.” It’s scheduled to air on May 17. Never mind that a network promoting an exclusive interview with Trump is like a “John” hyping an exclusive rendezvous with a prostitute.

But there’s no denying that Trump is a TV cash cow. And, like nearly everyone in the news “business,” Kelly wants to milk him for all he’s worth … her journalistic integrity and reputation be damned.

make-america-white-againThat said, and with all due respect to Campbell Brown, I blame voters, not TV, for Trump.

He makes quite a show of attributing his popularity among Republican voters to his willingness to act like a boastful, bumptious, bullying buffoon. Never mind that he appears congenitally unable to “act presidential.”

But ratings indicate that even Americans who hate Trump can’t resist watching his reality TV show masquerading as a presidential campaign; hence the TV phenomenon.

To be fair, though, the Republicans were already a party of far too many suckers long before Trump declared his presidential campaign. These, after all, are the same suckers who bought every thing from claims about Obama being a Muslim to pledges to repeal Obamacare – hook, line, and sinker.

Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that Trump, the undisputed P.T. Barnum of our times, is having no trouble getting them to buy his snake oil to “Make America Great Again.” This, notwithstanding a litany of caveat emptors, including his absurd fulminations about getting Mexico to pay for a wall to keep Mexicans out and banning all Muslims to keep terrorists out.

They are like people who gorge themselves for years on nothing but fast food, and then wonder — with anger, frustration, and self-righteous indignation — why they ended up morbidly obese. To continue poking them, however, would be tantamount to harpooning beached whales. Besides, my commentaries speak volumes, most notably “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker!” April 8, 2011, “On Syria (and Every Other Issue) the American People Are Insolent, Ignorant Idiots,” September 10, 2013, and “Evangelicals Supporting Donald Trump like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016.

But I must confess that, despite my well-documented and well-founded cynicism, even I did not think there were enough suckers in the Republican Party to elect Trump its presidential nominee. I was wrong.

Screen-Shot-2016-01-23-at-2.07.52-PM-300x209Hell, Trump was probably right when he boasted that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, in broad daylight, and still get enough votes to win this nomination. Which actually vindicates my point about his popularity saying far more about the gullibility of his supporters than the credibility of his candidacy.

Not to mention the alarming number of people who, it seems, just want to be entertained — even in politics; and, the more gauche and scandalous the better. Hence the popularity of reality TV, the tabloidization of the news, and the rise of Trump — the impact on cultural development, or even the welfare of the country, be damned.

Still, thusly chastened, I can only hope there are not enough suckers in the general electorate to elect Trump the next president of the United States. I remain convinced that, for a silent majority, his schtick jumped the shark years ago with his “birther” nonsense.

Accordingly, I am banking on Democrats and Independents — who elected and re-elected Barack Hussein Obama — to prove me right. More importantly, I am challenging prominent Republicans like Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, and members of the #NeverTrump movement—who have publicly damned Trump as dangerous and utterly unfit to be president — to make a public show of endorsing Hillary, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

For, if ever there were a time to put love of country above loyalty to party, this is it; especially given reports that Trump’s signature trait is that he prizes loyalty not to country or party but to himself above all else.

Related commentaries:
Trump…don’t be a sucker
American people are … idiots
Evangelicals supporting Trump

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