Trump Blames Media For Poisonous Political Rhetoric. He Should Look In The Mirror.
In the wake of attempted bombing attacks on people he has criticized, the President is blaming the media for poisonous political rhetoric. He needs to look in the mirror.
Even as law enforcement continues to search for the person or persons responsible for sending explosive devices to prominent people on the left that were discovered yesterday and again this morning, President Trump turned his fire on the media, which he claims is responsible for negative rhetoric that may have motivated the bomber:
MOSINEE, Wis. — A day after a national call for unity in the wake of the bomb scares targeting several prominent Democrats, President Trump blamed the “Mainstream Media” and “Fake News” for the anger and division thriving in the United States.
“It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description,” Mr. Trump said in a Twitter post on Thursday morning. “Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”
Mr. Trump did not mention in his tweet that CNN, which is one of his favorite news media punching bags, was among the targets of a pipe bomb.
He does not seem to follow his own advice for long.
So it went on Wednesday evening, when Mr. Trump appeared to revert to partisanship as usual, just in a softer tone of voice. Here in Wisconsin, he embarked on his 38th campaign rally since assuming the presidency with a bit of rhetorical jujitsu, managing to weave jabs at the news media and Democrats into an opening call for Americans to “come together in peace and harmony.”
“We should not mob people in public spaces or destroy public property,” Mr. Trump said in a thinly veiled reference to his latest turn of phrase — “jobs not mobs” — and a castigation of how liberals reacted to Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s battle to be confirmed to the Supreme Court amid multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.
The president flicked at a suggestion popularized by liberals and some members of the news media who have suggested his nationalist views are akin to Adolf Hitler’s: “No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains.”
Trump’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, picked up on Trump’s rhetoric this morning on Fox News Channel:
On Fox and Friends on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders spoke about President Trump’s rally last night and the many devices and suspicious packages mailed to prominent administration critics and foes this week. Sanders said that the media is partly to blame for the events.
Host Brian Kilmeade first noted that there were additional targets, including Robert de Niro and Joe Biden, noting both are critics of Trump, and co-host Steve Doocy brought up the President’s tweet from this morning in which he placed blame on “fake news.”
Sanders first replied to Kilmeade that the administration condemns “violence in all forms”, calling the situation a “despicable act”. She answered Doocy by agreeing with the President.
“Certainly the media has a role to play in this process,” she said. “When 90% of the coverage about this president is negative, despite the historic successes, when ideas are perpetuated and continued of negativity that is not helpful for the American discourse. And Certainly the president is calling on everyone to come together and if you have a problem with one another, let’s voice that but let’s do so peacefully and let’s do that at the ballot box.”
Co-host Ainsley Earhardt then brought up the shooting of Republicans at a softball game just over a year ago in a politically motivated attack by a man who hated Trump and the GOP, as well as the incidents of enraged citizens confronting administration officials with their families in restaurants.
“We saw what happened to Steve Scalise where he was shot. We saw what happened to you and your family in the restaurant. We have Maxine waters that is calling for people to get into the face of folks in the administration they don’t agree with. Hillary Clinton says we won’t be civil until Democrats are in power,” said Earhardt. “Not just saying it is Democrats but it is on both sides but is this a good reminder to us we all need to take a step back? We can disagree about politics, but is this pretty scary to you, we’re seeing more and more violence and threats?”
“Absolutely,” said Sanders. “As the president said yesterday, political violence has no place in our country, and it is certainly something that we won’t tolerate, we won’t stand we’ll continue to condemn it.”
These comments are absurd, irresponsible, and completely ignore the role that the President himself has played in poisoning political rhetoric in this country over the course of the past three years since he became a candidate for President. This is the same man who has referred to the press as the “enemy of the people” on many occasions. On other occasions, both he and members of his Administration have suggested that the media should be criminally charged for publishing leaked information even when that information isn’t classified. At a rally in Arizona last year, Trump upped his anti-media rhetoric by referring to members of the media as ”sick people” who “don’t like our country,” and who are “trying to take away our history and our heritage.” Recently, Trump admitted that when he said that when he refers to “Fake News” he means any news coverage that is critical of him or his Administration regardless of whether it’s true or not. Finally, the President has admitted that the purpose behind all of these attacks on the media is quite simple in that it is aimed at discrediting the media in the minds of his supporters so that they won’t believe any of the bad news that is reported about his or his Administration.
In addition to attacking the press, the President has also regularly attacked his political and cultural critics both on his Twitter account and in his campaign speeches and comments to reporters. Throughout the campaign and throughout his Presidency, this President has unleashed his rhetoric against Mexicans, Muslims, disabled people, a Federal District Court Judge who happened to be Mexican-American and a Gold Star Family who happened to be Muslim. In response to N.F.L. players who were peacefully kneeling to protest racially biased police violence, he responded by calling the largely African-American players “sons of bitches.” Trump has also repeatedly attacked by name each of the individuals who have so far been the target of the explosive devices whose origins we still aren’t clear about as well as other prominent Democrats such as Elizabeth Warren, Kristen Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, and others. No doubt, law enforcement is checking in with these individuals and others to determine if they too may have been targets of a bomber or bombers who clearly seems to be working off a list that, at least in part, seems to come directly from the President himself.
Additionally, Trump has encouraged violence from his supporters, basked in their attacks on the media at his rallies, and encouraged his supporters to change slogans such as “Lock her up!” at his campaign rallies, a reference usually directed at his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton. Just last week Trump praised Congressman Greg Gianforte of Montana for his attack last year on a reporter for The Guardian who was trying to ask him a question about health care. Gianforte was charged with assault and ultimately pled guilty to that charge, but that didn’t stop the crowd that gathered to hear from Trump last week in Montana from cheering wildly when Trump praised Gianforte for the attack. After the events in Charlottesville last year that led to the death of a young woman at the hands of a white supremacist, Trump blamed ‘both sides’ for the violence, referred to the participants in the rally as “very fine people,” and refused to directly condemn groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, which was present at the rally, or the broader so-called alt-right movement whose supporters made up the vast majority of the participants. Days later Trump repeated his ‘both sides’ argument in a press conference at Trump Tower in New York and then repeated it again a month later in the wake of a meeting purportedly intended to discuss race with Republican Senator Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate. A year later, his comments about those events showed that he still didn’t understand why his initial response was so wrong.
It’s also worth noting that there have been plenty of examples of poisonous rhetoric and dangerous reactions on the other side of the aisle. Over the past several months, for example, political figures on the right have been the targets of what can only be described as angry, shouting mobs who have come after them in public spaces outside of government buildings. Late last week, for example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell became the latest politician to be subjected to an angry crowd of protesters while trying to eat dinner in a public place. Back in July, McConnell was attacked by protesters at another Louisville restaurant where he was having lunch with staffers. Previously, McConnell and Chao had faced similar protests in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. In both of those incidents, the protesters appeared to be motivated by then-ongoing controversy over the Trump Administration’s policy of separating parents and children at the southern border, a policy that McConnell had already come out against. In addition to the incidents involving McConnell, protesters have also targeted Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, former Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. More recently Texas Senator Ted Cruz and his wife were subjected to protests at a high-end Italian restaurant in Washington during the fight over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was subjected to abusive and insulting protests at a political event in Florida. The most famous of these incidents, though, occurred last year when Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family were effectively chased out of a restaurant in Winchester, Virginia and denied service due to the fact that the owner of the restaurant objected to the fact that she worked for the President.
There have also been similar incidents involving members of both political parties, some of which have been far more serious. Unquestionably at the top of that list was the shooting at a practice for the Republican baseball team prior to last year’s Congressional baseball game that resulted in injuries to several people, including Republican Congressman Steve Scalise who was unable to return to Congress for several months due to the multiple surgeries required by his injuries. The shooter in that case, who was killed by one of the Capitol Police officers assigned to provide security, appeared to be motivated by politics in selecting his target. Several months later, Senator Rand Paul was assaulted and seriously injured by his neighbor in an attack that appears to have been motivated by a personal dispute and by political disagreements. Last month, both Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and their families received death threats that were deemed serious and credible by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Just the other day, the campaign office of House Majority Leader, and potential future leader of the House GOP Caucus, Kevin McCarthy was vandalized in an apparent politically-based attack.
Obviously, some of these incidents are more serious than others, but they all point to the same poisoned political environment as their root cause, and the President would have us believe that the media is somehow responsible for this. Being chased out of a public place is a minor annoyance compared to being the target of a bombing attack, a sniper, or a physical assault. Additionally, I am not making the claim that this is a “both sides do it” situation. It clearly is not. If any one person is responsible for the poisonous political rhetoric that we find ourselves in today, then certainly the President of the United States bears a substantial amount of the blame for that. The fact that he and his supporters, who seem to be focusing on the idea that these attempted attacks are some kind of bizarre “false flag” operation engineered by Democrats to create sympathy in advance of the midterm elections ten days from now. are failing to acknowledge that fact says far more about them than it does about anyone else involved in the often overheated rhetoric that has become a part of our daily lives. More importantly, the idea that the media is somehow responsible for any of this is an absurdity that requires one to ignore the events that have occurred since Trump entered the race for President in June 2015 and the role that he and his supporters have played in ramping up political rhetoric in this country to the point where something like this would be likely to happen.
None of this is to say that the President is responsible for these attempted attacks, of course. Nor are Democratic politicians responsible for the idiotic and violent behavior directed toward Republicans noted above. In the end, the only responsible party here is the person or persons involved in making these devices, selecting the targets, and delivering the devices. Since we have no publicly available clues regarding who that may be or what is motivating them and in some sense it is irresponsible for anyone, including the President, to be speculating about that before we have more information. That being said, since the President has chosen to focus on the media as the party responsible for these attempted attack, it is only fair to point out that if he really wants to find someone responsible for poisonous political rhetoric all he needs to do is look in the mirror.