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By Keeping Trump Off The Air, Media Propagandists Only Make Him Stronger

MSNBC Host Rachel Maddow.
Image CreditMSNBC/YouTube

The more they try to silence Trump, the more those crucial few percentage points of undecided voters will care about what they hear from him.


Corporate media companies have a big problem in 2024. If the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses is any indication of how they plan to handle the election for the rest of the year, then it’s obvious they aren’t going to be helping themselves or their efforts to prop up President Joe Biden’s flailing reelection campaign.

After the caucuses, two editorial decisions illustrated the corporate media’s approach. CNN chose to cut away from former President Donald Trump’s victory speech when he brought up the issues of illegal immigration and election integrity. MSNBC chose not to air the speech at all. These choices gave us a taste of the knots into which left-wing news organizations will twist themselves as they attempt to cover the election.

The networks are well aware that Trump’s Iowa speech marks the first of what will almost certainly be a steady string of caucus and primary victories. Trump currently leads in every state poll, and he maintains a stunning 54.6 percent margin over his nearest GOP competitor in the RealClearPolitics polling average. Yet networks like CNN and MSNBC cannot cover him. Their news coverage not only skews majorly left, but it depends on viewers who are convinced that Trump is the second coming of Adolf Hitler. Allowing Trump his say is something they just don’t want to do.

Ignoring Trump Is Bad TV and Won’t Save Biden

That creates a twofold dilemma for them that, as their Iowa coverage shows, they haven’t begun to understand, let alone solve.

Covering an election in which you don’t actually show the remarks of the man who is not only the likely GOP nominee but also leading Biden in head-to-head matchups as well as those involving third-party candidates is going to make for some very dull television. And since the presidential election is always going to be the biggest and most important story — one that will pump life into their otherwise declining ratings — ignoring Trump creates a recipe for disaster.

At the same time, not broadcasting Trump’s speeches or pressers isn’t going to help save Joe Biden. Unlike his rival, Biden is generally kept in bubble wrap when it comes to letting him speak to the press. He does himself little good when allowed out to perform scripted speeches.

By not showing Trump, the media do shield their viewers from what they call Trump’s lies. They protect them from his statements about illegal immigrants committing crimes, Biden’s manmade border disaster, and the 2020 election. In our bifurcated political culture, many Democrat voters likely believe her when MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow says that by airing Trump’s comments, they run the danger of “knowingly broadcasting untrue things.”

A No-Win Situation for Left-Wing Media

Aside from their natural curiosity about what the man supported by the other half of the country is saying, some Democrats have probably also caught onto their own side’s deceptions. They might recognize that what Maddow and her Democrat colleagues have said about a host of issues — whether it was the Russia-collusion hoax, Hunter Biden’s laptop, or the crisis at the border — were as false as, if not even more mendacious than, the most egregious examples of Trump’s trolling of the left.

We can count on Democrats to back up the same talking points about the 2024 election. They will claim that defeating Trump is synonymous with defending democracy. The left-wing media will portray the 2024 race as one essentially between a doddering and deeply unpopular career politician and Hitler. Yet spending the next nine months treating the 2024 race as a kind of shadow game is also antithetical to their purpose of riling up their base and reminding them that the apocalypse beckons in 2025.

In the aftermath of Trump’s win in 2016, most angry leftists assumed that their media had betrayed them. By showing Trump’s speeches live and broadcasting his every comment — even if biased setups and unflattering analysis often bracketed the coverage — they thought that this had helped the Republicans win an election that they were all convinced was in the bag for Hillary Clinton.

Throughout the early months of the GOP primaries, Trump certainly benefited from the massive free media exposure he got from all the networks, including the most left-wing, as they covered the circus that was his campaign.

Trump Won in 2016 Without the Media’s Help

Yet they failed to understand that the working class, conservative, and evangelical voters who responded positively to Trump’s appeal were looking for someone to challenge the uniparty political establishment. And they were not generally watching left-wing outlets. More to the point, the more they covered Trump, the more outrage they generated about him among Democrats. He won because of Clinton’s lack of personal appeal and credibility as well as the incompetence of her massively funded campaign apparatus.

The idea that the corporate media’s platforming of Trump allowed him to succeed is a myth. Trump took the GOP by storm in the winter and spring of 2016, despite the unified opposition of his party’s establishment and negative coverage from conservative and left-wing outlets. His ability to reach voters via Twitter and campaign events that were more like a concert tour than traditional rallies was a function of his own unique appeal and messaging, not the imprimatur of the system’s existing gatekeepers.

Not showing Trump speak will spare the delicate sensibilities of the dwindling number of people who do watch CNN and MSNBC. But there will be a minimal effect of coverage that shuns Trump and allows Biden to get by without any but the most staged appearances. The president has shown himself capable of turning even the tamest of dog-and-pony shows into disasters because of his visible decline and confusion.

CNN Can’t Help but Keep Trump Off the Air

Nevertheless, the uniformly left-wing staff of a network like CNN is still convinced that allowing their viewers to hear what Trump has to say could help him win. From their partisan point of view, this puts them under obligation to silence him. A CNN news staff conference call held later in the week after the Iowa caucuses demonstrated their desire to keep Trump off-air.

Mark Thompson, the network’s newly minted chief executive, said they had a journalistic obligation to broadcast Trump’s remarks. That idea reportedly met with immediate pushback not just from staff but from Jim Murphy, CNN’s senior vice president of programming. Murphy said he believed the network had given Trump too much airtime when it broadcast a live news conference that he held during the New York civil fraud trial. Murphy said CNN should only broadcast Trump when he “made news,” not when he was “repeating political talking points.”

But if that is the standard for covering politicians, including President Joe Biden, who is even more likely than Trump to spew fiction, political hyperbole, and smears about almost any topic, then we’ll never hear from any of them.

CNN’s staff thinks MSNBC has the right idea. They believe they must skew their reports and give only one point of view when it comes to the presidential election. And none of them have any shame or reticence about the fact that they are acting in the same manner as state-run media in the authoritarian states that leftists believe Trump wishes to emulate should he win.

Prosecutions and Media Ban Won’t Stop Trump

Given Biden’s feeble persona and Vice President Kamala Harris’ staggering unpopularity and political maladroitness, the Democrats and their legacy media enablers can’t rely on people voting for their candidates. Resorting to banana republic tactics such as political prosecutions and attempts to throw Trump off the ballot are fail-safe measures intended to ensure that Biden and Harris cannot lose the election.

But if corporate media cover the election in a manner that silences their foe while allowing their champion to hide, then it’s not merely a travesty of democracy. It’s a formula for disaster for the Democrats. The more they try to silence Trump, the more those crucial few percentage points of undecided voters will care about what they hear from him. And they will find other means to hear him.

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