How should the Media deal with Donald Trump and his Republican party
Ok, this is really simple people. We’re in the middle of a difficult time in America. We have someone in the White House and a full list of elected Republican Officials and a full Conservative Mainstream Media complex (Fox, OANN, Sinclair, Breitbart, NewsMax, Washington Times & Examiner, New York Post, CBN, etc.) that are committed to lies they communicate until they have created an alternate America and millions of Americans have chosen to accept this alternate reality as fact. It’s frustrating, troubling and disconcerting, but it’s here and we can’t act shocked or as if it’s a passing momentary issue. We have to deal with this head on and with the same urgency that Trump does when he was spinning off his lies about Robert Mueller, the Moon, Democrats, all people of color and anything else that he wanders into.
So how do we address this upside down world? As directly and confrontationally as it is presented to us. Here’s my thoughts on how we should respond:
1. Interaction with Donald Trump — Trump uses his unorthodox media engagement style to create opportunities reinforce his key messages. Trump has the following key phrases that he trots out every time he’s in front of a camera, audiotape or print reporters:
a. No Collusion, No Obstruction
b. Witch Hunt, Biggest Witch Hunt in history
c. Russian Hoax
d. Everybody’s saying, You all agree with me, You know what I’m saying
e. Hillary Clinton crimes, lock her up, fake & phony dossier
f. FBI, DOJ & Intelligence Agencies Coup and/or bias against Trump
g. Greatest economy ever
h. Lowest employment ever
i. Black, Latino, Asian, Women’s unemployment lowest ever
j. Radical Democrats
k. Open Borders
l. Illegal immigrant criminals, rapist and murderers
n. Inner city war zones, no jobs, no education
o. I’ve done more than any President ever
p. Fake News, corrupt media, dishonest, Enemy of the People
q. Nobody gives me credit
r. Presidential Harassment
s. Democrats want to destroy America
t. Mueller is conflicted
u. 18 angry Dems
v. Obstructionist Democrats
w. Everyone’s taken advantage of us
x. Make America Great Again
y. No one could say Christmas until I was elected
z. My DOJ, My military
aa. I’m always right, only I can do it, I’m the only person that matters
bb. Drain the Swamp
On and on, this is a short list, which probably includes another 20 key phrases. He uses these to continuously re-inforce his worldview and that he’s the only person that understands. Where the media fails are three-fold:
· You let him say them without immediate challenge, fact check or calling it a lie, then move to the next question, allowing the lie to appear to be true or fact.
· You repeat his phrases while debunking them, making it appear that his lie has a basis in fact (it doesn’t)
· You coddle these lies by saying he doesn’t understand, trying to interpret what he really means or wondering why he does things the way he does (his words means what they mean, he knows what he’s doing).
This has to stop. You must immediately change everything to deal with this type of marketing strategy that Trump deploys. When you’re in front of Trump, as soon as he starts the lying statement, you have to interrupt him and state the facts versus his lie.
Example; Trump — “President Obama left 138 judicial appointments that he didn’t seem to want to fill” — Immediate response — “that’s not true, President Obama nominated candidates for those positions, Mitch McConnell refused to allow any votes on those candidates”.
Trump — “Democrats haven’t passed any bills in the house, they’ve done nothing since taking over the House” — Immediate response — “That’s a lie, the House has passed 165 bills and sent them to the Senate. You may not support the bills, but they have passed them.”
When he tries to cut you off and restate the lie, keep interrupting him and push back with facts. Don’t let his lies go without immediate correction. He doesn’t respect the honest media, non-Trump Americans and the facts, you must be the wall holding back the torrent of lies. The only way to do this is to immediately stop the lie, call the lie, respond with truth and hold your ground. It he ultimately ends up only with his propagandistic Conservative Mainstream Media outlets covering him directly, he’ll give you plenty of additional information to educate non-Trump Americans on his disrespect for truth and the law.
You also have to stop repeating his lie phrases as a part of debunking the lie. The mnemonic device of repeating his 50 or so key phrases helps add to the memory muscle and validation signatures with Trump Americans and those who are susceptible to his deception. When you move to highlight the lies that he’s said, point to where he lied (show the video, play the audio or show the newspaper quote, discuss the lie without using his terms and describe why it’s a lie. You still will have fulfilled your role to bring out the truth and separately, you will take the oxygen from his mnemonic messaging. The susceptible people that don’t get the majority of their information from the Conservative Mainstream Media will start to lose their connection to those terms and may start to either investigate information or broaden their perspective.
Next, you have to accept that Donald Trump’s words are exactly as they come out of his mouth and report on them as they are. You have to resist trying to interpret them to mean something else or show his lack of understanding. Those efforts weaken the actual impact of what he said and minimize the negative value of what he has said or done. You need to report on it as straight as the verbiage or action is and provide the proper response as to the danger or problems with his statement or verbiage. Don’t provide any room for him to have his actions be given the benefit of doubt.
2. Don’t associate him with the respect entitled of the office — Stop saying President with his name attached. Call him Donald, Mr. Trump, Trump, etc. or use the title only without his name being attached. No matter how anyone felt about the Presidents in my lifetime (President Nixon through President Obama) they all acted with enough decency and respect that they are worthy of always having the title and word of President always associated with their name. Even as criminal as Nixon was, he made significant accomplishments that still have having positive impact on the lives of Americans and the world (Title IX, EPA, SBA, Normalizing relations with China, etc.). The current officeholder demeans their service, the office as it is, openly welcomes the destruction of governing principles and basic human decency, so he’s not what we’ve had in normal officeholders. You have to act accordingly, including creating a barrier from Donald Trump and the title and honor resting with the title President. Using the line President _____, provides him with an additional level of validation and credibility that you don’t have to offer. Yes, he still got elected by 46% of the country through the inside straight of 77,000 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania and speaking of him in the role he has is permissible, without associating the title. For example, Donald Trump will be attending the G-20 and meeting with President Xi from China to discuss trade or Trump’s immigration policy. It’s not disrespectful, because during President Obama’s tenure, he was referred to as Obama instead of President Obama 45% of the time on CNN, 54% of the time on Fox News and 50% of the time on MSNBC. Just use his name, as you have with President Obama in the past.
3. Dealing with Trump’s obvious lack of knowledge and information — Donald Trump is not an intelligent person, it’s clearly shown every day. He doesn’t know history, policy, monetary systems, trade, the bible among other things. He also shows that his mental capacity is devolving on a daily basis. Whatever the mental defects are, they are mutually evident as his lack of knowledge. The best way to address this aspect of Trump’s is to segment and call these situations into account and as they are, either ignorance or mental illness. It’s incumbent to show that this person lacks the intellectual capacity to govern and he provides clear examples daily. You have to show the public the truth and be clear on the truth.
4. Trump’s demonization of groups — Donald Trump spends a significant amount of time attacking Democrats, our foreign allies, people that don’t support him and the non-Conservative Mainstream Media outlets. When he’s asked about this, the phrasing is normally focused on regret or tone. For example, after the Pittsburg Synagogue White Nationalist Terrorist Attack, Trump was asked if he believes his rhetoric contributes to the hate that fueled this man and if he regretted using his language. That’s the wrong way to approach this, because he can easily defect away responsibility. Similar when he calls the Democrats enemies or radical extremist who want to destroy America, but then wants them to vote in favor of his ideas.
You have to reframe the questions to him in this way; “When you describe Democrats as radical, Un-American, traitors and other demeaning terms, why should they want to work with you or trust you or why Americans who vote for Democrats won’t support you?” “When Congress conducts oversight on areas such as the Census, EPA, Hatch Act violations, DoD, Intelligence briefings and you block the testimony of and release of documents to facilitate that, do you understand why Democrats and Non-Trump Americans say that you don’t respect the rule of law and Congressional authority provided for under the Constitution”? You have to frame these questions to direct him towards answering for the division that his words and behavior causes. He will never accept that his words are divisive, the premise is to see how he views the response to his words and why it makes people not want to work with him? It’s a critical context that must be addressed, because he and his team aren’t presented with the impact that their words and behavior have on Americans that don’t vote for him or oppose him in policy in Congress or through State Governments. The feedback will better identify Trump’s acceptance of Americans who don’t support him and if he wants to engage them or bar them from the practice of American Democracy
5. Trump’s staff, surrogates and GOP elected officials, stopping the repeating loop of lies bubble — Trump’s surrogates and members of the Republican Congressional delegation have bought completely into the Trump narrative. When they come on your shows, they are only going to say the Trump company lines, repeat the mnemonic phrases and dismiss any concerns about Trump’s behavior. A few, like Rep. Duffy, Gaetz, Jordan, Meadows, Cheney, Sen. Cotton, Graham, Matt Schlepp, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Sanders, Corey Lewandowsky, will even go so far as to say that Trump has never told a lie as they’ve heard him speak or that he hasn’t made a mistake. They will not be objective guests, will not acknowledge his mistakes, divisiveness or their willing complicity in his actions.
You must reframe your approach. You should set the expectation that they aren’t honest brokers, but there to defend the spin. You also need to be prepared to challenge their lies, with facts and their former words on similar situations. For example, when they complain about the unprecedented amount of subpoenas that the House Democrats have issued in 2019, point them to the number of subpoenas that the GOP House issued in various investigations of President Obama’s administration (Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has issued 103 subpoenas as chair of the House Oversight Committee in 2011 to 2015, Issa’s subpoenas have spanned several investigations, from the IRS to the rollout of ObamaCare to the administration’s response to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya) or President Clinton’s administration (Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), issued 1,052 unilateral subpoenas between 1997 and 2002 for his investigations into the Clinton administration, his vow to expose the administration for trading national security secrets for campaign contributions). When they respond to either dismiss or justify those acts of Congressional Oversight, point out the lack of GOP oversight for Republican Presidents (0 subpoenas issued against Trump’s administration during GOP control of the House and 3 issued from 2003 to 2005 during Bush 43’s administration) and how the House Republicans gave unilateral subpoena authority to at least seven committee chairmen during the 2015–2016 legislative cycle. You have to refocus their lies back to truth facts regarding their behavior and then ask them why this is the correct course of action when the GOP is in control but not for Democrats.
The same issue when dealing with the allegations of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment against Donald Trump. You have to present the issues, with their words, positions and statements when President Clinton and Democrats have been credibility accused of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment and ask them if they believe only Democrats are capable of committing rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Also ask them if will only accept the word of women if they are accusing President Clinton or Democrats? You have to box them into the place that they are already in, which is an enabler for Trump and let them demonstrate their bias nature overflow.
6. Pressing the truth and not letting news items go — You have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Trump, his administration and base create multiple news worthy issues on a daily basis. You need to cover, investigate and report on all of it. You can’t let parts go, ranging from the administration incompetence, his sexual predatory behavior, the criminal and ethically challenged behavior, etc. You have to go right at all of it and organize reporting on these items in a scaled or cascade type of approach. This is critical because the non-Trump side of American and the world need to see the full litany of failures and issues that are putting America and the world in danger.
We’re at a point in American history and our evolution, that we have to accept the direct challenges in front of us. Right now, it’s incumbent on the Media (outside of the Conservative Mainstream Media, they are Trump-State TV) to change their approach in dealing with this person and his egregious behavior. You can’t operate as if this is a normal administration and you can’t normalize this behavior. It’s on you, your organizations and reporters. We need you.
Disclaimer: The opinion I’ve expressed is my own and not reflective of any person or organization that I’m affiliated with.