'The Press Has Poisoned The Minds Of Our Voters': Unpacking Trump's Claims

Oct 20, 2016
Originally published on October 20, 2016 5:07 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Are the news media against Donald Trump? Donald Trump thinks so.

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DONALD TRUMP: The press has created a rigged system and poisoned the mind of so many of our voters.

SIEGEL: Trump's complaint is not completely unprecedented. Republicans as far back as Richard Nixon have complained about what they saw as liberal media bias. Bernie Sanders supporters complained this year about a pro-establishment media bias. But this time, there are differences - the intensity of Trump's hostility toward the news media, the number of unflattering news stories about him and the number of editorial pages and columnists that oppose him. So are the news media against Trump? We're going to ask NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik what he thinks. David, are they?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: I don't know if they're biased against Trump. I do think that there's some truth to the notion that a lot of journalists are offended by Trump - and offended less on a personal level, but on the idea of - if you're involved in journalism because you think there's a civic value in it, if you think that you are bringing citizens - not just consumers - facts and information, then Trump's estrangement from fact and truth and notions of fairness and shame in many instances, really, I think offend people. And that he has not really been looked at as a public figure worthy of scrutiny in this same way previously means they're doing a lot of catch up, and it feels like it's happening all at once.

SIEGEL: Well, for people who are out counting words and measuring column inches and counting minutes of how many stories there are that are negative about Donald Trump or negative about Hillary Clinton, could one say that Hillary Clinton is getting away without the scrutiny that Trump is getting?

FOLKENFLIK: Look, as somebody who's covered politics one way or another since 1996, I can tell you that Hillary Clinton has been getting a lot of scrutiny, certainly since 1992 when Bill Clinton was running for office for his first term as president. She has - from Whitewater and Travelgate and the Paula Jones allegations, Troopergate - all these things - Hillary Clinton has gotten a lot of coverage as first lady, as a senator, as secretary of state and now as a candidate.

Donald Trump really hasn't. He flirted with politics in 2000, thinking about running under the Reform Party ticket - Ross Perot's old party. He came really to prominence as the nation's leading birther, making allegations against the legitimacy of President Obama without any factual foundation whatsoever. And he was kind of allowed to do it because he was this roguish, you know, real estate figure, a billionaire and also a celebrity.

So they've treated him as a curiosity, a source of entertainment - the press - but not really as a figure deserving tough scrutiny in the way that I think other political figures have received. And I think that's why, really, he didn't get that kind of scrutiny during the Republican primary cycle. I think that voters in the Republican cycle probably would have benefited from a lot of the things that we've learned more about in recent months since the general campaign kicked off.

SIEGEL: One difference about this election cycle is the role of social media. And reporters are very often urged by their employers to use social media a lot to promote the news organization, but it's typically a zone of great candor. Are reporters who file straight stories for their main outlet frankly admitting opinionated tweets and posts?

FOLKENFLIK: I think you're seeing a lot of body language from campaign reporters who have been out there on the hustings for months, covering this - and really, you know, not only know how to interpret some of the rhetoric, but have seen some of the vitriol being pointed at the press and others. You know, this is an age of voice, and Donald Trump has ridden that tiger, I think, himself, with his own Twitter feed and Facebook and other platforms, as well.

The thing about Trump, of course, is he says that he's a disruptive candidate, that he's unlike any other candidate that we've had, but he wants to be treated the same as others. He says, why am I treated differently by the press? I don't think you both get to be the chaos candidate, in Jeb Bush's famous terms, and also say that he deserves exactly the same treatment as everyone else.

SIEGEL: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, thanks.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.