Rampant mainstream media bias against Donald Trump could play right into the GOP presidential candidate’s hands, sparking a sympathetic backlash from voters who see unfair press hits as a heavy-handed shadow campaign to boost Hillary Clinton, experts said yesterday.
“His way of thinking is, if I take a battering ram and hit the door long enough, it doesn’t matter what I say, they’ll distort it, and eventually that will hit critical mass and people will turn on the media and Hillary,” said Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University.
“The ultimate objective would be sometime in October he will have succeeded to say, ‘You pick on me, but Hillary does the same or even worse and you don’t report or discredit it,’ and people will be more sympathetic to him,” Hanson said.
He also noted that Trump’s controversial remarks often end up drawing new attention to his opponent’s old gaffes. For example, Trump’s Second Amendment comments forced some reporters to eventually acknowledge that Clinton, too, had made similar remarks. In 2008, she justified her decision to stay in the Democratic primary, even though she trailed mightily behind then-Illinois U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, by pointing out that Robert Kennedy had been assassinated in June 1968.
“Trump jokes about killing his opponent, well, what do you know, Hillary did it, too,” Hanson said.
Media largely interpreted Trump’s Second Amendment comments literally, as they did similar statements when the New York business mogul implored Russia to find Clinton’s missing emails, though in that case he insisted he was being sarcastic.
But overhyping Trump’s extreme comments may feed into the very narrative Trump is pushing — that the media is out to get him and put Clinton in the White House, political operatives said.
“It feeds into this system-is-rigged thing really well, that this is all the Washington media,” said New Hampshire Republican strategist Dave Carney. “Yeah, it will help him.”
Florida Republican strategist Alex Patton said some TV news organizations — which eagerly jumped on the ratings Trump coverage gave them — are now regretting giving him so much free air-time during the GOP primary.
“What you’re seeing here is an overcorrection by the media in some cases,” Patton said. “I think the media realized they created Donald Trump. And when you look at the media bias starting to emerge and how Trump just dominated the media coverage in the primaries, some of this is the media going, ‘Oh damn, we’re responsible for this.’ ”
But Carney suggested many journalists were hard-wired to detest Trump from the beginning.
“Ninety percent of people in the media tend to be left of center,” Carney said. “It’s just their world view. It’s different.”
Earlier this week, New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg suggested reporters were facing challenges reporting Trump objectively because many view him as harmful to the country.
“Covering Mr. Trump as an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate is more than just a shock to the journalistic system,” Rutenberg wrote. “It threatens to throw the advantage to his news conference-averse opponent, Hillary Clinton, who should draw plenty more tough-minded coverage herself.”
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