Does the media have a double-standard for Trump

Jon Cohn sure thinks so:

At various points, Trump has mocked his opponents as “Lying Ted Cruz” and “Crooked Hillary.” But Trump is the candidate who, according to independent watchdogs like Politifact, has lied most frequently and egregiously. And yet when reporters have tried to hold him accountable for his statements, he has lashed out at them for their hostility and supposed mendacity — something he did again on Tuesday, when he called one reporter a “sleaze” and said, sarcastically, that yet another was a “beauty.” At one point, Trump said that most reporters “are not good people.” At another, he said “I think the political press is among the most dishonest people that I have ever met, I have to tell you.”…

But whatever the ultimate legal outcome [of Trump University case], the evidence is enough to raise serious questions about Trump’s business practices and his willingness to exploit other people’s weaknesses in order to make a profit — just like the donation saga raises serious questions about Trump’s honesty, and the disparagement of reporters raises serious questions about his regard for a free press.

So what happens now? Suppose that the tantrum about hostile media had come from Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz. Suppose that the revelations about questionable past business activities involved Marco Rubio. Better still, suppose that the candidate at the center of these controversies was Hillary Clinton — and on top of it all, that there was reason to think she had lied and then acted, clumsily, to cover it up.

The press wouldn’t let go of the story. It’d be fodder for nonstop conversation on “Morning Joe,” “The Situation Room,” and, of course, Fox News. Commentators would say the statements disqualify her from serving as president, and a few would probably call on her to drop out of the race. The New York Times would run long analysis pieces on Clinton’s honesty problem, and whether the lies were evidence of campaign disarray, a lack of integrity, or some combination of the two. “She wouldn’t be criticized or questioned,” Paul Waldman observed Tuesday in the Post. “She’d be crucified.” …

The frequency of Trump’s prevarications makes it difficult to dwell on any single one, especially for journalists who are trying to be even-handed — either because they are making a good-faith effort to be fair, or because they have a rooting interest in keeping the presidential campaign competitive.

Whatever the explanation, the resulting double-standard doesn’t serve the public well. One presidential candidate isn’t getting the same scrutiny as the others. And it’s the candidate who deserves scrutiny the most.

Yep.  In truth, I think as much as anything the norms of political journalism are just not prepared to handle a candidate who 1) lies as much as Trump, and 2) is as shockingly unqualified as Trump.  As a result, Trump is exploiting these norms to his advantage.

I wasn’t sure what class I was going to teach in the Fall.  Pretty glad I decided on Mass Media & Public Opinion.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Does the media have a double-standard for Trump

  1. ohwilleke says:

    “the norms of political journalism are just not prepared to handle a candidate who 1) lies as much as Trump, and 2) is as shockingly unqualified as Trump. As a result, Trump is exploiting these norms to his advantage.”

    The norms of political journalism aren’t prepare to handle political journalism period. Political journalists are loathe to acknowledge that there are facts upon which candidates can be right or wrong at all, an innovation pretty much from the blogosphere that media outlets have adopted only reluctantly, and political journalists are incredibly strongly pre-disposed to presume that both candidates are equally qualified and valid and viable regardless of the facts.

    In practice, races where all candidates in a race are equally viable and whether both are truthful and roughly equally qualified and valid are the exception rather than the rule. Trump may be an extreme example, but of a common phenomena.

    Simply taking seriously people who don’t deserve that courtesy is a basic flaw in the norms of political journalism.

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