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  • The Problem With The Media’s ‘Trump Is Pivoting’ Narrative

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures have repeatedly claimed that presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “pivoting” to the general election every time he does something that they think makes him look or sound “presidential.” Media’s constant search for Trump’s “pivot” effectively whitewashes all of the racist, sexist, slanderous, and conspiratorial attacks Trump has doled out, and mainstreams the idea that Trump’s past diatribes can be forgiven so long as he assumes a veneer of conventional, tempered behavior.

    Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump and the media have engaged in a cycle wherein Trump launches offensive broadsides and character attacks; He gets bad press; Republican leaders clamor for Trump to tone down his rhetoric; Trump obliges, often using a teleprompter to restrain himself; Media figures claim Trump has “pivoted” and is “becoming more presidential”; and repeat.

    As MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said, Trump constantly shatters the “pivot” narrative “by trotting out conspiracy theories” -- or, as others have noted, outrageous insults -- within hours of being lauded as “presidential.” 

    In following this pattern, the media are both applauding Trump for having simply mastered “campaign 101,” as CNN’s David Gregory noted, and excusing his past remarks as political maneuvering and electoral showmanship.

    In early June, after Trump launched a multiday racist crusade against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over Trump University lawsuits, Republican leaders beseeched Trump to “get on message” and “quit attacking … various minority groups in the country.” That very night, Trump delivered a speech -- devoid of any attacks and with the aid of a teleprompter -- that “sought to calm fretful Republicans bolting from his side over his latest controversy,” CNN reported.

    Media figures immediately claimed that Trump’s restraint showed he was “pivoting.” NBC News reporter Ali Vitali wrote that Trump “acted presidential” in the speech, which “finalized his pivot to the general election.” CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.” Unsurprisingly, Trump also received praise from right-wing media for sounding “more presidential than ever.”

    CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill explained the phenomenon:

    “It's kind of a good outcome for Trump, because we're not talking about a Mexican judge anymore. We're not talking about something controversial. We're talking about Trump changing the direction of his campaign. That can only be good news for him, based on what the last three weeks have been.”

    GOP leaders condemned Trump’s repeated “offensive” suggestions that President Obama had sympathies for terrorists, but changed their tune once Trump delivered his next teleprompter-guided speech following the mass shooting in Orlando, FL. Some media figures said Trump sounded “more presidential” and was “behaving like general election nominees behave,” and Trump’s slanderous accusations against the president quickly fell out of the news cycle.

    The “pivot” claim, which has repeatedly surfaced since at least February, has also helped wash away many of Trump’s past actions and comments: his doubling down on his proposed Muslim ban, his accusations that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination, and his questioning of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s faith.

    Some media figures have noted the journalistic malpractice associated with the constant fallback on the “pivot” narrative. New York Times Magazine correspondent Mark Leibovich, calling the narrative “absurd,” wrote:

    But really, how do you pivot away from saying that Mexicans are rapists? (Will he negotiate “great deals” with more moderate Mexican rapists?) If your campaign is a cult of personality, how can you modulate that personality and still have the cult? In Trump’s case, a “pivot” would constitute a complete overhaul of his very essence.

    Similarly, Washington Post opinion writer Kathleen Parker lambasted media’s “softening of criticism” of Trump and warned “the commentariat,” “Nothing makes Trump more acceptable today than yesterday or last week — or six months ago.”

    The "pivot" narrative has become a reset button, allowing media to excuse or forget all of Trump’s past rhetorical assaults. Media figures are essentially condoning all of his racism, sexism, and conspiracies, so long as he sounds and acts subdued and presidential.

    Image by Dayanita Ramesh and Sarah Wasko. 

  • Media Shouldn't Forget That The SCOTUS Tie On Immigration Affects Real People

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    While reporting on the Supreme Court deadlock on President Obama’s executive action on immigration, media should make note of its negative impact on millions of workers and families, as Univision and NPR have done in their past reporting on the case.

    On June 23, a 4-4 Supreme Court split affirmed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit's decision to block implementation of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). This exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” would have given temporary relief from deportation to close to 3.7 million people, bringing the undocumented parents of American citizens or permanent residents out of the shadows and making them eligible for work authorization. The decision also affects an expansion of President Obama’s 2012 executive action Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

    According to immigration attorney and CNN opinion columnist David Leopold, who speculated about the outcome of the case back in April, the tie could lead to “three levels of profound chaos”:

    A 4–4 split in U.S. v Texas, for example, would result in three levels of profound chaos ensuing. A 4–4 split on the Supreme Court would: provide a green light to Republican-controlled states — not the federal government — to determine the nation’s immigration enforcement policy — contradicting the Court’s major precedent in the process; open the door to a myriad of politically-charged lawsuits that states would be newly empowered to bring against sitting presidents; and raise questions about whether the injunction placed on the deportation deferral guidance, known as DAPA and DACA+, should continue to apply across country, ultimately leading to a patchwork of confusing immigration enforcement regimes in different states and regions of the U.S.

    The impacts, however, are also deeply personal to immigrant families, particularly to the Latino community. A Univision segment on June 15’s Univision's Noticiero Univision Edición Nocturna highlighted the stories of some of those who benefited under the 2012 DACA executive action and explained that over 3.5 million people could be negatively impacted if the president’s 2014 executive action failed at the Supreme Court:

    The American Immigration Council explained in April that a Supreme Court tie would be harmful to the economy, as individuals who would have benefited from the programs would no longer be able to contribute by earning “an additional $7.1 billion ... in income” or by generating additional tax revenue.

    Most importantly, media should contextualize the case by reporting that the success of this executive action would have kept families together, protecting children whose parents are at risk of deportation from psychological harm, an issue exemplified in a June 22 NPR report:

    KELLY MCEVERS (HOST): For many families, there is a lot riding on a case that's now before the Supreme Court. It's about President Obama's executive order known as Deferred Actions for Parents of Americans. It could shield millions of people who are here illegally from deportation. There's growing research that shows when a parent is arrested by immigration authorities, it can have a big impact on a child's mental and physical health. Adrian Florido of Code Switch brings us one family's story.

    ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: The Diaz family lives in a squat, pink apartment building in Miami's Little Havana. Early one morning three years ago, Dad, Jose, was arrested just as he left for work. When Mom, Marcela, and her 8-year-old son, Bryan, went outside, they saw Jose's truck idling in the driveway, its door open. A white van with tinted windows was blocking its exit, and they realized Jose was inside. As the school bus pulled up, Bryan started crying.

    [...]

    WENDY CERVANTES: Inability to sleep at night, a lot of anxiousness, behavioral problems, low academic performance.

    FLORIDO: This is Wendy Cervantes of the children's advocacy group First Focus.

    CERVANTES: But it's also - obviously the mental health impact becomes even greater when a child actually witnesses a parent being arrested or loses a parent as a result of deportation or detention.

    FLORIDO: Lili Farhang directs Oakland-based Human Impact Partners, which has tried to quantify the effects. Her group estimates that in 2012, for example, up to 100,000 kids had shown signs of withdrawal after a parent's detention or deportation. She says this is only a fraction of the children at risk.

    LILI FARHANG: You have 4 million kids, you know, who can face having a parent be deported and you have to wonder what are the long-term effects for this population of children?

  • The Important Way Spanish-Language Media’s Orlando Massacre Coverage Outshined Other News Networks

    Univision And Telemundo Offered Representation To The Overlapping, Diverse Communities Affected

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    In their June 13 coverage of the Orlando, FL, massacre, Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo uniquely provided a crucial platform for intersectional voices that included Spanish-speaking, gay Latinos. The distinctly diverse coverage outshined other national cable news networks which underrepresented the affected communities in their coverage.

    A Media Matters study of the diversity of guest appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC the day after the June 12 attack on LGBT nightclub Pulse found that “none of the three networks hosted a significant number of Latino” guests.

    In a tragedy that overwhelmingly impacted the Hispanic community -- more than 90 percent of the victims were Hispanic -- Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo were uniquely equipped to provide a much-needed space for Spanish-speaking voices in their coverage the day after the massacre. Both networks featured survivors and family members of victims, who shared their stories in their own language (and some of them spoke only Spanish), while emphasizing the many communities -- sometimes overlapping -- that the tragedy impacted. Jorge Ramos said the attack was “truly a tragedy, for the Latino community, and truly a tragedy for the Latino gay community”:

    In the aftermath of the tragedy, many family members of the victims were “in dire need” of “Spanish-language interpreters” in order to identify their missing loved ones, according to Fox News Latino:

    Hundreds, if not thousands, across the country are lining up to donate blood to help the victims of Orlando’s tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub. Others wanting to help are donating money for funerals and health care costs.

    But in Orlando, for family members of the victims, there is also a dire need for something else: Spanish-language interpreters.

    Dozens of people waiting to hear from their loved ones at the Hampton Inn in Downtown Orlando, near the nightclub where tragedy struck early Sunday morning, are heart-broken, confused — and compounding matters is that many do not know English.

    Many of the people interviewed on Univision and Telemundo referenced the language barrier, and both networks included reports of Hispanic organizations that were providing resources and support for those with cultural or linguistic obstacles, emphasizing the need for “bilingual help”:

    Hispanic media’s proximity to the Latino community -- Telemundo itself lost one of its producers to the attack -- aided the networks in providing coverage of the Orlando massacre that accurately represented the experiences of affected Hispanics, while providing valuable resources to grieving families. Just as Telemundo’s Maria Celeste Arrarás demonstrated when co-hosting the February 25 Republican debate, newsroom diversity -- and in this case, particularly Latino media representation -- empowers Latino audiences to “engage [with news content] at a higher level.”

  • Hate Group FAIR Hosting Annual Event With Anti-Immigrant Radio Hosts

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) announced that it will hold its “10th annual Hold Their Feet to the Fire radio row broadcast in Washington,” on June 22 and 23. In previous years FAIR has hosted speakers at the event who have used their own radio shows to push anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment. In addition, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated FAIR as a hate group whose founder “has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population.”