Gertz: Americans Are "Mired In A Campaign Dominated By Trump" Because "The Media Made It So"
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In an op-ed for U.S. News & World Report, Media Matters research director Matt Gertz described how Donald Trump mirrors longstanding pillars of right-wing media and how mainstream media enables him to dominate the airwaves.
In an April 1 op-ed for U.S. News' "Debate Club," Media Matters' Matthew Gertz explained that "conservative media created the platform and mentality on which Trump built his campaign," while the mainstream media gave Trump unprecedented legitimacy to "boost their ratings":
Conservative media created the platform and mentality on which Trump built his campaign, and television executives have buttressed it, treating the businessman as a spectacle they could use to boost their ratings.
Since President Barack Obama's election, right-wing media have made fervent opposition to the president and the progressive movement their overwhelming priority, regularly attacking any Republican politician who steps out of line. They have doubled down on their obsessive opposition to immigration reform and anti-Muslim attacks. And Trump's extreme positions and violent rhetoric mirror those priorities.
While the conservative media's support for Trump has been based on ideology, the mainstream media's enthusiasm has been based on commercialism. Trump has enjoyed the benefit of a complacent television news industry that is reaping the rewards of the high ratings and resulting ad revenue the GOP front-runner creates. As CBS executive chairman Les Moonves put it, "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS. ... I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going."
When the networks aren't broadcasting Trump speeches, rallies and interviews, they are talking about Trump's latest comments, allowing the candidate to dictate the conversation. According to the media tracking firm mediaQuant, Trump has received nearly $2 billion in earned media during the presidential campaign. By comparison, Sen. Ted Cruz has received $313 million.
The GOP front-runner also benefits from the many broadcast and cable news shows that are willing to let him call in to their programs, rather than appearing in person or by satellite. This unprecedented practice allows him to dominate interviews, talking through tough questions without having to worry that his facial reactions or body language could compromise his performance.
With seven months to go before Election Day, we are mired in a campaign dominated by Trump. We got there in part because the media made it so.