Cable news outlets are giving oxygen to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s narrative that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is a “bigot” by repeatedly discussing his remarks and entertaining questions about whether Clinton is indeed a bigot. Several segments even whitewashed Trump’s history of racist remarks.
During an August 24 rally in Mississippi, Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton is a “bigot” who “sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future.” The remarks, which were prepared on his teleprompter, have also been repeatedly uttered by Trump over the last week.
Trump’s remark drove a large portion of today’s cable TV coverage, which examined Trump’s claim in multiple segments, many without any critical pushback by hosts or reporters. While some segments were critical of Trump’s remarks, they still allowed Trump to drive the conversation. Other segments actually entertained Trump’s claim, including by allowing a Trump surrogate to baselessly claim that Clinton had used racist rhetoric toward African-Americans in the past and a Republican operative to praise Trump’s “rising” rhetoric.
Some coverage whitewashed Trump’s history of racist rhetoric altogether. Discussing the remark with Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, CNN host Chris Cuomo agreed with Conway’s assertion that it was unfair for people to call Trump a bigot, saying, “When people call him a bigot, I’ll say, ‘why do you call him that,’” and adding, “They shouldn’t call him that” if they can’t justify it. In fact, Trump has repeatedly smeared Muslims, called Mexicans “rapists,” targeted a judge because of his Mexican heritage, discriminated against African-Americans, and courted the white nationalist movement. Some in the media have in fact explicitly urged colleagues to label Trump’s rhetoric “blatantly racist” in the interests of accuracy, and to stop mainstreaming his bigoted comments.