After Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump began persuading some in the media that he will start acting more “presidential,” others in the media have expressed skepticism of Trump’s attempt to change his image and are warning their colleagues to not forget his insulting and extreme statements.
Trump Campaign Says Trump Attempting To “Reshape” His Image As Some In Media Describe Him As “Presidential”
NY Times: Trump’s Campaign Manager Tells RNC That Trump Understands “The Need To Reshape His Persona.” On April 21, The New York Times reported that Paul Manafort, the new campaign manager for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, had told members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) that the candidate “recognized the need to reshape his persona.” According to The Times, Manafort also “suggested the candidate’s incendiary style amounted to an act.” As reported by The Times:
Donald J. Trump’s newly installed campaign chief sought to assure members of the Republican National Committee on Thursday night that Mr. Trump recognized the need to reshape his persona and that his campaign would begin working with the political establishment that he has scorned to great effect.
Addressing about 100 committee members at the spring meeting here, many of them deeply skeptical about Mr. Trump’s candidacy, the campaign chief, Paul Manafort, bluntly suggested the candidate’s incendiary style amounted to an act.
“That’s what’s important for you to understand: That he gets it, and that the part he’s been playing is evolving,” Mr. Manafort said, suggesting that Mr. Trump was about to begin a more professional phase of his campaign.
Mr. Manafort acknowledged Mr. Trump’s deep unpopularity — his “negatives,” he called them — but invoked Ronald Reagan’s initial polling deficit in 1980 to claim Mr. Trump’s deficiencies were not permanent. Mr. Reagan’s unfavorability in 1980, however, was never as high as that of Mr. Trump now.
“Fixing personality negatives is a lot easier than fixing character negatives,” said Mr. Manafort, claiming that Hillary Clinton suffered from negative. “You can’t change somebody’s character. But you can change the way somebody presents themselves.”
Mr. Trump intends to deliver a foreign policy address at the National Press Club in Washington next week, Mr. Manafort said, and that he would also hold similar events to address his “gender gap.”
“You’ll start to see more depth to the person, the real person,” Mr. Manafort continued, referring to more Trump appearances in “formal settings.” [The New York Times, 4/21/16]
After Trump Cut Back On “Name-Calling” And Tweets Following New York Primary Win, Many Journalists Suggested He Was Presenting Himself As More “Presidential” Than Before. Following Trump’s April 19 victory in the New York Republican primary election, journalists and hosts from Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC all began describing Trump as more “presidential” compared to his behavior earlier in the primary campaign. [Media Matters, 4/20/16]
Others Warn The Media That They’re “Going To Get Fooled” By Trump’s “Great Scam”
MSNBC’s All In Warns Political Press Against Believing Trump’s Change. On the April 20 edition of MSNBC’s All In, host Chris Hayes said, “I just don’t buy anything is going to change” with Trump’s behavior, noting that he was “back to like retweeting white supremacists 36 hours” after his Florida primary election victory. Esquire’s Charlie Pierce explained what Trump’s “great scam” of promising civil behavior would look like:
CHARLES PIERCE: He is going to campaign like a thug, win, be gracious on election night, go to another state and start the whole thing all over again and every time he accepts a speech and comes within an area code of civility, a lot of the elite political press is going to get fooled and say look, it's the new Donald Trump. And this is a great scam. He can run this all the way to the convention. [MSNBC, All In with Chris Hayes, 4/20/16]
Fox’s Chris Wallace: “I’ve Got To Laugh” At Pundits Calling Trump “More Presidential.” On the April 22 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace laughed at pundits who claimed Trump is acting “more presidential”:
CHRIS WALLACE: Will he listen to [Trump campaign manager] Paul Manafort? That’s really the key to all of this. Can it make a difference? Absolutely. And does Trump have to do it? I think, you know, he can stay to his basic positions, whether it’s on immigration or trade or a lot of the other issues. But he does, it seems to me and to a lot of other people, need to act, you know the phrase, more presidential because at this point a lot of people, according to polls more than 50 percent of Americans, say that they’d be scared if he were president. That’s not a good thing.
MARTHA MACCALLUM (HOST): Right, yeah. It goes to the whole temperament issue.
MACCALLUM: But we got mixed messages yesterday because, you know, we saw what we just played and then last night in Harrisburg here's Donald Trump.
MACCALLUM: He seems to be liberated when he gets out there in front of the crowd and, you know, sort of go back to the it's all crooked stuff. And that's not the song the song they were singing down there in Florida, Chris.
CHRIS WALLACE: Well I've got to laugh at this. Yeah, I've got to laugh at this because on Tuesday when he had his victory speech at Trump Tower after a really terrific victory in New York he said “Senator Cruz,” and everybody, all the pundits were, you know, were examining this saying, and saying, oh, he said Senator Cruz. That's such a huge difference. He's more presidential.
MACCALUM: Right, doesn't seem like it would be such a novel thing to say, does it?
WALLACE: Right and the next day he's out on the trail in Indiana and he's talking about lying Ted. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/22/16]
Wash. Post: “It Is Important To Remember” Trump’s Insults And Extreme Rhetoric. An April 22 Washington Post editorial slammed Trump’s plan to act more “presidential” as he gets nearer to winning the Republican presidential nomination, urging readers to remember all his insults, smears, and extreme statements from the campaign trail:
Do you remember when Donald Trump crudely mocked the disability of a New York Times reporter, and then lied about having done so?
No? That’s just as the Republican candidate might hope. Now that he is nearing the Republican nomination, he says he will become more “presidential.” After winning the New York primary, he referred to “Senator Cruz” instead of “Lyin’ Ted.” You can expect multitudes of office-seekers and sycophants to follow Chris Christie’s craven path to believing, or pretending to believe, in a presidential Trump.
So it is important to remember.
Remember that Mr. Trump said that Mexicans crossing the border are rapists, though “some, I assume, are good people.”
Remember that Mr. Trump falsely claimed that thousands of American Muslims had celebrated the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Remember that Mr. Trump insulted Carly Fiorina for her appearance: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”
Remember, now that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly has sought to make peace with Mr. Trump, that he insinuated that she had asked him a tough question because she was menstruating: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
Remember that he called her a bimbo, sick, overrated and crazy.
Remember that Mr. Trump vowed to kill the innocent children of suspected terrorists.
“Winning is the antidote to a lot of things,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said earlier this year. As Mr. Trump marches toward 1,237 delegates, others will emulate that amoral embrace.
So remember. Winning is not an antidote to bigotry, violence, ignorance, insults and lies. [The Washington Post, 4/22/16]
The Nation’s Katrina Vanden Heuvel: “It’s Going To Be Very Important For The Media” To Hold Donald Trump Accountable For His Smears And Insults Of Women And Minorities. On the April 24 edition of ABC’s This Week, The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel called out “the shameless reinvention of Donald Trump,” and urged media to hold him accountable for his past insults and smears:
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: We're looking at the shameless reinvention of Donald Trump. And what strikes me is that unless we have become the U.S. of amnesia, people are going to remember he's insulted women, what he’s demagogued about Muslims and immigrants. Again, you know, I come back to a point I've made on this program: media malpractice, it’s going to be very important for the media, to hold, if Donald Trump is the nominee, to hold him to account for what he has said. Obviously whoever is the Democratic nominee will, but I think we can't forget that. [ABC, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, 4/24/16]
Reliable Sources Guest Carl Bernstein: “We Talk About The New Trump The Same Way We Talked About A New Nixon.” On the April 24 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, veteran reporter Carl Bernstein slammed the “nonsense” idea that Trump is becoming more presidential, saying “part of the persona” is “to make monkeys of the media” to evade discussion of substantive issues. Host Brian Stelter said “we’ve got to apply a lot of skepticism” to Trump’s plan to change the perception of him, and Federalist editor Mollie Hemingway added that “the media should require a little bit of substantiation” for Trump’s claim of changed behavior:
BRIAN STELTER (HOST): So to put this in media terms, if we call what's going on the Trump Show, it's been an unscripted reality show that's been airing ever since June. What happens when it turns into a scripted drama? Or if you oppose Trump, you might call it a scripted comedy. How should journalists approach it and report on it? And how will Trump supporters and the partisan press react?
STELTER: Carl, let me get your take on this first. Do you believe it? Do you believe it when we hear from Trump advisers that he's going to be toning down his rhetoric?
CARL BERNSTEIN: No. Look, this is all an act. This is Trump being Trump. The idea right after his victory in New York, we started saying -- all the analysts on television were saying, oh, this is a new presidential Trump. This is nonsense. This is part of the persona of Trump, which is to make monkeys of the media, stay away from the real issues, and go deep and let us all talk about him at the dinner table night after night after night. Media has been central to Donald Trump's ascendance in the business world, making monkeys of the press, he continues to do it, and particularly when we talk about the new Trump the same way we talked about a new Nixon.
STELTER: Mollie, are we all, as Carl said, monkeys?
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY: Well I wanted to first off point out that there are other candidates who have broken the wall, they just do a really bad job with it.
HEMINGWAY: Trump does pull it off. And it is interesting how much he is able to control the media. So many people are willing to carry this message that this 68-year-old man, who's been remarkably consistent throughout his entire public life, even if that consistency is quite volatile, is suddenly changing or evolving. And I think that the media should require a little bit of substantiation for that claim.
HEMINGWAY: His issues that he actually cares about, trade and immigration, he's been very consistent on. The ones he doesn't care about, social policies, he still doesn't want to talk about them. And he's still insulting Reince Priebus and calling him a thief and coming up with these schoolyard taunts for his opponents and threatening delegates. So I don't think there is much change.
STELTER: Ana, what do you think? Do you agree with Mollie and Carl?
ANA MARIE COX: I do. I think maybe it's a little bit of a boring panel here. [CROSSTALK]
STELTER: No, it's good for us to be skeptical. That's the point I wanted to make, is that when we hear Paul Manafort say he's going to change his ways, I think we’ve got to apply a lot of skepticism to this. [CNN, Reliable Sources, 4/24/16]