There will be many opportunities during former President Donald Trump’s effort to return to that office to assess whether traditional mainstream outlets have learned how to cover the former president and his supporters. Today, let’s look at how those outlets treated Trump’s unlawful effort to subvert the 2020 election — which culminated in the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol — in their reports on his Tuesday night campaign announcement.
Trump’s seditious plot to remain in power was carried out in broad daylight and explained in detail by the January 6 select committee. As I have written:
Donald Trump lost the 2020 election; falsely claimed that it had been stolen from him; tried to get state legislators, congressional supporters, and then-Vice President Mike Pence to keep him in power; summoned protestors to Washington on January 6, 2021, when a joint session of Congress was meeting to count the electoral votes for Joe Biden’s victory; urged his supporters to march on the Capitol; and did nothing for hours while the rioters violently overcame the law enforcement presence, sacked the building, and sent Pence and the members of Congress scurrying for cover.
Trump’s willingness to countenance the overthrowing of American democracy — and his excuses and exhortations for political violence from his followers — set him apart in modern U.S. political history.
But did journalists treat it that way? Let’s review.
Mentioned election subversion in the headline
The Washington Post’s lead article on Trump’s announcement is headlined “Trump, who as president fomented an insurrection, says he is running again.” Its first paragraph continued in that vein, reading, “Donald Trump, the twice-impeached former president who refused to concede defeat and inspired a failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election culminating in a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, officially declared on Tuesday night that he is running to retake the White House in 2024.”
NPR’s piece, headlined “Donald Trump, who tried to overturn Biden's legitimate election, launches 2024 bid,” stated in its lead paragraph: “Donald Trump, who tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election and inspired a deadly riot at the Capitol in a desperate attempt to keep himself in power, announced he is running again for president in 2024.”
NBC News published an online account headlined “Trump, whose lies about the 2020 election inspired an insurrection, announces third White House bid.” The piece highlighted Trump’s “false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him” in the eighth paragraph and stated in its 11th paragraph that his “supporters rioted in the halls of the Capitol.”
Mentioned election subversion in the first paragraph
The Associated Press article, headlined “Trump seeks White House again amid GOP losses, legal probes,” noted in its lead paragraph that the candidate’s “refusal to accept defeat in 2020 sparked an insurrection and pushed American democracy to the brink.” The fourth paragraph stated that his “term ended with his supporters violently storming the Capitol in a deadly bid to halt the peaceful transition of power on Jan. 6, 2021.”
The New York Times’ lead article framed its headline around Trump’s political standing: “Trump, ignoring the midterms’ verdict on him, announces a 2024 run” (print headline: “Declaring Run, Trump Ignores Party Setbacks”). But within the first two paragraphs it noted that Trump’s “historically divisive presidency shook the pillars of the country’s democratic institutions” and highlighted the “multiple investigations into his attempts to cling to power after his 2020 defeat, which led to the deadly mob attack by his supporters on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.”
Politico’s article, headlined “Unbowed by midterms fiasco, Trump tries for president again,” states in its first paragraph that Trump “left the White House under the cloud of impeachment for his role in the Jan. 6 riots on Capitol Hill.”
Mentioned election subversion within the first 10 paragraphs
The Los Angeles Times ran a front page news analysis headlined “Trump is running again, uphill.” It noted in its third paragraph that he is “under investigation for trying to overturn the 2020 election,” but assessed his standing in the GOP for several paragraphs before mentioning in the 12th that he “inspir[ed] an angry mob to storm the Capitol following his 2020 loss to Democrat Joe Biden.”
The online report from ABC News, headlined “Trump announces 3rd bid for White House,” mentioned in its seventh paragraph that after losing in 2020, Trump “continued to spread false claims that the 2020 election was ‘rigged’ and ‘stolen,’" and in its ninth that his election lies “culminated on Jan. 6, 2021, in a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol that was carried out by pro-Trump supporters.”
CNN.com’s version, headlined “Former President Donald Trump announces a White House bid for 2024,” mentioned in its third paragraph Trump’s “role in inciting an attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021” and in its 14th that he is “currently being investigated for his activities before and during the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.”
No mention of election subversion within the first 10 paragraphs
The CBS News article, headlined “Trump announces he's running for president again in 2024,” waited until the 21st paragraph to reference “the assault on the U.S. Capitol by thousands of his supporters.”
Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal headlined its article “Donald Trump Announces Third Consecutive Presidential Bid.” Its first paragraph detailed Trump’s effort to “reaffirm his position as the Republican standard-bearer despite disappointing midterm election results that have led some party leaders to suggest the polarizing former president step aside.” It noted Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims and lawsuits seeking to retain power in its fifth paragraph, and investigations into “his involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 results” in the 16th, before finally referencing the deadly January 6 insurrection in paragraph 21.
Fox News’ website headlined its article “Trump ignores GOP rivals and stolen election claims in 2024 presidential announcement.” It noted in the 20th paragraph that Trump “has challenged the legitimacy of the 2020 election results, repeatedly claiming the race was ‘rigged,’" but did not mention the January 6 insurrection (other than in a photo caption noting, “President Trump held a rally outside the White House with supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. A mob of Trump's supporters later stormed the Capitol”).