Media Figures Praise Optics Of Trump’s Mexico Visit, Ignoring Trump Campaign’s Bigotry Toward Mexicans

Media figures across the political spectrum praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s joint press conference in Mexico with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, which Trump’s aides reportedly said was specifically designed as a “photo opportunity” to make Trump appear “presidential.” Numerous figures accordingly praised Trump as “presidential.” Regardless of optics, Trump has a long history of anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican rhetoric and xenophobia.

Donald Trump Held A Press Conference With Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto In Mexico To Create A Photo Op

Donald Trump Travels To Mexico To Meet And Deliver Joint Press Conference With Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump traveled -- without his traveling press corps -- to Mexico August on 31 to meet and deliver a joint press conference with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, as The Washington Post reported. Trump was joined by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). As the Post noted, Peña Nieto received widespread criticism for inviting Trump, and the two reportedly neglected to discuss Trump’s repeated assertions that Mexico will pay for the border wall Trump has pledged to build. From the Post’s August 31 report:

U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto here Wednesday afternoon, marking Trump’s first formal international trip as the Republican nominee, to a country where he is broadly despised for his vilification of illegal immigrants.

Addressing the media after the meeting alongside Peña Nieto, Trump said the two discussed trade, illegal immigration, and border security — issues where their views do not align.

“I was [straightforward] in presenting my view on the impact of current trade and immigration policies on the [United] States,” said Trump, who spoke second.

Trump said the two discussed his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but, “we didn’t discuss who pays for the wall.” Trump wants Mexico to pay for it and has made it a central slogan of his rowdy U.S. political rallies. Peña Nieto has said Mexico will not do that.


American reporters who regularly cover Trump expressed concerns on social media about his decision not to bring his usual traveling press corps with him.


Trump was joined by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) during the meeting, according to a person familiar with the gathering, who was granted anonymity to describe the closed-door talks.

Peña Nieto has sharply condemned Trump for repeatedly declaring that Mexico is sending predatory killers and rapists into America, but he is now the target of condemnation at home for extending an invitation to Trump last Friday. [The Washington Post, 8/31/16]

Trump’s Aides Reportedly Said The Trip Was Specifically Designed To “Cast Trump As Presidential And Create A Photo Opportunity.” According to CNN, one adviser had told embedded campaign reporter Sara Murray that “the last-minute trip highlighted how nimble the Trump campaign is and how responsive he would be … as president.” Campaign officials also stated that “the goal of the visit was to cast Trump as presidential and create a photo opportunity with him and the Mexican president.” [CNN Wire, 8/31/16]

Media Figures Laud Donald Trump As “Presidential”

CBS’ Major Garrett: Trump Was “More Restrained And Diplomatic” During Trip Aimed At Making Him “Appear More Presidential.” On CBS Evening News, correspondent Major Garrett, reporting on Donald Trump’s press conference in Mexico, described Trump as “more restrained and diplomatic.” From the August 31 edition of CBS Evening News:

MAJOR GARRETT: Trump identified five goals for U.S.-Mexico relations. Not included? Deportation of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, many from Mexico, living in the U.S. A more restrained and diplomatic Trump described illegal border crossings and drug trade as a bilateral concern.


One of the overriding goals of this hastily-arranged trip: make Trump appear presidential and capable on the diplomatic stage. Norah [O’Donnell], Trump will tackle another priority with a speech here tonight, designed to clarify his position on deportations, and offer some specifics on constructing and financing that wall on the southern border. [CBS, CBS Evening News, 8/31/16]

CNN Analyst Kirsten Powers: Trump’s “Constructive” Meeting With Mexican President Is An Example Of Him “Acting More Presidential.” CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers called Trump’s press conference in Mexico an example of “him acting more presidential,” and said it was a “constructive conversation” in which he “won over” Peña Nieto. From the August 31 edition of CNN’s The Lead With Jake Tapper:

KIRSTEN POWERS:  I think it gave him an opportunity to look presidential, and it’s true that he had a different message here than he will probably have tonight or at his rallies tomorrow, which is sort of what he does. He often will show up and you’ll sort of have good Donald Trump and then bad Donald Trump tomorrow.

JAKE TAPPER (HOST): This was good Donald Trump?

POWERS: Yeah. This is him acting more presidential, and I also think he would probably say this is him negotiating. This is how you negotiate. You don't come in the first time and you bring up that you're going to build the wall. You’re going to start to know each other and then later on down the road you would bring that up. It looks like they had a constructive conversation. It looks like, to a certain extent, he won over the president who was previously comparing him to some of the worst world leaders in history. [CNN, The Lead with Jake Tapper, 8/31/16]

NBC’s Chuck Todd: "The Bar Is Extremely Low For Trump” But “He Exceeded That Bar” And “Looked Presidential.” On NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd explained that, “as political theater in Mexico” the press conference tonight “paid off for Donald Trump” and that he“exceeded” the “extremely low” bar set for him, concluding that Trump “looked presidential.” From the August 31 edition of NBC Nightly News:

CHUCK TODD (HOST): Look, I thought as political theater went, yes, I think it paid off for Donald Trump. I think we're going to learn a lot more after tonight's speech about how effective today was in totality, because I do think it does matter. What is his position. What does he plan to do with the 11 to 15 million undocumented folks that are here? Does he soften his stance? Is his tone truly different in how he wants to tackle immigration? That we're going to learn tonight. But as political theater in Mexico, I have to say -- I think this was a -- and granted, the bar is extremely low for Trump when it comes to staying on message and things like that, but I thought he exceeded that bar. He looked presidential. The question I have is, what the heck was the Mexican president thinking? I think he's in more political hot water tonight than anybody else. [NBC, NBC Nightly News, 8/31/16]

MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace: Voters Will Have “A New Image Of Donald Trump” Following His “Presidential,” “A-Plus” Speech. MSNBC political analyst Nicolle Wallace praised the “presidential” backdrop to Donald Trump’s press conference saying, “A more presidential setting or backdrop you could not have conceived” and called his speech, “on stagecraft, an A plus.” From the August 31 edition of MSNBC Live:

BRIAN WILLIAMS (HOST): Nicolle, I think it will be fair to say that this is not the Donald Trump of a year ago, a week ago, a day ago. What do you make of it?

NICOLLE WALLACE: Well, first off, having worked for a president, you couldn't help but notice the similarity between the actual backdrop behind his head. It's very similar to what a president or any world leader stands in front of when they address the United Nations. A more presidential setting or backdrop you could not have conceived if you had the job of conceiving a presidential appearance. We in the political press will fixate on what you were talking about. He didn't talk about the wall. He didn’t talk about who pays for the wall. But voters who are going to sort of turn to this election anew this week and next will have a new image of Donald Trump. One they've never seen before. Him standing shoulder to shoulder in a nearly subdued manner, speaking off note cards, standing next to a world leader who invited him to come to his country. It was, I’d say on stagecraft, an a-plus. On substance, TBD. We don't know if anything they discussed will sort of hold up. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 8/31/16]

MSNBC’s Wallace: Trump “Did Not Show Up In A Foreign Country And Get Run Out Of The Place, That Was A Good Day.” On the August 31 edition of Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect, Wallace and co-host John Heilemann acknowledged that journalists and political pundits are “setting the bar low” for Trump but still argued that because “he did not show up in a foreign country and get run out of the place” the trip overall “was a good day for Trump”:

NICOLLE WALLACE (CO-HOST): In terms of where he is, there are some voters out there, who, the fact that he did not show up in a foreign country and get run out of the place, that was a good day for Trump.

JOHN HEILEMANN (CO-HOST): Yes, and, again, we're setting the bar low.

WALLACE: Very low. [Bloomberg, With All Due Respect, 8/31/16]

CNN Panel Agrees Trump Sounded “More Measured,” “More Presidential,” And Showed He’s  “Recognized As A Respectable Leader.” During the August 31 edition of CNN’s The Situation Room, CNN analyst Rebecca Berg, Daily Beast reporter Olivia Nuzzi, and CNN en Español correspondent Juan Carlos Lopez agreed that Trump’s appearance showed he has shifted his “tone.” Berg said Trump sounded “more measured” and “more presidential,” and Lopez argued that Trump’s appearance at a podium alongside the Mexican president showed “that he is recognized as a respectable leader south of the border”:

REBECCA BERG: What’s really important in terms of today, and the message that Donald Trump needed to get across, was that his message sounded more measured, more presidential, less tough, and less argumentative, which is where he needed to go.


JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ: I think it was important for both of them to be on, in front of those podiums, to be in front of the cameras. For Donald Trump to show that he is recognized as a respectable leader south of the border. And, even though they have these differences, he has shown over and over again that he knows how to dominate the media coverage. And, we have been talking about Donald Trump all day, he has a speech tonight, and we haven’t talked that much about his rhetoric. [CNN, The Situation Room, 8/31/16]

CNN’s Ana Navarro: “The Imagery Was Very Strong. He Was There In A Podium Side-By-Side, Next To A President Of A Major Country.” CNN analyst Ana Navarro said Trump “has had some sort of personality transplant” because he was able to pull off “a very good, maverick move” with his appearance in Mexico. She added that “the imagery was very strong” because “he was there in a podium” alongside “a president of a major country”:

ANA NAVARRO: I think this was a very good, maverick move by Donald Trump. He changed the narrative … For the first time in his life, during this campaign, he actually said some positive, constructive things about Mexican-Americans, about Hispanics.


Also, the imagery was very strong. He was there in a podium, side-by-side, next to a president of a major country, talking about bilateral issues. It actually was not a bad move by Donald Trump. [CNN, The Lead with Jake Tapper, 8/31/16]

CNN: Trump’s Visit “Will Likely Be Seen As A Success.” A article described the visit as “a presidential-style news conference,” and characerized Trump’s remarks as “far more measured than in his campaign trail appearances.” The article asserted “The fact that he appears to have negotiated the trip without committing any obvious gaffes and that he did not appear woefully out of place means it will likely be seen as a success.” From the August 31 report:

Donald Trump got a presidential-style news conference on foreign soil but left his tough deal-making persona at home on a high-risk trip to Mexico on Wednesday.


Trump, speaking from prepared remarks, was far more measured than in his campaign trail appearances. Though he mostly stuck his positions on renegotiating NAFTA and halting illegal immigration, he was also conciliatory. He referred to illegal immigration from Central America rather than just from Mexico. He said a secure border barrier would benefit both nations. And he spoke of the flight of jobs not from the United States but from also from Mexico and Central America to overseas economies.


The fact that he appears to have negotiated the trip without committing any obvious gaffes and that he did not appear woefully out of place means it will likely be seen as a success. But bigger tests, including three presidential debates with Clinton, loom. [, 8/31/16]

Fox Host Eric Bolling: Trump Has “Turned The Corner” And Is “Looking Very Presidential.” Fox News’ Eric Bolling stated that Trump looks like he’s “turned the corner” and is “looking very presidential.” From the August 31 edition of Fox News’ The Five:

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE: All right, so Trump playing chess, and Hillary’s, what is she playing, checkers?


ERIC BOLLING: I think she's in panic mode, and I think they should be in panic mode. Because we see the -- it looks like he's turned the corner. The first part of August was bad for him, the last part of August looks a lot stronger for him. He’s coming around, he’s looking very presidential. No one has a problem with what he did today, so far I haven't heard anyone take a negative axe to it. And they should be concerned. I mean, this -- you know how fast this -- this is a big ship and it turns quickly. He was up after the conventions, then she went way up, and now it looks like he’s probably going to overtake her again. They have reason to be concerned. [Fox News, The Five, 8/31/16]

Fox's Guilfoyle: Trump Was “Fantastic” And “Presidential.” Fox News’ Kimberly Guilfoyle asserted that Trump “was presidential,” “fantastic,” and “did an amazing job” during the press conference. From the August 31 edition of Fox News’ The Five:

ERIC BOLLING: Alright, KG, we’ll start with you. Very risky. They announced this move, a very risky move because it could have gone very badly. But from all appearances, it seems like it came out pretty well.



GUILFOYLE: I thought that that was fantastic. Can you understand that? I thought he did an amazing job. He was presidential. He stood there at the podium and what you saw was actually Nieto agree with him and say that he did a good job. I thought that was a powerful moment, a missed opportunity  for Hillary Clinton. He was on message, he was focused. He had [Rudy] Giuliani in there with him and [Jeff] Sessions to help guide this whole very important international discussion and I love that they came out with this partnership, that this is mutually beneficial, keeping jobs here in this hemisphere, talking about working together, that it is good for the United States of America and it is good for our partner and friend Mexico. [Fox News, The Five, 8/31/16]

Bill Kristol: “Hard When You're A Challenger To Seem Presidential. Trump Standing There--For All The Awkwardness--Looks Presidential. Good Day For Trump.”

[Twitter, 8/31/16]

Hadas Gold: “We’ll See How Trump Acts In Arizona Soon. But That Presser/Whole Thing Was Very Presidential Looking.”

[Twitter, 8/31/16]

Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey: Trump’s Mexico Press Conference “Trumps Hillary's Supposed Strong Suits On Foreign Policy, Temperament.”

[Twitter, 8/31/16]

Wash. Post’s Karen Tumulty: Press Conference “A Big Win” For Trump, He Is “Enhancing Stature.”

[Twitter, 8/31/16]

Roll Call’s Jonathan Allen: “Good Moment For Trump. Period.”

[Twitter, 8/31/16]

Fox News Contributor Richard Grenell: Trump “Showed He Is A Strong Defender Of The US While Being Very Gracious.”

[Twitter, 8/31/16]

Fox’s Howard Kurtz: “Trump’s Gamble Is Paying Off.”

[Twitter, 8/31/16]

Fox’s Greta Van Susteren: “Visual Of Candidate ... Standing Next To [President] Of Mexico Is Powerful.”

[Twitter, 8/31/16]

Townhall’s Guy Benson “Earlier, I Argued Trump Accepting Mexican President's Invitation Was Smart. And This Looks Like An Optics Win.”

[Twitter, 8/31/16]