As Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump campaigned in New Hampshire, media outlets hyped a “subdued” and “toned down” candidate, even going so far as to ask the presidential candidate “who are you, and what have you done with Donald Trump?” However, the media's portrayal of a different Trump is occurring as Trump continues to make extreme statements, including his support for forms of torture “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” and his remark that he could look Syrian refugee children in the face and say “you can't come” to America.
Media Claim That Donald Trump Is Evolving And “Toning Down” His Extreme Rhetoric
CNN's Wolf Blitzer: “Trump Has Certainly Toned Down ... His Rhetoric” While Campaigning In New Hampshire. During the February 5 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer began an interview with Tea Party News Network's Scottie Nell Hughes stating that “Trump has certainly toned down, at least over the past 24 hours or so, his rhetoric.” Blitzer questioned whether Trump believed that “a less blunt, less angry Donald Trump is a better strategy” to win in New Hampshire, to which Hughes responded by claiming that Trump's calmer demeanor was a sign of “how diverse he is”:
WOLF BLITZER (HOST): Scottie, Trump has certainly toned down, at least over the past 24 hours or so, his rhetoric. He released this live free or die video aimed at New Hampshire voters. Does he think that, shall we say, a less blunt, less angry Donald Trump is a better strategy right now to win New Hampshire?
SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES: Well, I think he's showing how diverse he is. I mean, some -- there are some times, Wolf, that you get angry and some things that happen in this world need someone who can get angry. We don't just need the nice guy all the time. I think that's one of the reasons why people like Mr. Trump, is because they can relate to him. [CNN, The Situation Room, 2/5/16]
New York Times: “There Have Been Several Indications” That Show “Trump Is Trying To Temper His Language And Tone.” In a February 8 article The New York Times reported on “indications” that Trump is “trying to temper his language and tone” leading up to the New Hampshire primary. The Times example was the fact that Trump was denying that he ever called Senator John McCain a “loser,” even though as The Times noted, Trump did so in July 2015:
There have been several indications recently that Donald J. Trump is trying to temper his language and tone in the final days before the New Hampshire primary. One came Monday morning, when Mr. Trump insisted he had never called Senator John McCain, the self-described maverick who won the state's primary twice, a “loser.”
Mr. Trump did in fact call Mr. McCain a loser, in reference to his loss to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race.
“I don't like losers,” Mr. Trump said at the Iowa Family Leadership meeting in July 2015. At the same event, when asked about Mr. McCain, who was described by the questioner as a “war hero,” Mr. Trump responded, “He's not a war hero.” [The New York Times, 2/8/16]
Fox's Bill Hemmer: “Trump Taking A More Subdued Tone” In New Hampshire. During The February 8 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer claimed that Trump is exhibiting a new “attitude,” and “taking a more subdued tone” while campaigning in New Hampshire. Co-host Martha MacCallum added “it is true that we're hearing a slightly more muted Donald Trump to a certain extent”:
BILL HEMMER (CO-HOST): Donald Trump pounding the pavement here in New Hampshire ahead of tomorrow's primary. He does not appear to be doing it with the same attitude that we saw in Iowa. Trump taking a more subdued tone. Is that for real after taking second place back in Iowa?
MARTHA MACCALLUM (CO-HOST): You know it is true that we're hearing a slightly sort of more muted Donald Trump to a certain extent.
STEPHEN HAYES: Maybe he's just now humbled --
MACCALLUM: Exactly he's totally changed. Transformation of Trump --
STEPHEN HAYES: No, I don't think it's a new Trump. I think he has been told he needs to kind of tone it down here in New Hampshire. And I think Kirsten is right. He doesn't want to keep setting high expectations. Look, if you look back at the vote, the polling before Iowa, and look at number of Trump supporters who didn't go out to vote for him, to caucus for him, you can expect I think a similar outcome here. And if it was say one in four Trump supporters who didn't become caucus-goers for him, he is looking at a likely lower number than he is polling right now. If the polling average is thirty, thirty-one right now, maybe he ends up in the mid-twenties. That would still be very impressive for a guy who --
HEMMER: I tell you what though, I remember asking his son Eric about this a couple weeks ago, about whether or not he dials it back and whether or not you have conversations about that. You know what he said. No one tells my dad what to do. That all comes from his gut, Bill, nobody tells him. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 2/8/16]
Washington Post: “Trump Has At Times Seemed Almost Subdued” After Iowa Caucuses. A February 8 Washington Post article claimed that Trump “has at times seemed almost subdued” and that “this is a man playing it safe” after the Iowa caucuses:
Heading into his second contest with a double-digit lead after a strong second-place showing in Iowa has done nothing to address the long-term question hovering over Donald Trump's campaign: his ultimate strength as a candidate. Amid some signs that anti-Trump voters may be emerging as an electoral force, tomorrow will offer another data point. Here's the big question, via Dan Balz: “Is [Trump] capable of expanding his appeal or is he at or near his ceiling?”
It's notable that over the past few days, Trump has at times seemed almost subdued. It isn't just the venues -- retail stops that feature a lower crowd energy level than his typical rallies -- or the volume of events: this is a man playing it safe. The thing about being a winner is, you eventually have to win something -- and if you've held a solid lead for months, and you're looking for post-vote momentum, you probably need to win it big. [The Washington Post, 2/8/16]
CNN's Dana Bash To Trump: “Who Are You And What Have You Done With Donald Trump?” During the February 8 edition of CNN's New Day, Dana Bash claimed that she “continued to be struck at how different Trump's demeanor is” while campaigning in New Hampshire. In an interview with Trump following the debate, Bash asked “who are you and what have you done with Donald Trump?” saying that he is no longer acting like a “counter-puncher”:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): Now you'll remember that Trump was leading the polls in Iowa this time last week, but he came in second. So what's he doing differently here in the Granite State? CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash caught up with Trump right after the debate. So Dana, tell us, what did he tell you?
DANA BASH: Well it was very interesting. We were talking backstage right before he went and spoke to a very large rally up in the northern part of the state. And I really just continue to be struck at how different his demeanor is and that continued in this interview.
BASH: I have to say talking to you now, watching you at your rally a couple days ago here in New Hampshire, I kind of want to ask who are you and what have you done with Donald Trump?
DONALD TRUMP: Why?
BASH: Because you really have seemed to have changed your tone. You have gone back to basics. You're really not engaging, even when people engage you and talk about the fact that you're a counter-puncher, it's not happening now and I'm wondering if --
TRUMP: You mean that in a positive way --
BASH: I mean that in a positive way --
TRUMP: Yeah, I hope so --
BASH: Because I'm wondering if you think that all of that kind of was overshadowing your core message, which really does appeal to people, that you're not bought and sold, that you can make deals. [CNN, New Day, 2/8/16]
Yet Trump Has Made Several Extreme Statements In The Past Week
CNN: Donald Trump Says He Would Bring Back Forms Of Torture “A Hell Of A Lot Worse Than Waterboarding.” A February 7 CNN article highlighted Trump's doubling down on his earlier support of waterboarding, reporting that he would “end waterboarding's status as a war crime.” The article brought attention to Trump's debate statement that he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” if elected president:
Donald Trump said Sunday he would “go through a process” to end waterboarding's status as a war crime in order to use it against ISIS if he is elected president.
“I'd go through a process and get it declassified frankly ... certainly waterboarding at a minimum,” Trump told CNN's Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
“They're chopping off heads of Christians and many other people in the Middle East. They're chopping heads off, they laugh at us when they hear we're not going to approve waterboarding and then they'll have a James Foley and others where they cut off their heads.”
Trump said during Saturday night's Republican debate in New Hampshire that he would reinstate waterboarding if elected and “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” But he did not say what he would do that was “worse.” [CNN, 2/7/16]
Business Insider: Trump Claims He Could Look Syrian Refugee Children In The Face “And Tell Them The US Wouldn't Accept Them.” A February 8 Business Insider article detailed a recent exchange over Syrian refugees between Trump and an attendee at a New Hampshire rally. When Trump was asked whether he would be able to look in the face of child refugees and tell them they're not allowed to go to school, Trump responded, “I could look in their face and say, 'you can't come'”:
“There's plans in place now to relocate a few Syrian families in the [Greenwich] community,” the man told Trump. “The community has been very open and welcoming of these families. Some of their children are -- ages 5, 8, 10, 12 -- are planning to go to school there.”
He continued: “I think we all probably know what your general policies are toward refugees. I'm wondering if you would be able to look at these children in the face and tell them that they are not allowed to go to school in the community?”
Trump said he could, in fact, look those children in the face and tell them the US wouldn't accept them. The Republican front-runner warned that their parents could be aligned with the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS.
“I could look in their face and say, 'You can't come.' ... I'll look them in the face,” Trump said. “We don't know where their parents come from. Their parents should always stay with them. You have to keep them together. That's very important. But we don't know where their parents come from.”
“I don't think they should be moving into Greenwich, Connecticut,” he said. “I don't think they should be coming into the United States.” [Business Insider, 2/8/16]