Media figures have repeatedly downplayed Trump’s widely criticized rhetoric, policy flip-flops, divisive comments, and refusal to release his tax returns, citing his political inexperience and claiming that unlike other politicians, Trump is “learning as he goes” and must be evaluated “in Donald Trump terms.”
Trump Makes Widely Criticized Policy Proposals And Statements
Donald Trump’s Policy Proposals Have Been Panned Repeatedly And Extensively. Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that some experts, fact-checkers, and media figures have warned are “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” [Media Matters, 5/12/16]
Media Figures Have Continually Dismissed Trump’s Actions Because He’s An “Unusual” Candidate
CNN’s Mark Preston: “You Have To Expect” Trump Will Abandon His Positions. CNN political executive editor Mark Preston told New Day host Chris Cuomo that he was not surprised the presumptive nominee “took a half-step back” on banning Muslim immigrants because he can't be thought of in “conventional terms,” but rather “in Donald Trump terms.” From the May 12 edition of New Day:
CHRIS CUOMO (HOST): Last night, with Greta Van Susteren at Fox, seemed like Trump took a half-step back. Is that a fair assessment when it comes to the Muslim ban, saying “It's a suggestion?” Is that a move?
MARK PRESTON: Yeah, but we're not surprised by it, right? I mean, I don’t think that anything Donald Trump --
CUOMO: Well, why not? It was a very hard line position that really worked with his base. He said it was uncompromising, it had to happen.
PRESTON: And you're thinking in conventional terms, right? I'm thinking in Donald Trump terms where basically no matter what he says you have to expect that he's going to move off what he says. [CNN, New Day, 5/12/16]
CNN Guest: Releasing Tax Returns Is Standard Procedure, But “Standard Procedure Is Over. Donald Trump Won.” Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said that Trump’s decision to withhold his tax returns was unusual, but that it was along the same stroke of irregularity that helped him secure the GOP nomination and we “have to get used to” the fact that “standard procedure is over.” From the May 11 edition of CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:
ARI FLEISCHER: You know, [MJ Lee] said, this is standard procedure going back 40 years and she's right. But I think what people like you and me and everybody who watches Washington has got to get used to is standard procedure is over. Donald Trump won. He is the anti-standard procedure, and that’s one of the reasons that he's winning. [CNN, CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, 5/11/16]
CNN’s Dana Bash: Trump's Refusal To Release Tax Returns Is Unusual, But Just Another Mark On “The List Of New And Different Things” We're Seeing From Trump. CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash dismissed Trump’s announcement that he would not release his tax returns as just another mark on “the list of new and different things” coming from Trump’s presidential campaign. Bash said that Americans should be able to see his tax returns, but that Trump’s position means that “it’s a whole different kettle of fish.” From the May 11 edition of CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:
DANA BASH: Certainly if Richard Nixon, who was reluctant to release much if anything to the public, did it, it would be unusual to say the very least. But, you know what? Just put it on the list of new and different things that we're seeing from this presidential campaign and from this particular campaign of Donald Trump. I actually think that ultimately we could and should see his tax returns. But it's a whole different kettle of fish as they like to say, and would not surprise me if somehow he were to kind of continue on without doing it. [CNN, CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, 5/11/16]
Fox Contributor Dismissed Trump’s Refusal To Release His Tax Returns: “It Is An Unusual Circumstance” That “A Billionaire Is Running.” Fox News contributor Anthony Scaramucci said that Trump’s status as a novice politician and billionaire exempts him from being expected to disclose his tax returns. From the May 11 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think it is an unusual circumstance where you have a billionaire running for the presidency. This would be the first entrepreneur to enter directly into the White House. Remember, this is the first person, except for Dwight Eisenhower -- so we're going back 50, 60 years -- that would enter the presidency without any political resume. I think what candidate Trump is saying is that the tax returns are super complicated and so he wants to break precedent with that 40-year status. [Fox News, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, 5/11/16]
Fox Hosts Excuse Trump's Abortion Comments Because “He's Learning As He Goes.” Hosts of Fox News’ Fox & Friends excused Trump’s statement that there should be some kind of punishment for women who obtain abortions, suggesting that Trump should not be expected to answer questions about abortion because they’re usually reserved for more experienced politicians. Co-host Steve Doocy excused Trump saying, “he only became a politician about six or seven months ago.” From the March 31 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): [Trump] talked to [Chris Matthews] about abortion, when you know a more experienced candidate, because Donald Trump is making a billion dollars while everybody else is running for office. Any other candidate, most candidates to this point, would have said I'm not here to talk about abortion. That's something that's not even up [on] the docket. We're going to talk about it some other time.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): But those are largely political questions. And given the fact that he's running for president, he's got to answer those questions. But nonetheless --
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): I'm pro life.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Maybe don't answer the hypotheticals.
DOOCY: He only became a politician about six or seven months ago. This is new for him.
EARHARDT: Yeah, which is why people like him. People like him because he's learning as he goes and he's not the establishment. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/31/16]
Fox’s Howard Kurtz On Trump’s Comments About Women: “Trump Was Playing A Very Different Role During Those Years.” Fox host Howard Kurtz published a column to FoxNews.com in defense of Trump’s past radio comments about women’s physical appearances, arguing that media should focus on his “recent words” since people “instinctively understand” that Trump played “a different role” when the comments were made. The May 11 article reads:
We in the media should probably be focusing on Trump’s recent words about the minimum wage and raising taxes on the rich as he tries to offer more moderate-sounding stances without abandoning his past positions. But it’s much more fun to look at a different kind of math: “A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10,” Trump once said.
I don’t think it will be much of an issue because people instinctively understand that Trump was playing a very different role during those years when he was bantering about women. Of course, Hillary Clinton and her campaign are trying to portray him as a misogynist, so the juicy stuff from the past becomes political ammunition. [FoxNews.com, 5/11/16]
The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich: “Consistency Should Be An Argument Against Donald Trump” But Trump “Isn’t A Normal Candidate.” Daily Beast Washington bureau chief Jackie Kucinich claimed that while “consistency should be an argument against” Trump “in a normal political system,” Trump is “not a normal candidate” and thus his policy reversals might not affect him. From the May 24 edition of CNN’s New Day:
PHIL MATTINGLY: This is kind of how he benefits, how he’s benefited throughout this entire process, right? He lays out a position, some people scratch their head, opponents attack. And he says no, no no, that’s not actually what I meant, I meant a little more of this, and there is still some wiggle room in that position, opponents attack, and then he can revise it again.
Clinton will stick on position number one, you want guns in all of our classrooms. Whether or not that sticks because of, kind of, Trump’s agility here I think becomes the big question.
CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): That's a good word. Jackie, Phil's word is agility. That's not the word you’re going to hear from the Clinton campaign though. You’re going to hear the word vacillation. You're going to hear language about his, you know, flip-flop, maybe except that that even shows a thoughtfulness of position and a reckoning, that they're not going to ascribe to him. They're going to say the guy just says whatever comes out of his head in that moment. That's not leadership. Is that too subtle a case?
JACKIE KUCINICH: It's hard to say, because as the clip you just played, Trump is sort of all over the place and I think this is why you saw some NRA members be upset with the fact that he was endorsed the other day. Because they don't know where he stands on these various issues. Now, it just doesn't -- consistency should be an argument against Donald Trump for all intents and purposes in a normal political system. This isn't a normal candidate, and we don't know yet if these attacks are going to work. You know, as we said at the beginning of this conversation, they're sort of throwing things up and just seeing you know what is actually going to have an impact on Donald Trump.
DAVID GREGORY: This is so clear that Trump is not thinking through any of these positions. There are a number of position areas where Trump is clearly talking off the top of his head. I mean that is not new. He's been doing that throughout this campaign. Now there's a hidden strength in that to some voters who see him as not an ideologue, somebody who doesn’t have fixed positions, someone who is willing to deal, and you might hear someone who thinks that’s reasonable to go in that direction. Both some of the partisans within the party, NRA members, other conservatives, say no, no, no, we want him to know that he's on fixed position. [CNN, New Day, 5/24/16]