BRIAN STELTER (HOST): But first, a story that affects everyone in America. There is a gathering storm. Most of us can feel it in the air. But is it being reflected on the air? In the words of Peril co-author Robert Costa, “What happened in January 2021 was not a passing storm in American politics.” The peril remains.
Donald Trump’s attempt at a coup was not the end of the story. He is still trying to steal the election by claiming it should be decertified, and he’s already clearly planning to run again — he held a rally last night. So what does that tell us about 2024? It tells us that there is a gathering storm.
But when the authors of Peril revealed that a Trump lawyer wrote a coup memo, a six-part plan to keep Trump in power, some news outlets ignored it. The memo came out days ago, but networks like NBC, ABC, CBS, the nightly newscasts of record, they didn't deem it newsworthy. The only NBC program to mention the Trump coup this week was — Late Night with Seth Meyers. And to Seth's credit, he covered it well. But the newscast did not cover it.
Look, I get that there’s a lot going on. But a slide toward autocracy should merit some air time. The same goes for the Arizona audit results. First, Trump blamed the media, but now he is literally claiming the audit showed he won — even though it showed he lost. And everybody should have seen this coming, right? One humiliation simply led to new lies and new conspiracy theories, and now more calls for more audits in more states, because there are broken incentive structures in place, a broken GOP media pushing those incentives, thus a broken GOP, thus broken politics.
And reporters who treat this like it's normal, because they want to sound fair and balanced, are part of what's broken.
When voting rights are being challenged like never before, when lawmakers are afraid of political violence, afraid of the party's leader — afraid of even investigating the rioting he incited — when the party’s media outlets mainstream the fringe and maling the moderates, and when the lies are lapped up with cheers, daily journalism is not sufficient. It's important, but it's not sufficient.
In these moments, it is not enough. The public needs journalism that goes beyond the normal formats and typical practices. We need journalism infused with context and history and blunt honesty. The public needs to hear about democratic principles, and what exactly is at risk. The public needs a storm warning.