Critics Call On Media To Better Explain The Racism At The Root Of Trump's Campaign Rhetoric

The Washington Post's Paul Waldman: “Just To Be Clear, It Is Race-Baiting, And Nothing Else”

Critical voices in the media are increasingly encouraging news outlets to not give a “free pass” to the fact that presidential candidate Donald Trump “is without question making himself into the racist's candidate for president.”

Donald Trump's Recent False Claims About Muslim- And African-Americans

ABC's Stephanopoulos Fact-Checks Donald Trump's False Claim That “Thousands” Of Arab-Americans Celebrated 9/11 Terrorism. While appearing as a guest on the November 22 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Donald Trump claimed that he watched “thousands of people” in New Jersey celebrating the terrorist attacks of September 11. Stephanopolous fact-checked the claim, noting, “the police say that didn't happen” :

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (HOST): You raised some eyebrows yesterday with comments you made at your latest rally. I want to show them, relating to 9/11.


DONALD TRUMP: Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.


STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the police say that didn't happen and all those rumors have been on the Internet for some time. So did you misspeak yesterday?

TRUMP: It did happen. I saw it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You saw that --

TRUMP: It was on television. I saw it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- with your own eyes?

TRUMP: George, it did happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Police say it didn't happen.

TRUMP: There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down -- as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don't like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As I said, the police have said it didn't happen. [ABC, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, 11/22/15]

Donald Trump Retweets Graphic Claiming Over 81 Percent Of Whites Who Are Murdered Are Killed By Blacks. On November 22, Donald Trump shared a graphic on Twitter claiming that 81 percent of whites are killed by black assailants. The graphic cited the Crime Statistics Bureau - San Francisco -- which does not exist -- as its source:

[via Media Matters, 11/22/15]

Critics Call On Media To Do A Better Job Challenging Trump's Race-Baiting

The Washington Post's Paul Waldman: “The Media Needs To Explore” Trump's “Race-Baiting” In Greater Depth. In a November 23 post for The Washington Post blog The Plum Line, contributor Paul Waldman questioned whether the media knows “how to handle this kind of blatant race-baiting from a leading politician.” Waldman wrote that Trump is “trying to foment racism and convince racists that he's their guy” and called on the media to “make the nature of Trump's arguments clear” :

Both of these happenings are receiving plenty of attention in the media today. The problem is that the media doesn't know how to handle this kind of blatant race-baiting from a leading politician.

And just to be clear, it is race-baiting, and nothing else. In neither case is there even the remotest connection to some kind of legitimate policy question. When Trump says falsely that thousands of people in Jersey City (which has a large Muslim population) were celebrating the destruction of the World Trade Center, he isn't making an argument about Syrian refugees. He's simply saying that you should hate and fear Muslim Americans. When he tries to convince people that most white murder victims are killed by black thugs (again, false), he isn't arguing for some policy approach. He's just trying to foment racism and convince racists that he's their guy.

So how do the media deal with this? One thing they don't do is call it by its name.


To be clear, I'm not arguing that there's a simple template reporters should follow, one that will allow them to easily separate the merely “controversial” from the clearly racist (though wherever the line is, passing on phony statistics about murderous black people from neo-Nazis is definitely on the other side of it). But they wouldn't violate any reasonable conception of objectivity by making the nature of Trump's arguments clear.

Trump represents one face of today's racism (though not by any means the only face). It simultaneously insists that Muslims can be good Americans, and accuses them of hating America and says their places of worship ought to be kept under government surveillance. It says that some Mexican-Americans are good people, and says most of them are rapists and drug dealers. It says “I think I'll win the African-American vote” and then tries to convince voters that black people are murdering white people everywhere. In every case, Trump proclaims that he's no racist while tapping into longstanding racist stereotypes and narratives of the alleged threat posed by minorities to white people.

Since I can't read minds, I don't know whether Donald Trump is a racist deep in his heart. But he is without question making himself into the racist's candidate for president. And that's a subject the media needs to explore in more depth. [The Washington Post, 11/23/15]

Salon's Jack Mirkinson: Media Is Giving Donald Trump's “Fascist Campaign” A “Free-Pass.” In a November 24 piece, Salon's Jack Mirkinson slammed media's “pathological dedication to the notion of balance and 'objectivity'” in its coverage of Trump's “made-up, racist” claims. Mirkinson argued that “the kind of filth” that has been the hallmark of Trump's rhetoric “has long since moved past the debatable stage” and that “to oppose a prominent political figure's use of fascistic slander toward black people is not to shirk your objectivity. It's the least the elite media should be doing” :

I've found myself thinking repeatedly about this disparity over the past couple of days, as the anti-Muslim climate in the United States has reached new heights and as Donald Trump has begun conducting what even some conservatives describe as a fascist campaign. How, I wonder, would the American media cover some other country--in South America, say, or the Middle East--where leading presidential candidates explicitly stirred up hatred against an already-demonized minority group and cheered on the beating of protesters at their events; or where armed gangs patrolled outside faith centers and leading businesses sanctioned religious discrimination?

The question answers itself, really. We'd be reading story after story about the terrifying authoritarian climate tearing through Country X--all with the implied assertion that We Don't Do That Sort Of Thing Here, Thank God.

Well, we certainly do that sort of thing here. Far too often, though, some of our top media outlets are either soft-peddling what's happening in the presidential campaign and in the country at large, or diving right into the cesspool along with the Trumps of the world. (More on that later.)

When Trump retweeted made-up, racist crime statistics from a neo-Nazi, some outlets initially called his actions “controversial” or “questionable,” as though there was some debate about the odiousness of what he'd done. A New York Times story described his calls to surveil and register Muslims as “emphatic, if controversial.” A Monday report on CBS dutifully showed tape of Trump and Ben Carson demanding more tracking of Muslims, then tape of President Obama and Jeb Bush objecting, then summed it all up by showing a poll that said a majority of Americans don't think Obama has a clear plan to fight ISIS. And that was that.

Can that not be that, please? The mainstream political media has such a pathological dedication to the notion of balance and “objectivity” that it often finds itself at a complete loss when it comes to dealing with someone like Trump. But the kind of filth that he and others are putting out has long since moved past the debatable stage. There is an Islamophobic crisis building in this country. To oppose discrimination against Muslims is not to take some partisan stand. It's to be a human being. To oppose a prominent political figure's use of fascistic slander toward black people is not to shirk your objectivity. It's the least the elite media should be doing. [Salon, 11/24/15]

The Intercept's Juan Thompson: “There Is Nothing Remotely Funny About A Leading Presidential Candidate Spreading Racist Crime Propaganda.” In an Intercept post on November 24, Thompson pointed out that Trump was emulating a long-standing racist tactic of “painting young black people as violent threats” and “advocating for rounding up innocent families for deportation” for political gain. Thompson warned that it was past time that media stop treating his candidacy as “something humorous” :

Trump's neo-fascist campaign has been facilitated, presumably for ratings, by many quarters of the American media. He appears so frequently on ABC's This Week that the network should consider renaming the show This Week with Donald Trump. And the cable networks love him. When he's on as a guest the questioning hardly ever dives deep into his scurrilous policy proposals; instead, the exchanges are superficial farces.

Indeed, for a long time Trump's campaign has been treated as something humorous -- political observers doubted his staying power. But despite predictions of his inevitable fall, Trump is still standing above the rest of the field. Meanwhile, there is nothing remotely funny about a leading presidential candidate spreading racist crime propaganda or advocating for rounding up innocent families for deportation.

The New Republic's Jeet Heer tweeted that mainstream media won't confront the present voice of white rage because they “can't deal with Trump's many lies for same reason they can't deal with climate denial. Codified nonpartisanship.”

Yet, if more members of the national press don't drop their ridiculous and dangerous attachment to so-called objectivity and -- in the spirit of Ida B. Wells and Edward R. Murrow -- start calling out the horror show that is Donald Trump, America will sink giggling into the sea. [The Intercept, 11/24/15]

The Week: “Ugly Reality” Awaits If “If The Media Fails To Call Racism What It Is” In Coverage Of Trump's Campaign. In a November 25 op-ed for The Week, Jesse Berney denounced the media for failing “to apply the 'R' word” when covering statements that are “actually racist,” adding that “it isn't a judgment call to identify the naked racism of Donald Trump for what it is.” Berney warned that “If the media fails to call racism what it is, if they fail to tell the full story, then that ugly fantasy might just become our ugly reality” :

But for some reason, when covering the people vying for the most powerful office in the land, the media is hesitant to apply the “R” word, no matter how apt it may be. And that hesitation could have extraordinarily serious consequences for the country.

Donald Trump, who maintains a comfortable lead in national polls, launched his campaign by arguing that Mexico sends rapists over our border illegally. His subsequent rise in the polls came not in spite of this anti-immigrant rhetoric, but because of it.


Calling a candidate for president racist sure sounds biased, doesn't it? After all, except for a small fringe of extremists, virtually all Americans believe racism is a Very Bad Thing. Tarring a candidate with that label doesn't sound like objective reporting; it looks like taking sides.

But it isn't a judgment call to identify the naked racism of Donald Trump for what it is. Several GOP candidates -- even the “mainstream” candidates like Christie, Bush, and Rubio -- are suggesting ideas that harken back to some of the ugliest stains on American history, like the unjustified internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

It's not just the racism directed at Muslims. On Sunday, Trump retweeted a graphic filled with made-up statistics about how blacks commit a majority of murders against whites in the United States. It was quickly debunked; the majority of murders of both whites and blacks are committed by people of the same race.

The fake statistics from a fake organization was accompanied by a racist graphic of a black man, face covered in bandanas, holding a gun sideways.The Hill called this “controversial.” BuzzFeed said it was “questionable.”

It was actually racist.

Trump spread a false statistic about black-on-white crime to drive up an unfounded fear of black criminals. He was trying to make white people afraid so they'll vote for him.

This is racist.

Donald Trump is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president. He has expressed outright racism against Latinos, Muslims, and African-Americans. His words have already had real-world consequences.Trump supporters kicked and beat a Black Lives Matter protester at a rally Saturday. The next day Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.” Two men cited Trump when they beat a homeless Latino Boston manin August. Trump said his supporters were “passionate.”

The America Trump promises to build is ugly: walled off, repressive, and racist. If the media fails to call racism what it is, if they fail to tell the full story, then that ugly fantasy might just become our ugly reality. [The Week, 11/25/15]

Slate Draws Parallels Between Trump And Conservative Media Discourse, NY Times Editorial Board Now Compares Him To McCarthy And Wallace

Slate's Jamelle Bouie: Trump's “Message Is A Product Of Years Of Race-Baiting From Right-Wing Media.” In a November 23 piece, Slate's Jamelle Bouie highlighted the parallels between Donald Trump's recent false statements and the “discourse of much of right-wing media” :

The same Sunday, in an interview on ABC's This Week, Trump told George Stephanopolous that “thousands and thousands of people” -- Arab Americans -- were “cheering” as the World Trade Center fell on Sept. 11, 2001. This is false -- there's no evidence it happened. Trump, however, doesn't seem to care.

And later that evening, on Twitter, he “retweeted” an image of alleged racial crime statistics from the nonexistent “Crime Statistics Bureau” in San Francisco. The chart -- which also depicts a (presumably black) gang member holding a gun -- claims that 81 percent of white Americans are killed by blacks, and that 97 percent of black Americans are also killed by blacks. This is also racist, and it's also false: According to the latest homicide data from the FBI, 82 percent of whites in 2014 were killed by whites, and 90 percent of blacks were killed by blacks. Just under 15 percent of whites were killed by blacks.

All of this reflects the fear and bigotry that animates much of Trump's campaign. And in fact, the false crime meme literally comes from online “white nationalists.” But while Trump has been explicit with his nativist, and now racist, rhetoric, he's not an innovator. If large numbers of Republicans are responsive to Trump's vitriol, it's because he echoes -- in less coded terms -- the discourse of much of right-wing media.

In conservative entertainment, race panic sells. And if you've watched Fox News at all in the past seven years, followed websites like Breitbart, or listened to conservative talk radio, you've experienced it.


This material just scratches the surface of the race panic that's ubiquitious throughout conservative media, from breathless coverage of Black Lives Matter on Fox News (a “hate group” that's “like the Ku Klux Klan” ) and fearmongering on immigrant crime from conservative radio hosts, to race-baiting on conservative websites. And it reaches millions of Americans, many of them Republicans, who listen and watch it as part of their daily lives.

Of course Trump would sound off on immigrant crime and disloyal Muslims and criminal blacks. He is fundamentally an entertainer, and in conservative entertainment, those are the money shots: The stories that capture attention and drive ratings. And on the same score, his supporters--the tens of thousands of people who show up for his rallies--are thrilled to hear them. [Slate, 11/23/15]

NY Times Editorial Board Calls On Media To Hold Trump Accountable For His “Racist Lies.” On November 24, The New York Times editorial board highlighted the importance of media challenging Donald Trump on his “racist lies,” invoking Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace to argue, “history teaches that failing to hold a demagogue to account is a dangerous act.” The board argued, “It's no easy task for journalists to interrupt Mr. Trump with facts, but it's an important one” and that Trump's use of social media to spread his point of view “makes it imperative that other forms of media challenge him” :

America has just lived through another presidential campaign week dominated by Donald Trump's racist lies. Here's a partial list of false statements: The United States is about to take in 250,000 Syrian refugees; African-Americans are responsible for most white homicides; and during the 9/11 attacks, “thousands and thousands” of people in an unnamed “Arab” community in New Jersey “were cheering as that building was coming down.”

In the Republican field, Mr. Trump has distinguished himself as fastest to dive to the bottom. If it's a lie too vile to utter aloud, count on Mr. Trump to say it, often. It wins him airtime, and retweets through the roof.


Mr. Trump relies on social media to spread his views. This is convenient because there's no need to respond to questions about his fabrications. That makes it imperative that other forms of media challenge him.

Instead, as Mr. Trump stays at the top of the Republican field, it's become a full-time job just running down falsehoods like the phony crime statistics he tweeted, which came from a white supremacist group.

Yet Mr. Trump is regularly rewarded with free TV time, where he talks right over anyone challenging him, and doubles down when called out on his lies.

This isn't about shutting off Mr. Trump's bullhorn. His right to spew nonsense is protected by the Constitution, but the public doesn't need to swallow it. History teaches that failing to hold a demagogue to account is a dangerous act. It's no easy task for journalists to interrupt Mr. Trump with the facts, but it's an important one. [The New York Times, 11/24/15]

Post has been updated to include additional examples.