Trump’s courtroom appearances are a right-wing media sideshow

Mainstream cable networks aren’t taking the bait, as right-wing television devotes 2016-style obsession to Trump’s every word

On October 2, former President Donald Trump voluntarily appeared in Manhattan court, ostensibly to contest the $250 million civil suit launched by New York Attorney General Letitia James --but as media figures from across the political spectrum soon noted, mainly to draw attention to himself in the middle of his presidential campaign.

On CNN and MSNBC, reporting quickly indicated that Trump was treating his court dates as campaign events, and the outlets adjusted their coverage accordingly. However, staunchly pro-Trump outlets One America News and Newsmax featured live broadcasts of Trump’s commentary and over-the-top praise for Trump’s character in enduring this prosecution, the latest in a growing list of examples of Trump’s media allies turning potential vulnerabilities to his candidacy into reasons their viewers should support him more forcefully.

On Monday, the first morning of Trump’s civil court/campaign appearances, both CNN and MSNBC awaited his arrival live but did not linger on his commentary, with CNN noting that this was intentionally “similar to a campaign event,” before dropping the live shot in favor of reporting or discussion. (On the following two mornings, neither network cut live to Trump again.)

Among pro-Trump media, the tone was different. On Newsmax on Tuesday, while awaiting Trump’s morning appearance, some hosts talked quite frankly about their role in the ongoing spectacle.

Wake Up America co-hosts Alison Maloni and Rob Finnerty discussed how the attention meant that “he gets to control the narrative” and will “take advantage of this … as a campaign opportunity,” as the third co-host, Alex Kraemer, chimed in that this was “definitely” his style.

The following show, National Report, led with live shots not only of the courtroom hallway but also of Trump’s motorcade waiting for him outside Trump Tower, along with a promise from anchor Shaun Kraisman:

“We've seen it yesterday. You'll see it again. We have reporters, we have live cameras on every inch of this route. And we'll follow it, and we bring it to you live, just like we did yesterday."

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Citation From the October 3, 2023, editions of Newsmax's Wake Up America and The National Report

Though Kraisman was talking only about Newsmax following the motorcade journey from Trump Tower to Manhattan civil court, his comments also signal the devotion typical of right-wing media’s defensive coverage of Trump’s many alleged crimes.

Kraisman went on to brag about Trump allegedly buying someone McDonald’s for lunch and speculate that he chose to appear in court out of concern for Trump Organization employees: “He’s the boss, showing up for them in court, because if they broke his companies apart, if they broke his buildings apart, and the people that work inside of these buildings, what happens to them?”

“He’s showing up for them,” Kraisman concluded, “and I don’t think that gets mentioned enough."

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Citation From the October 3, 2023, edition of Newsmax's The National Report

OAN, which also went live to Trump at least once, spent part of Wednesday celebrating that a “defiant and determined” Trump “didn’t back down again” as he attacked James as though she were a contender for the GOP presidential nomination.

In the same segment, OAN reporter Daniel Baldwin also interviewed Mike Davis of the Article III Project, who argued that the civil case against Trump was “only constitutional in Third World Marxist hellholes” and essentially “legal terrorism."

“This is obvious Democrat lawfare and election interference,” from “the dumbest Democrat attorney general in America,” Davis claimed, as he and Baldwin continued to attack the case with histrionics.

Fox has also been on board with the messaging this week, declaring the fraud case a “financial assassination attempt” headed by a “sociopath.” 

It’s no wonder Trump is running away with the primary -- the vast majority of the right-wing media machine spends every day with its thumb on the scale.