How Media Outlets Repeatedly Hyped An Imaginary Trump Pivot

››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & JULIE ALDERMAN

For months, media have repeatedly claimed that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was beginning to “pivot” to become a more “serious-sounding candidate” whenever he appeared to begin using “a more subdued tone” or briefly refrained from insulting his opponents.

Late June: Media Praised Trump’s Anti-Clinton Speech As A “Pivot” To Becoming A “Serious-Sounding Candidate”

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough: “That’s Called The Pivot.” Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough acknowledged Trump’s attempt to appeal to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ supporters, saying “that’s called the pivot.” From the June 23 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:

MIKE BARNICLE: If you look at the text of that speech, what was it about? I mean, it was a torrent of insults towards Hillary Clinton, very little substance, the substance that he did reference, Joe, causes him potentially a great division with his own political party. Because he was talking about rebuilding America. He was really talking about a huge jobs program. He was talking about things, the America he remembers all referenced and built by governments, roads, dams, canals, all government stuff. So he was talking about potentially spending an enormous amount of government money.

JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): So Mike, so guess what, Mike, that’s called the pivot. He was talking to Bernie supporters saying, “You’ve been let down, these trade deals have let us down. I’m going to bring about a new industrial age. I’m going to bring jobs back to America. And yes, I will use the power of government to do that.” [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 6/23/16]

CNN’s Dana Bash: Republicans Have Begged Trump To “Look More Presidential” And “He Did That Today.” CNN correspondent Dana Bash said Republicans “have been begging” Trump “to look more presidential, to not just throw out insults,” and she suggested that Trump “did that” with his June 22 anti-Clinton speech. From the June 22 edition of CNN’s At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan:

DANA BASH: This, when it comes to tone, when it comes to substance, when it comes to message, this is exactly what Republicans have been begging Donald Trump to do, to scrap the personal insults of people like federal judges, to scrap policy prescriptions that offend millions of voting Americans, and to really focus in on building a case, a cogent case, for why Republicans believe that Hillary Clinton is the wrong person to be in the White House, and, obviously from his perspective, why he thinks that he is the right person. And he really did go back to basics in terms of the fundamental theme that drove his primary campaign, which is, he is an outsider and not an insider.

[...]

When it comes to the overarching political narrative, what Republicans, again back to what you said to me, have been begging him to do, to look more presidential, to not just throw out insults, but to have an argument that is sort of well thought out. He did that today. [CNN, At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan, 6/22/16]

Wash. Examiner’s Kristen Soltis Anderson: Trump “Was Trying To Really Pivot To Being A Quote-Unquote ‘Serious-Sounding’ Candidate” In His Speech Attacking Clinton. Washington Examiner columnist and Fox News guest Kristen Soltis Anderson said of Trump’s anti-Clinton speech, “This may be a speech where he was trying to really pivot to being a quote-unquote ‘serious-sounding’ candidate,” noting that he had to try to “put at ease the concerns of some establishment Republicans.” From the June 22 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now:

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON: [Trump] really took it to [Clinton] in a way that didn’t sound like he was joking, it didn’t sound like sort of the more flippant tone that we’ve heard from Donald Trump. This may be a speech where he was trying to really pivot to being a quote-unquote “serious-sounding” candidate, perhaps to put at ease the concerns of some establishment Republicans who’d been getting pretty nervous about Donald Trump as we head toward the convention. [Fox News, Happening Now, 6/22/16]

Mid-June: Media Lauded Trump’s Decision To Fire His Campaign Manager As “A Good Pivot”

Fox’s Dana Perino: Campaign Manager Dismissal Is "A Good Pivot” For Trump Campaign. Fox News co-host Dana Perino claimed that Trump may have fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to demonstrate that he was able to “turn things around,” and she praised the move as a “good pivot” for the campaign. From the June 20 edition of Fox News’ The Five:

DANA PERINO (CO-HOST): The timing is a little bit unfortunate for the Trump campaign because this is a decision that could have been made on Friday and could have gotten played out over the weekend, and then Donald Trump could have started Monday fresh with a great new message and shown a real pivot to the campaign. That said, I think the Caputo thing is a little bit interesting, it shows the drama is not quite settling. And also, I think it shows how amicable the departure was, at least between Donald Trump and Corey Lewandowski, that there must have been some great affection there and some loyalty, and I think Donald Trump came to this decision reluctantly but was convinced it was the best thing to do for the campaign for whatever reasons they will hopefully tell us at some point. The RNC leaders were concerned, and I think that Manafort was hearing from them, that Donald Trump needed to figure out a way to show he was able to actually turn things around because the narrative over the weekend was, “Llook at these falling poll numbers,” and then you had the Orlando issue that was backed up by the Curiel issue, the Mexican judge, and so this is actually a good pivot, I think, for the campaign. [Fox News, The Five, 6/20/16]

MSNBC’s Mark Halperin: Lewandowski Firing Is Trump's Chance To “Turn The Page" And Run A "Traditional Campaign.” MSNBC’s Mark Halperin claimed that Trump had the chance to “build a more traditional structure” and run “a more traditional campaign” after firing Lewandowski, adding that Trump’s decision gave the campaign a chance to “turn the page on the narrative” and develop a “consistent message and message discipline.” From the June 20 edition of MSNBC Live:

MARK HALPERIN: Jose, you get rid of your campaign manager for one of two reasons or both. One is for the symbolism. If your allies or the media wants the so-called page turned, you want to suggest you understand you have a problem. The other is substantive. And despite the denials from both Paul Manafort, the chairman, and Corey Lewandowski and their allies, things were bad between them. There was a lot of dysfunction between them. This now presumably turns things over to Paul Manafort to make the kind of personnel changes he wants to make. Lewandowski had extraordinary influence over Donald Trump, and you have to give him credit for being part of a very small team that helped to get Donald Trump the nomination. But with Lewandowski departing, there's now a chance for the campaign to both, as I said, turn the page on the narrative of things and say yes, we understand things are not going the right way, and for those associated with Paul Manafort to make the kind of changes and the kind of hiring decisions that they wanted to make.

[...]

HALPERIN: Well, look, there's plenty of people who believe, and I believe Paul Manafort is one of them, that you can do what Corey Lewandowski preached, “let Trump be Trump.” Take the benefits and the skills of Donald Trump, which are clear. The guy can get a lot of media attention, he can drive a message, he can rally a crowd. Take all those things, but marry them up to a more traditional campaign. Even in this age of everything being done differently and of change, you still need TV ads, you still need to raise money. You still need a consistent message and message discipline.

[...]

HALPERIN: This gives them the opportunity to build a more traditional structure, again, respecting what got Trump this far, and there's no doubt in my mind that Paul Manafort respects that. He just wants to harness it up to a more traditional operation. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 6/20/16]

The Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes: Lewandowski’s Firing Was A Way To Say “Here Is The Reset” And Show It’s “About To Get Serious.” The Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes said that in light of many weeks of negative press coverage, the Trump campaign may have fired Lewandoski in an attempt to put “all of that behind them” to give the campaign a “reset” and say “we’re about to get serious.” From the June 20 edition of Fox News’ Special Report:

STEVE HAYES: I think it’s an attempt at reset. Look, anybody who's been covering this campaign has heard stories about Corey Lewandowski chewing out staffers or having conflict with Paul Manafort, who’s been the de facto campaign manager for a while. So, I think that some kind of a shake-up was likely. He had a high profile skirmish, of course, with Michelle Fields. His name has been in the news. So I think that’s what this is an attempt to do, to reset the campaign. This is also a campaign that's had several very bad weeks. I mean, I think you could make an argument that bad weeks back since Indiana, with one controversy after another. And unlike the primary season where these controversies didn't really seem to affect him, it didn’t affect his poll ratings, didn’t affect his abilities to win primaries, they are affecting him in the polls right now. You are certainly seeing it reflected in the comments that you’re getting from other Republicans about the party's nominee, more skepticism about him as the nominee. So I think this is an attempt to try to put all of that behind them to say, “We’re about to get serious and here is the reset.” [Fox News, Special Report, 6/20/16]

Fox Contributor Tammy Bruce: Trump’s Campaign Is “Adapting To The New General Election Dynamic” By Firing Lewandowski. Fox contributor Tammy Bruce claimed that firing Lewandowski was a “very good sign for the Trump team,” saying it showed the Trump campaign has “clearly taken the reins” to adapt to “the new general election dynamic” during the June 20 edition of Fox Business’ Countdown to the Closing Bell with Liz Claman:

TAMMY BRUCE: I think this is very good sign for the Trump team. They’ve clearly taken the reins here. They're adapting to the new general election dynamic, so you're looking at, I think, also, probably more announcements coming up in the next few days or a week, a realization that they have to adapt before the convention. [Fox Business News, Countdown to the Closing Bell With Liz Claman, 6/20/16]

Laura Ingraham: Lewandowski's Firing Was "A Good First Step" For Trump. Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham said Trump’s decision to fire Lewandowski was a “good first step,” which will help as Trump “starts this campaign all over again,” adding that the termination “needed to happen.” From the June 20 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group’s The Laura Ingraham Show:

LAURA INGRAHAM: Trump is now able to, apparently he was able to use his signature line on Corey Lewandowski: "You're fired." So he's out; that's a good first step. Corey Lewandowski is out, the campaign manager, and now Donald Trump, I think, starts this campaign all over again. Needed to happen. I think that's a good first sign. And again, it's not Corey Lewandowski's fault. I think this is just a symbolic -- this is symbolic move, but I think it's an important first step. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 6/20/16]

Former Fox Contributor Scott Brown: Removing Lewandowski Shows Trump Campaign Is Adapting And Growing. Former Fox News contributor and frequent guest Scott Brown claimed that Lewandowski’s removal indicates Trump’s campaign is “moving in a positive direction” and that the campaign is adapting and growing. From the June 20 edition of Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto:

CHARLES PAYNE (HOST): Corey Lewandowski has since been on television, gave a pretty impressive interview where he expressed a tremendous amount of loyalty, but it seems to most outsiders that the Trump campaign is in disarray.

SCOTT BROWN: I don't agree with that at all, Charles. I think it’s actually moving in a positive direction because it was obviously -- Paul wanted to go one way, Corey wanted to go another way. He had others who want him to go a different way. The fact that he is now getting everything under one roof, I think is appropriate, has the backing of the children and Manafort has been there. He’s done it. But take nothing away from Corey. To take this fledgling campaign and make him be the nominee, I thought was brilliant. But like any business, and like any campaign, you’ve got to adjust and adapt and grow, and that's what they're doing. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 6/20/16]

NY Post: Trump Is “At Last Shifting To A Real General-Election Campaign.” The New York Post editorial board wrote in a June 20 editorial that Trump firing Lewandowski suggests that Trump’s campaign is “at last shifting to a real general-election campaign”:

Monday’s ouster of Corey Lewandowski as Donald Trump’s campaign manager suggests the presumptive GOP nominee is at last shifting to a real general-election campaign.

Lewandowski helped Trump get farther than anyone expected a year ago — but apparently wasn’t the right guy to help him go the rest of the way. Lots of campaigns take longer to admit such unpleasant truths.

We doubt this means a huge shift in Trump’s strategy: He’s not going to bloat up his shop with hundreds of overpaid consultants. But he plainly needs to hire a few more quality people to help him focus his message.

Since locking up the nomination, Trump’s been hacking away at the golf ball — and too often slicing it into the rough. With the right coach, he should be able to slow down his swing and keep it in the green. [New York Post, 6/20/16]

HotAir.com Senior Editor: Trump Fired Lewandowski To Signal Intention To Embrace “More Scripted, Disciplined Approach To Campaigning.” HotAir.com senior editor “AllahPundit” speculated in a June 20 article that Trump purposefully fired Lewandowski on a Monday morning “because he’s sending a signal to the Republican leadership” that his campaign will adopt a “more scripted, disciplined approach to campaigning going forward”:

If Team Trump pulled him back because his termination was imminent, why not rush that out on Sunday after the morning shows were over and let it percolate while most of the country is ignoring the news? Either it’s pure messaging incompetence at work, which wouldn’t be surprising giving (sic) how thinly staffed Trump’s campaign is, or Trump wanted the news out there bright and early this morning at the start of the business week.

[...]

Trump may have saved the news for this morning because he’s sending a signal to the Republican leadership that he intends to embrace Paul Manafort’s more scripted, disciplined approach to campaigning going forward. Manafort, remember, was the guy Trump initially brought in to wrangle delegates when it looked like Cruz might beat him on the second ballot in Cleveland. Manafort quickly moved to supplant Lewandowski, though, as de facto campaign manager; he wanted Trump to tone things down for the general election and promised a roomful of Republican operatives that that transition would happen soon. Lewandowski wanted to let Trump be Trump. [HotAir.com, 6/20/16]

Mid-June: Media Called Trump’s Reaction To Orlando Shooting “More Presidential”

CNN’s John King: Trump Sounded “More Presidential” In His Speech After The Orlando Shooting. CNN host John King introduced video of Trump’s response to the shooting in Orlando, FL, saying that “he does sound more presidential.” From the June 19 edition of CNN’s Inside Politics:

JOHN KING (HOST): And the paradox of Trump, though, is that sometimes he surprises us. We showed those moments in Texas, earlier in the guns debate, or we're talking about President Obama, where he seems out of control in the body language. Listen to him here right after Orlando. He's in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he does sound more presidential.

[BEGIN VIDEO]

DONALD TRUMP: A radical Islamic terrorist targeted the nightclub, not only because he wanted to kill Americans, but in order to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation. It's a strike at the heart and soul of who we are as a nation. It's an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want, and express their identity.

[END VIDEO]

KING: Now you could imagine President Obama saying that, you could imagine Hillary Clinton saying that. Maybe a lot of conservatives don't like that he was reaching out to gay Americans there, in some regard, but we're all Americans. [CNN, Inside Politics, 6/19/16]

The Federalist: Trump Sounded “More Measured And Reasoned.” The Federalist lauded Trump for sounding “more measured and reasoned” during his speech in response to the Orlando shooting, claiming the presidential hopeful “got elegant” by using “more-sophisticated phrasing.” From the June 15 article:

Trump chose not to capitulate, but to reiterate. He repeated his ban on immigration from Muslim countries, but this time stating it in a much more elegant fashion, replacing “Muslim countries” with “areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States.” This more-sophisticated phrasing sounds more measured and reasoned, will be palatable to more Americans, and will be harder to attack for being intolerant. [The Federalist, 6/15/16]

Fox’s Susan Estrich: “Trump Is Now Behaving Like General Election Nominees Behave.” Fox contributor Susan Estrich claimed that “Trump is now behaving like general election nominees behave” because he was “looking at his positions” and talking with the NRA about gun policy following the Orlando shooting. From the June 16 edition of Fox News’ The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:

SUSAN ESTRICH: I think Donald Trump is trying to walk a fine line. The Republican primaries and caucuses are over, and Donald Trump is now behaving like general election nominees behave. Which is to say, he’s looking at his positions. [Fox News, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, 6/16/16]

Early June: Media Say Trump Sounded “More Presidential” After He Used A Teleprompter

Megyn Kelly: This Is “The More Presidential” Trump, “A Very Different-Sounding Man.” Fox anchor Megyn Kelly claimed that Trump’s usage of a teleprompter indicated he was “more controlled,” “staying on message,” and “the more presidential version that he told us he was more than capable of being.” Kelly continued, saying, “Here he stands tonight, the presumptive Republican nominee, a very different-sounding man.” From the June 7 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:

MEGYN KELLY (HOST): A fired-up Donald Trump, a little less fired up than normal, perhaps, a little bit more controlled. Using the teleprompter, which is something we almost never see him do. Staying on message. Some of the reaction on Twitter suggesting this is the more reined-in Donald Trump that people like Senator Mitch McConnell have wanted to see. Perhaps some people internal in his campaign did not want to see, because their motto has been “let Trump be Trump,” but perhaps this is Donald Trump too, the more presidential version that he told us he was more than capable of being. You know, when he announced his candidacy a year ago, no one thought he had any chance. He was at single digits in the polls. And here he stands tonight, the presumptive Republican nominee, a very different-sounding man, at least tonight. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 6/7/16]

Lou Dobbs: Trump Was “All Business Tonight”; “From The Misadventure Of Three Days, He Returns.” Fox host Lou Dobbs claimed that Trump’s usage of a teleprompter indicated Trump was going to begin to “stay on message” and predicted that “What you saw is the guy I think we are going to see through the rest of this.” From the June 7 edition of Fox Business’ Cavuto: Coast to Coast:

LOU DOBBS (HOST): What we saw tonight in that speech, which I thought was absolutely terrific, was a man who is saying, “OK, I’ve had enough adventure, I’m going to return to the teleprompter. I’m going to stay on message.” You know, he -- and he was all business tonight, all business.

LISA KENNEDY MONTGOMERY: Do you think he was showing Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan that he was capable of doing that? Do you think that’s part of the strategy and the teleprompter?

DOBBS: I think that’s part of it, certainly. No question about it, because the donor class in particular had to be, we know --

MONTGOMERY: Pacified.

DOBBS: They were very nervous indeed. So, from this misadventure of three days, he returns. What you saw is the guy I think we are going to see through the rest of this. [Fox Business, Cavuto: Coast To Coast, 6/7/16]

Fox Host Steve Doocy: Trump “Sounded A Little More Presidential” Due To His Teleprompter Use. Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt praised Trump for his use of a teleprompter, with Doocy noting the "difference a teleprompter makes" and saying Trump "sounded a little more presidential" because of it. Earhardt observed that a lot of people said “reading from the teleprompter made him a lot more presidential." From the June 8 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): What a difference a teleprompter makes, many saying the presumptive GOP nominee sounded a little more presidential last night.

[...]

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Yeah, a lot of people saying that they liked it, they thought it was positive. Reading from the teleprompter made him a lot more presidential, they said. Wasn't all about himself, it was more about what he's going to do for the American people. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/8/16]

Fox Host Brian Kilmeade: “What A Difference A Teleprompter Makes. Many Saying The Presumptive GOP Nominee Sounded More Presidential Than Ever.” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade praised the “difference a teleprompter makes,” noting that “many” are saying that Trump “sounded more presidential than ever last night.” From the June 8 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): What a difference a teleprompter makes. Many saying the presumptive GOP nominee sounded more presidential than ever last night. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/8/16]

Lee Carter: "This Was A Totally Different Tone. First Time We've Seen Him With A Teleprompter, And He Really Did A Great Job." Pollster and frequent Fox guest Lee Carter observed Trump’s “totally different tone,” noting it was the “First time we’ve seen him with a teleprompter, and he really did a great job.” From the June 8 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

LEE CARTER: So, this is fascinating. I think that, not surprising, Republicans loved it. What I thought was so, so interesting was, independents gave it a B, Democrats gave it a C minus. Now, I have never seen Democrats dial Donald Trump above 30 or 40. They were along for the ride here. They liked that he acknowledged that most people think of him as a fighter. They liked that he started turning and said, "Look, I want peace, I want unity, I want to bring people together, and here's what I'm going to do." This was a totally different tone. First time we've seen him with a teleprompter, and he really did a great job. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/8/16]

Wash. Post: “A Different Sort Of Presidential Candidate … Took The Stage.” The Washington Post claimed that “A different sort of presidential candidate … took the stage” after Trump gave a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference in March because he had “set up two teleprompters” and “mostly stuck to” his prepared remarks “injecting only a few ad libs here and there.” From the March 21 Washington Post article:

Before Donald Trump took the stage at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's conference in Washington on Monday night, organizers set up two teleprompters. A different sort of presidential candidate then took the stage, surrounded by 10 men in dark suits.

Trump prepared a speech for the conference -- something that he has yet to acknowledge doing on the campaign trail -- and he mostly stuck to it, injecting only a few ad libs here and there as his eyes darted from one teleprompter to the other. [The Washington Post, 3/21/16]

Mid-May: Media Called Trump’s Release Of Supreme Court Nominees And Meeting With Henry Kissinger “Steps To Look More Presidential”

CNN’s Don Lemon: Trump Is “Beginning To Look More Presidential By The Day.” CNN host Don Lemon remarked that in part by releasing his short list for whom he would appoint to the Supreme Court, Trump was “beginning to look more presidential by the day.” From the May 18 edition of CNN Tonight:

DON LEMON (HOST): Trump turning the tables,naming potential Supreme Court justices, meeting with Henry Kissinger, and beginning to look more presidential by the day. Who would have thought this is where we'd be now? [CNN, CNN Tonight, 5/18/16]

Fox’s Bret Baier: Trump “Is Taking Big Steps To Look Presidential” By Releasing List Of Possible SCOTUS Nominees. Fox host Bret Baier said Trump “is taking some big steps to look more presidential” after he released “his Supreme Court wish list.” From the May 18 edition of Fox News’ Special Report:

BRET BAIER (HOST): Donald Trump has not only closed the gap, he's for the first time leading Hillary Clinton in a national poll. It's the latest Fox News poll just released this hour. This as Trump is taking some big steps to look more presidential, meeting with a legendary diplomat and releasing his Supreme Court wish list today. [Fox News, Special Report, 5/18/16]

Early May: Media Asserted That Trump’s “Gracious” Tone In Victory Speech After Indiana Primary Showed A “New Donald Trump”

Fox’s Doocy: Trump’s Victory Speech Was “Gracious” And “Some Might Say Presidential.” Doocy claimed that Trump was “gracious” for praising Cruz for suspending his campaign  during Trump’s Indiana victory speech, adding that “some might say” Trump was “presidential.” From the May 4 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

[BEGIN VIDEO]

DONALD TRUMP: What Ted Cruz is really a very brave thing to do, and a great thing to do, because we want to bring unity to the Republican Party. We have to bring unity. It's so much easier if we have it.

[END VIDEO]

STEVE DOOCY (HOST): A gracious and some might say presidential Donald Trump after a huge win last night in Indiana. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/4/16]

MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski: Indiana Victory Speech Showed A “New Donald Trump” And “The Beginning Of A Massive Pivot.” Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski claimed Trump’s speech showed “the beginning of a massive pivot toward the general election.” Brzezinski added that a “new Donald Trump” had arrived because of the “tone” during his speech. From the May 4 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): Also, I think the bigger picture here is the beginning of the massive pivot toward the general election that we saw last night. Everyone was talking about Donald Trump's countenance, his mood, his whatever. This was the beginning of a massive pivot. And if you listen to his words and you look at his tone, get ready for the new Donald Trump, because he was already here.

JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): And by the way, you're going to also see a pivot, conservatives are going to be even angrier because you're going to see even more of a pivot on issues. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 5/4/16]

Late April: Media Called Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech “Presidential” And “A Significant Step Forward”

Fox’s Newt Gingrich: Trump Looked “Controlled,” “Serious,” And “Presidential” In His Foreign Policy Speech. Fox contributor Newt Gingrich lauded Trump’s foreign policy speech, saying that “on television, he looked presidential. He looked serious. He looked controlled. And overall, I thought it was a good presentation.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/27/16]

Fox’s John Bolton: Trump’s Speech Was “A Significant Step Forward.” Fox contributor John Bolton lauded Trump’s foreign policy speech as “a significant step forward.” Bolton claimed the address “brought Trump more into the mainstream” of GOP thinking, adding that the purpose of the speech was to put Trump’s campaign “in a more presidential mode.” From the April 28 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now:

JOHN BOLTON: I think the points that he was trying to make, as I heard the speech, center on making American national interests the touchstone of what our foreign policy’s based on. And I think in far too many cases we have strayed from that into a kind of abstract philosophy about what's good for the whole world: that the job of the president is to protect America; others can look after themselves. So in that sense, I think by focusing on what’s important to us, he was able to go into a critique of Obama over the last seven years, and he basically repeated there what virtually every Republican member of the House and the Senate has said, namely, that under Obama our friends don’t respect us, and our enemies don’t fear us. So I actually think the speech brought Trump more into the mainstream of Republican foreign policy. We can have a debate on it obviously on specifics, but I thought it was a significant step forward.

JARRETT: Well, specifically he criticized the Obama-slash-Hillary [Clinton] intervention in Libya. But if you look back before he was a candidate, he was demanding intervention in Libya. So, arguably, is this a guy who has either wised up, or he’s just inconsistent?

BOLTON: Well, I think, it may come as a shock to people outside of Washington, but politicians change their minds. And in that sense, I think Libya is one example. People say he changed his position on Iraq in the other direction. But, you know, this is the sort of thing that -- what I look for is what I think his position would be going forward. And from what I understand, the purpose of this speech and the others that his campaign said will follow, it’s to put it in a more presidential mode. And in that sense, I wish he had done it six or eight months ago. [Fox News, Happening Now, 4/28/16]

Fox’s Richard Grenell: “This Speech Shows Trump Is Growing As A Candidate. It Will Help Him A Lot.”

 [Twitter, 4/27/16]

Mid-April: Media Argued Trump Was “More Presidential” Because He Did Not Taunt His Opponents After New York Primary Win

Megyn Kelly: Is Trump “More Presidential” Because He Said Sen. Cruz, Not “Lyin’ Ted.” After winning the New York state primary, Fox host Megyn Kelly asked if Trump was “sounding … more presidential” because he called his then-rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “Senator Cruz, not ‘Lyin’ Ted.’” Kelly later argued that Trump seemed “to be just more disciplined” because he was tweeting less. From the April 19 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:

MEGYN KELLY (HOST): We heard from Senator Ted Cruz earlier tonight, and we also just heard from Donald Trump, and the messages from each candidate sounded very different than we've heard from them in the past. If you missed Senator Cruz, here's a bit of him now.

[...]

Unity, and speaking about how America is at a point of choosing. And you heard Donald Trump tonight sounding, you tell me, more presidential? Senator Cruz, not "Lyin' Ted," did you notice that? Back with us now, Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, and Monica Crowley, Fox News contributor and host of The Monica Crowley Show on radio. Monica, what do you think? I don't know if I've ever heard Donald Trump call Ted Cruz "Senator Cruz."

MONICA CROWLEY: Yeah, there was definitely a change in his tone, and in his rhetoric tonight. I mean, this is classic Donald Trump, in the sense that he's really in his element when he's the victor, as he was tonight. He also hit all of the themes that got him to this point, Megyn. He hit illegal immigration, the economy, jobs, repealing Obamacare, strengthening the military. These are the things that got him to be the Republican front-runner.

KELLY: Discipline.

CROWLEY: Discipline. Right. And now he realizes that this campaign is in a new phase, and there is a natural maturation of both the candidate, and his campaign that's going on here, with this hiring a very seasoned, experienced political operatives that know the process, delegate hunters like Paul Manafort, who know how to wrangle delegates and then protect them once they're in their camp.

[...]

So he understands now that, you know, this campaign just got really real. And if he wants to win, he’s got to go along with, I think a much more substantive and responsible tone, because now he understands -- he is not just speaking for himself --

KELLY: Yeah, he's already giving fewer interviews, we've seen fewer tweets from him, he seems to be just more disciplined.

CROWLEY: Exactly. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 4/19/16]

ABC’s Tom Llamas And David Wright: Trump Was “Trying Out A More Presidential Style” By Not Calling Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted.” ABC’s Tom Llamas reported on Trump’s New York primary victory speech, saying he was “trying out a more presidential style.” Reporter David Wright added that Trump took on a “more presidential” tone because he did not refer to Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted.” From the April 20 edition ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir:

TOM LLAMAS (HOST): Next tonight, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, closer to a face-off in November following those big wins in New York. Trump at his victory party with a more serious tone, trying out a more presidential style. Ted Cruz shut out in the Empire State, but fighting on. Tonight, the math and the momentum are Trump's, and ABC's David Wright is covering the Trump campaign in Indiana, one of the next battleground states.

[BEGIN CLIP]

DAVID WRIGHT: Basking in his biggest win yet, today Donald Trump rallied Indiana voters with all his greatest hits.

TRUMP: Lyin' Ted Cruz, Lyin' Ted. I call her Crooked Hillary. I can tell you, this is a crooked system. I love running against Crooked Hillary. Hillary, you're fired!

WRIGHT: But last night in New York, a glimpse of something different.

TRUMP: Senator Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated.

WRIGHT: Did you hear that? He actually called him Senator Cruz! The consummate deal-maker changing his sales pitch to close the deal. The tone, more presidential. Trying to make the case that a Trump nomination is now inevitable. Today, Trump tweeted, "Ted Cruz is mathematically out of winning the race. Now all he can do is be a spoiler. Never a nice thing to do." [ABC, World News Tonight with David Muir, 4/20/16]

Fox’s Greta Van Susteren: Trump “Showed New Yorkers” A “More Presidential Tone” In His Victory Speech. Fox host Greta Van Susteren asserted that in his victory speech, “Trump put aside his usual brash behavior and showed New Yorkers more presidential tone.” From the April 20 edition of Fox News’ On the Record:

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's a tale of two Trumps. Last night, after his commanding win in the New York primary, Donald Trump put aside his usual brash behavior and showed New Yorkers more presidential tone in his victory speech. [Fox News, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, 4/20/16]

Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle: Trump’s Speech Showed “Some Maturation Along The Election Process.” Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that Trump employed “a good tone” during his speech that showed “there’s some maturation along the election process.” From the April 20 edition of Fox News’ The Five:

ERIC BOLLING (CO-HOST): So K.G., your thoughts on what went down last night and maybe even weigh in on Donald Trump -- we had a little sound bite from Donald Trump's victory speech last night, bit of a different tone.

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Yeah, I think it was a good tone. It seems like there's some maturation along the election process there, which I think was much needed, especially also with branching out his operation. [Fox News, The Five, 4/20/16]

CNN’s Jason Carroll: Trump Was “Dropping Most Of The Insults And Sounding More Presidential” In His Speech. CNN national correspondent Jason Carroll said Trump’s speech after the New York primary was “signaling a new phase in his campaign” because he was “dropping most of the insults and sounding more presidential.” From the April 20 edition of CNN Newsroom:

JASON CARROLL: Donald Trump giving a rousing victory speech, befitting his New York blowout win and signaling a new phase in his campaign.

DONALD TRUMP: We don't have much of a race anymore. Senator Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated.

CARROLL: The billionaire front-runner dropping most of the insults and sounding more presidential. [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 4/20/16]

CNN Host Brooke Baldwin: Trump Was “Appearing Less Combative” And “More Presidential” In His Speech. CNN host Brooke Baldwin asserted that Trump was “appearing less combative” and “more presidential” in his speech. From CNN:

BROOKE BALDWIN: In New York, Trump appearing less combative, more presidential. [Media Matters, 4/20/16]

CNN’s Dana Bash: Trump Showed “A Fundamentally Different” Side In His Speech. CNN’s Bash said that during his victory speech, Trump was “fundamentally different” than usual. From CNN:

DANA BASH: This was a fundamentally different Donald Trump, candidate Donald Trump. [Media Matters, 4/20/16]

CNN’s Jake Tapper: “There Are Two Donald Trumps And This Is The Second One.” CNN host Jake Tapper remarked, “There are two Donald Trumps,” noting that the one appearing on the night of his primary win was “the second one.” From CNN:

JAKE TAPPER: There are two Donald Trumps and this is the second one. [Media Matters, 4/20/16]

Early March: Media Say Trump “Showed A Side Of Him That Was Very Different” During Super Tuesday Results

NPR: Trump Struck A “More Subdued” And “Presidential Tone.” NPR claimed that Trump’s Super Tuesday speech was “more subdued” and showed “a more presidential tone.” From the March 1 piece:

After a week in which many top Republicans had promised to stop the real estate mogul, Trump rolled through the biggest primary night yet.

But the boisterous billionaire was more subdued Tuesday night, trying to project a more presidential tone. Instead of his usual rousing victory parties, he held a press conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. [NPR, 3/1/16]

Fox’s Sean Hannity: “Trump Showed A Side Of Him That Was Very Different” During Super Tuesday Results. Fox host Sean Hannity said that “objectively … Donald Trump showed a side of him that was very different” during the Super Tuesday results, adding, “You could even use the word ‘presidential.’” Guest Herman Cain agreed, stating that Trump “did sound more presidential.” From the March 2 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): And if anything, Herman Cain, Donald Trump showed a side of himself last night -- I'm speaking objectively here, not taking sides in this. But Donald Trump showed a side of him that was very different last night. You could even use the word "presidential" in the way he approached -- he was magnanimous when it comes to Ted Cruz and his victories, how tough it is to run for president. You know, and what I'm watching here is the kitchen sink, scorched earth, MMA bare-knuckle brawl, thermonuclear attacks. And where does this go tomorrow night during the debate, Herman Cain?

HERMAN CAIN: Well, I agree with you. I saw a different Donald Trump through the eyes of the lens of the media last night when he did sound more presidential. He sounded conciliatory. He sounded calmer. He even touched on some specific substance items, which I thought came across real well. This is exactly the same thing that I heard from a lot of my callers and listeners to my radio show today. [Fox News, Hannity, 3/2/16]

Early February: Media Claim That Trump “Toned Down … His Rhetoric” While Campaigning In New Hampshire

CNN's Wolf Blitzer: Trump “Certainly Toned Down ... His Rhetoric" In His Final New Hampshire Push. CNN 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." From the February 5 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

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]

Fox's Martha MacCallum: "Transformation Of Trump.” Fox host Martha MacCallum said Trump has “totally changed,” calling it a “transformation of Trump,” and co-host Bill Hemmer said he’s exhibit a new “attitude.” From the February 8 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

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]

CNN's Dana Bash To Trump: "Who Are You And What Have You Done With Donald Trump?" 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." From the February 8 edition of CNN's New Day:

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]

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