Donald Trump has increasingly organized his general-election effort around antagonizing the press. He dedicates long sections of his speeches and innumerable tweets to savaging individual outlets, and claiming that media bias could effectively “rig” the election for Hillary Clinton.
At times, his enthusiasm for venting anger about the news media has seemed to rival his interest in criticizing Mrs. Clinton. In Erie, Pa., on Friday, Mr. Trump swerved back and forth between attacks on Mrs. Clinton and an extended airing of grievances about the press.
The news media, he said, was determined to cover up Mrs. Clinton’s missteps and highlight his own. (Mr. Trump allowed that Fox News, home to several anchors who openly favor his candidacy, was an exception.)
“These people are the lowest form of life, I’m telling you,” he said, pointing at the journalists covering his rally. “They are the lowest form of humanity.”
In Altoona, Pa., on Friday evening, Mr. Trump continued his diatribe: “It is so ridiculous, the pile on,” he complained of the coverage of his campaign. “Every single day, story after story after story.”
Mr. Trump’s crowd-pleasing allegations of news media malevolence also serve a tactical purpose: Providing him license to revise or play down his remarks. After stating several times this week that he considered Mr. Obama to be the founder of the Islamic State, Mr. Trump reversed course on Friday with a declaration that he had only been speaking sarcastically and that the press simply did not understand.
In Pennsylvania, he reiterated that he had been sarcastic, but added: “Not that sarcastic, to be honest with you.”
Republicans often complain about the national news media, arguing that most reporters and publications are tilted against them. In the 1992 presidential race, Republicans even produced a bumper sticker urging voters to “annoy the media” by re-electing President George Bush. And in his 2016 primary campaign, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida accused the press of being the equivalent of a “super PAC” for Democrats.
On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont fulminated this year about the “corporate media,” which he described as hostile to liberal ideals. And aides and supporters of Mrs. Clinton routinely complain that reporters treat her unfairly.
But the Trump campaign has made accusations of news media bias a pervasive theme, and has attacked publications and reporters with virulence. Since last year, Mr. Trump has made a practice of riling up his crowds with mockery of the media, often pointing to the press risers and describing reporters as dishonest.
In Erie on Friday, his audience jeered each time Mr. Trump mentioned a news outlet, and at one point many in the crowd turned their backs on him to face the press and express their contempt with a variety of shouts and gestures. “Dinosaur media is failing!” one man yelled.
Mr. Trump’s slashing attacks have generated embarrassing scenes for his campaign, as agitated Trump fans have acted on his goading. On Thursday night, video circulated widely online of an angry Trump supporter berating reporters and making an obscene gesture in their direction in Kissimmee, Fla. In one instance during the primaries, Katy Tur, a reporter for NBC News, reported she was escorted to her car by the Secret Service after a rally in which Mr. Trump assailed her by name.
If bashing the media proved an effective way of rallying the Republican base to his side during the primaries, Mr. Trump must now prove himself to a broader community of voters in the general election, who are far less preoccupied with the notion of press bias. Republican strategists see Mr. Trump’s offensive mainly as an exercise in thin-skinned defensiveness, rather than a shrewd political strategy.
Kevin Madden, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney’s and George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, said Mr. Trump was veering away from issues actually weighing on swing voters, which he said were “economy and security-focused.”
“Whining about media coverage is just that: It’s whining,” Mr. Madden said. Of complaints, Mr. Madden said: “Any campaign that tells you it makes a difference with swing voters is just lying to themselves and lazy, because it’s easier than developing an actual strategy or message.”
(h/t New York Times)
Kissimmee , FL – 8/11/2016
Erie, PA – 8/12/2016
Altoona, PA – 8/12/2016