Media Needs to Call out Trump Enablers, Not Coddle Them
Do you ever read a piece of writing so awful it stops you in your tracks? I did this a few days ago. It was an article by syndicated columnist Mike Kelly. The column titled, “It’s time for Republicans to take back their party from the crazies,” was supposed to be a plea to Republicans to walk back from the edge and start listening to the sane voices in the party, not the Trump cultists.
I read it because I’ve been preaching a similar message. Unfortunately, as I got further into the column, I found some glaring errors. These are errors you would have expected an editor at a major publication such as USA Today to have caught. Towards the end of the article, Kelly quotes Steve Rogers, a retired New Jersey cop. Kelley paints Rogers, as a pragmatic Republican compared to the disgraced New York City Police Chief Bernard Kerik (also quoted), who is a dedicated MAGA cultist. Kerik, who was convicted for tax evasion, insisted there was election fraud. (Trump’s legal team has failed to provide any evidence of this in about 60 legal cases.)
One of the greatest presidents?
But Rogers is just as delusional as Kerik, even though Kelly describes him as realistic.
“He’s no fan of Democrats. He fears what he calls the Democrats’ ‘socialist agenda.’ He believes that Trump is one of America’s greatest presidents,” said Kelly. “’I’m a grassroots American Republican,’ Rogers told me. ‘I’m not part of the establishment. I’m an outsider, who voted for the outside president who wouldn’t sell his soul.’”
That paragraph contains at least one blatant lie. How can Trump possibly be considered one of the greatest presidents when he allowed 300,000 people to die under his watch because he mishandled the coronavirus pandemic? He was also impeached during his first term, kowtowed to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, told 20,000 lies and oversaw massive corruption? And that’s just naming a few of the scandals during the Trump administration. Rogers sounds just as delusional as the rest of the Trump cultists. (A 2018 Time magazine survey of history professors ranked Trump last in great presidents.)
And that’s the reason why I refuse to have conversations with Trump supporters. I often have Trumpists post comments under my Medium columns. I read through them until I find a factually incorrect statement, much like Rogers’ comments. For example, one recent poster claimed that Trump wasn’t racist and many Black people voted for him. Like Rogers’ statements, that is inaccurate. I just hit delete. I don’t have time to argue reality.
How can Trump possibly be considered one of the greatest presidents when he allowed 300,000 people to die under his watch because he mishandled the coronavirus pandemic? He was also impeached during his first term, kowtowed to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, told 20,000 lies and oversaw massive corruption? And that’s just naming a few of the scandals during the Trump administration.
When I read over Kelly’s column, I was shocked that it was even published. I wondered why an editor didn’t question Rogers’ statements. However, Kelly is a veteran reporter with awards and books to his name. When you get to that level, your reputation precedes you and people tend not to question your judgment.
Calling out Trump
But Kelly’s publications didn’t do themselves any favors by publishing this dreck. It questions their credibility. According to media critic Eric Boehlert, mainstream media has been reluctant to condemn Trump for his excesses. For example, for years, the supposedly liberal New York Times failed to call Trump a racist but said they would let their readers decide his true nature.
“The press doesn’t know how to cover a deranged president,” said Boehlert during an appearance on “The Stephanie Miller Show.”
Boehlert says this is part of a move by many mainstream journalists to normalize Trump’s extreme behavior.
And he might have a point. Rogers calls the Texas lawsuit that attempted to overturn the results of the election a “hail Mary.” No, it was unprecedented and undemocratic. Trump tried to subvert democracy. Rogers is still deep in the Trump cult. He also says he thinks Trump will eventually “do the right thing” and concede.
Obviously, he hasn’t studied Trump’s past. He’s never done the right thing and his past life has been marked by breaking laws and norms, because he doesn’t think the rules apply to him. On Monday, Republicans in states where Trump lost were blocked from trying to award him electoral college votes. These cultists said they were “alternate electors.” According to Rachel Maddow, some of them even printed fake ballots to cast their votes for Trump. This is not normal behavior!
Their behavior was just as out there as Rogers’ comments. Calling Trump “one of the greatest presidents” is not pragmatic. It’s a delusional lie.