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Media gives Trump a bye

In the days following the June 27 CNN-produced presidential debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, national news outlets have been dominated by stories of Biden’s poor performance and calls from various pundits, and even the New York Times Editorial Board, for him to step aside.


Yet, there have been no calls for Trump to step aside as the Republican nominee, despite the fact that his debate performance, while more robust than Biden’s, was almost wholly untethered from fact or truth. Why have lead stories not hammered him for his lies or questioned whether he is mentally sharp enough to remember what’s actually true? Does he really believe the “alternative facts” he proclaims?


Most news organizations have fact-checked the debate and called out his unfamiliarity with the truth, but those stories have not led the news cycle day after day and they have not resulted in pundits raising the question of whether such a deceptive, or perhaps delusional, person is fit to serve as president of the United States.


In the era of social media, news organizations no longer set the agenda for the nation in the way they once did, but the stories that dominate their coverage, and the focus or lack thereof they put on aspects of those stories, still affect the public’s perception of what’s important and what isn’t.


The debate format favored Trump, in part because moderators did not challenge his lies.


As Medhi Hasan in The Atlantic, Heather Cox Richardson on her Substack site “Letters from an American,” and others have pointed out, intentionally or otherwise, Trump used a debate tactic called the “gish gallop,” which would make it hard for even the most skilled debater to formulate an effective response.  As Richardson explained, "It's a rhetorical technique in which someone throws out a fast string of lies, non-sequiturs and specious arguments, so many that it is impossible to fact-check or rebut in the amount of time it took to say them. Trying to figure out how to respond makes the opponent look confused, because they don't know where to start grappling with the flood that has just hit them."


The network said before the debate that the moderators would not challenge the accuracy of the candidates’ statements. That left Biden with the hopeless task of trying to set the record straight while also laying out his own agenda for a second term.


Trump made false or mostly false statements regarding virtually every topic moderators asked about. He said Biden “allowed millions of people to come in here from prisons, jails and mental institutions,” which the fact-checking site Politifact labeled “Pants on Fire,”  the label it reserves for the most outrageous lies. He said “The problem (Democrats) have is they're radical, because they will take the life of a child in the eighth month, the ninth month, and even after birth,” labeled “false” by Politifact, which pointed out that willfully terminating a newborn’s life is infanticide and is illegal in every U.S. state. And the lies and outrageous exaggerations went on and on and on.


Trump repeatedly said Biden was the worst president ever and claimed that he was the best. Biden pointed out that presidential scholars had ranked Trump as the worst president ever which, according to Politifact, is true. The 2024 Presidential Greatness Project Expert Survey, released in February, collected responses from 154 presidential historians. The historians ranked Biden as the 14th best president in U.S. history, and put Trump last.


Whether Biden’s health and mental acuity will carry him through a second term as president cannot be known with any certainty. The same must be said of Donald Trump. At age 81, Biden is only three years older than Trump, who is 78.


One thing is certain, Biden’s halting debate performance justifiably raised concerns within the Democratic Party about whether he should be their standard bearer in November. And it justifiably riveted the attention of news organizations.


Yet Trump somehow escaped the same scrutiny. No one expects the Republican Party to hold him accountable. It has so far shown him sycophantic devotion, despite his deceitful, philandering, vengeful and self-aggrandizing language and behavior. But the news organizations that seem obsessed with Biden’s performance might do well to focus a brighter spotlight on Trump’s.


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2 comentarios

07 jul

Well said. The media is going where the drama is and there is no drama in the Republican party right now. They are staying silent to keep the spotlight off their candidate. Shame on the media.

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Brava Joy! You said this so well. Why doesn’t the media hound the Republicans to get a new candidate? Isn’t having a president who lies perpetually a bigger problem than a President who occasionally gets lost in his truthful sentences?

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