Donald Trump was permitted to be shoved down the throats of the American people by Corporate TV News executives who knew full well that his entire persona was a fraud, but didn’t care as long as the profits kept rolling in. Meanwhile, the poisonous consequences to the country of deliberately allowing the public to be misinformed about Trump’s background and his profound unfitness for any role in public service did not even cross their minds.
As a result of that conscious decision, the American people were served up a phony spectacle by the likes of CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC which drove a bogus and constant barrage of pure Trump PR early on in the campaign that many Americans eagerly swallowed because it was “legitimized” by the primary source of news for 57% of Americans, Cable TV. Meanwhile, other Presidential candidates were shunted to the sidelines and received virtually no coverage at all.
That is the conclusion reached by Allan Chernoff of Newsweek who, like many of us, is appalled by the caustic events of the last year and the debasement it has brought to our country.
The most outrageous feature of this year’s historic race for the presidency is not that Donald Trump refuses to pledge to accept the election results, not that he bragged on videotape of groping women, nor that he has insulted minorities, the disabled, American prisoners of war and the gold star parents of fallen American soldiers.
It’s the fact that a man so utterly unqualified in character, temperament, judgment and knowledge to lead the nation was able to become the presidential nominee of the Republican Party.
The embarrassingly Trump-centric coverage foisted on us by our corporate media wasn’t limited to television news, but the sheer mendacity of the television media exceeded the others by orders of magnitude. Most estimates put the amount of “free media” Trump received in excess of $2 Billion:
Print, online and radio news organizations all gave Trump disproportionate attention during the primaries. But what we saw on television, particularly cable TV news, was a hijacking of political coverage—Donald Trump manipulating and dominating the airwaves—in which television executives were willing accomplices.
So, behind every revolting scene of Wolf Blitzer fawning to lick the whipped cream from every orifice on Trump’s body was the underlying decision of CNN’s Jeff Zucker to deliberately ignore what he knew about Trump in favor of ratings and profits. In fact, Zucker took credit for “creating” the Trump image and vaulting him to stardom.
“I’ve known who he is and what he is for a long time,” CNN President Jeff Zucker told the Harvard Institute of Politics earlier this month. Zucker knows, because as head of entertainment at NBC he signed Trump to star in The Apprentice, the platform that enabled Trump to greatly expand his image as a master business mogul to the entire country.
So of course he knew what Trump was. Apparently the outtakes from “The Apprentice” were quite instructive:
More than 20 former crew members, editors and contestants from the show have told the Associated Press that Trump was repeatedly demeaning and vulgar to women. Bill Pruitt, who said he helped produce the first two seasons of The Apprentice, stoked speculation about the show’s archive when he tweeted on Oct. 8: “I assure you: When it comes to the #trumptapes there are far worse. #justhebeginning.
For someone, then, who knew “what” Trump was for a “long time,” there was no attempt by Zucker to inform the American people, even though Zucker effectively controlled the spigot of information that is CNN. No attempt was made to pierce the lie—or even suggest-- that the real Donald Trump was anything but a “savvy business mogul,” and in fact was largely a tax-avoiding fraudster with a particularly noxious personality and repugnant attitudes towards his own employees and women. Had the American people been privy to what people like Zucker and others “knew” for a “long time” about Trump, the country would not be facing real odds of having such an incompetent, proto-fascist buffoon controlling the levers of power and negatively impacting the lives of millions.
Zucker, of course, was not alone in basking in Trump’s ratings glow while it lasted, even though CNN’s coverage was particularly perverse in its obsequiousness. The other networks quickly followed suit, wanting to get in on the game, to the point where the Republican primary debates became "the Trump Show:”
Millions of Republican voters fell for it. Even during Republican primary debates, many of the questions were Trump-centric, focusing on his statements and positions. While Trump sucked up air time, little was left for other candidates, a huge disadvantage in their efforts to connect with the American public.
As ratings soared, CBS CEO Les Moonves said of Trump’s dominance in the election coverage, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.… The money’s rolling in and this is fun.”
Yes, it was so much fun seeing entire populations of Americans crassly demeaned and degraded, so much fun watching our political process subverted by the Russians and a pro-Trump fugitive; so much fun seeing the resurgence of a virulent white supremacist movement.
So much fun explaining to our kids that they shouldn’t bully other kids because of the color of their skins, or that our sons shouldn’t treat girls like pieces of meat.
Chernoff understands that profit motivates the news business now, and the “days of news as a prestige loss-leader for the TV networks are long gone.” But that doesn’t negate a basic, inherent civic responsibility to the public that was shamefully abandoned by the corporate-owned networks in this campaign. His article sets out several suggestions for improvement so that the American people are not subjected to the likes of another Donald Trump ever again. And while some might see his suggestions as quaint in an era of rampant corporate irresponsibility, perhaps the only good thing to come out of this sordid process will be the opportunity to learn from it:
The First Amendment is a wonderful privilege journalists enjoy in the United States, a foundation upon which our free society is built. News organizations should not abuse that privilege by placing the pursuit of profits above their obligation to accurately inform the public.
For more on the media’s malfeasance in this election, see this post from Dale.