"Trump faces what may be a defining choice in the days to come," ABC News recently stressed. "He could confront his own party and some of its most powerful backers on a stubborn issue that has provoked raw emotions, or backtrack as he has after previous episodes of awful violence." I must say the idea that anyone who covers politics for a living actually thought there was even a 1% chance Trump would "confront his own party" as well as the NRA over guns really does boggle the mind. It's pure fantasy, and nothing more. And it's an attempt to normalize Trump—to make believe there was hope he might act in a reasonable manner when faced with a burgeoning crisis.
Still, we saw reporters dutifully type up claims from anonymous administration sources who insisted the White House was hard at work on the issue. "White House officials have been putting together several different policy proposals and the White House's legislative affairs team has been sounding out key legislators on Capitol Hill on those proposals, a senior administration official said," CNN reported. Trump "genuinely wants" to expand background checks, Axios claimed, citing White House officials. And, "In the aftermath of the shootings, which killed a combined 31 people, Trump has signaled a willingness to support congressional efforts" to pass gun laws, ABC News stressed.
Of course, it all turned out to be empty spin.
More recently, the Daily Beast reported, "Donald Trump has already started to pump the brakes on his support for background checks legislation." But to believe that, you have to assume Trump ever cared about background check legislation in the first place, and has ever had a single honest conversation about it. At this point, it's not clear why journalists would believe either is true. In other words, to portray Trump as losing interest in background check legislation since the El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, massacres is to buy into the phony White House premise that he was ever interested. It's even more startling to watch the press buy into this charade after having watched the exact same con game unfold after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last year, where 17 students and faculty members were murdered.
In the immediate wake of that massacre, Trump mouthed words of encouragement regarding gun safety laws ("We’re going to be very strong on background checks. We’re going to be doing very strong background checks"), only to have most legislative action completely shut down by the GOP-controlled Senate, after Trump met privately with NRA officials. He soon announced background checks were out and fortifying American schools and arming teachers were in, just as the NRA dictated. Yet against that very recent backdrop, reporters actually took at face value comments from Trump about enacting new laws following the carnage in El Paso and Dayton? Amazing. Journalists are either wildly naïve, or they don't mind playing along with this charade.
Note: Credit goes to CNN's Erin Burnett, who was among a handful of high-profile journalists that, days after the August massacres, forcefully called out Trump's long trail of deceptions regarding his supposed support for passing gun laws. "History shows you can’t take him at his word," she stressed.
And she was right.
Eric Boehlert is a veteran progressive writer and media analyst, formerly with Media Matters and Salon. He is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush and Bloggers on the Bus. You can follow him on Twitter @EricBoehlert.
This post was written and reported through our Daily Kos freelance program.
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