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Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Trump-Addicted Media, continued

After the debacle of Donald Trump's press conference yesterday, in which he berated the media repeatedly, I flashed back to something I wrote three months ago today:

I have never seen a political candidate so publicly disgusted by, yet so totally dependent on, the national media as Donald Trump. At his rallies, he tells his crowd that the media lie about him constantly, and they shouldn't trust any reporters. It's no wonder that his sheep believe him so much that reporters have told stories of being cursed at and even spit on by his supporters.

However, the most dangerous place to be in America is between Donald Trump and a live television camera. He plays to it, agrees to appear on pretty much any network any time -- either in person or by phone -- deflecting questions, offering alternate realities to whatever he's said before, and making up something newly outrageous to say. Then he goes back to disparaging the very outlets that afforded him that free media. No wonder he hasn't spent much on paid commercial time.

So, here's my idea. I'd like to see every media outlet refuse to cover Trump for awhile. Not forever but, say, 48 hours. Can you imagine how he'd feel when he got on stage and there was an empty press pen at one event after another? I'm talking no reporters at all, no television cameras, no radio microphones, no bloggers, no photographers, no one. Just ignore him, the way you did Lindsey Graham and Martin O'Malley during their candidacies.

The problem is that while Trump is addicted to media attention, they're hooked on him even more. If they're not carrying one of his events live, they're talking about what he said at the last one, because he boosts their ratings. Even if it's just a little bit, that's what they crave. That's why they so easily whore out their dignity and bow down to his egomaniacal ranting. And Trump knows how to exploit their addiction better than an unlicensed oxycodone dealer with a customer base of suburbanites with back problems.

The irony is that the media continues to slip in opinion polls, but it's not because more Americans believe Trump's claims about them. Rather, it's due to how obviously they've lowered their standards and given away their most valuable assets -- access to the public and a critical eye.

Sure, Trump can tweet to his followers and his sycophants can repeat his talking points on Facebook. But that doesn't come anywhere close to the reach of live television coverage, all day, every day -- and he knows it.

Unfortunately, no media outlet wants to be the first to pull out, because they're afraid they'd miss the exact moment he says the next dumb thing. So the cameras and microphones aren't going anywhere -- and no one in those press pens or the editors who sent them there will ever look in the mirror and recognize who's responsible for perpetuating their own doom.
Trump is the biggest attention whore in America not named Kardashian. The only way the media can cure its addiction to him is to stop covering him, cold turkey.

However, if the press gets opportunities to ask Trump questions, it must not allow itself to be cowed by his bullying tactics. It must continue to dig into his claims, including the likely lies about his donations to veterans groups. For instance, if -- as he claims -- his people had to fully research the organizations to verify their validity before donating to them, ask this: "Would you provide us with a list of the veterans charities you uncovered which were not worthy of your money, and explain why? That would serve a valuable public service for people who might be considering donating their hard-earned dollars to similar groups."

Of course, Trump has no such list because he didn't vet the vets at all -- just like he never had private investigators looking into Barack Obama's birth certificate. No matter what epithets he hurls at the press, they can not shrink from -- in fact, must increase -- their exposure of his lies at every turn instead of merely giving him a promotional platform in front of live cameras and microphones.