Wednesday, June 19, 2019

How the mainstream media covered Trump's re-election rally

In case you missed the president's campaign launch in Florida last night, the coverage itself was an interesting study in how different outlets cater to their audiences. 

I picked traditional print media here, since the TV/cable news outlets (Fox News, CNN, MSNBC) skewed exactly they way you'd assume they would, but more so. Conservative media mostly wrote reviews of the rally, describing Trump's speech as if it was a performance, focusing on the size, tone, energy and enthusiasm of the crowd, quoting the lines that most energizes his base and avoiding any mention of factual errors or demonstrably false statements in his speech. Here's an example from the Wall Street Journal
The kickoff event was billed as a megarally to demonstrate Mr. Trump’s campaign prowess and to deliver his pitch for 2020. During his 75-minute speech, the president largely struck familiar notes, boasting about the economy and his judicial appointments while assailing the media and Democrats. Mr. Trump’s ability to energize supporters, such as the roughly 20,000 who packed the Amway Center, will be key as he begins a crucial phase in the 2020 contest... 
He continued to use 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a political target, complaining about polls that had predicted her winning the election, and suggesting that the Justice Department would continue to search for emails deleted when she was secretary of state. Many Republicans believe those emails were improperly deleted, and it was a rallying issue for Mr. Trump’s supporters during the last campaign.
Mr. Trump also said he would continue to “drain the swamp,” his metaphor for upending the political establishment in Washington. 
“That’s why the swamp is fighting back so viciously and violently,” Mr. Trump said. “For the last 2 1/2 years we have been under siege.” 
The event had all the hallmarks of the rallies that defined Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. Thousands donned in “Make America Great Again” hats, chanted “lock her up” and “build the wall,” and waved signs that read “Four More Years.”
The left-leaning outlets decried his attacks on Democrats and mostly analyzed the speech itself, fact-checking his claims and debunking (or, occasionally, confirming) statements he made. Here's the Washington Post's mainbar:
At the Amway Center here, Trump told the crowd that his election in 2016 was the result of a great political movement that has been under attack ever since, despite what he described as the great successes of his presidency 
“We accomplished more than any other president has in the first 2½ years of a presidency and under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before,” he said, using the hyperbole that has marked much of his career. 
Trump’s argument for a second term then quickly became a rehash of grievances and false claims from his first campaign, along with a hit parade of Trump rally applause lines. He veered off script to rail at length against the “witch hunt” special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and revisited complaints about the media, “Crooked Hillary” and her missing emails. 
“They are really going after you,” Trump said of the list of enemies he laid out for the crowd. “They tried to erase your vote, erase the legacy of the greatest campaign and the greatest election probably in the history of the country.”

And he warned of the threats posed by immigrants, a focus of his presidency that has thrilled his most ardent supporters and caused his critics to accuse him of promoting racism.
The Washington Post's fact-check piece homed in on 17 statements from his speech, including this one, which more conservative outlets ignored:
“We passed the largest package of tax cuts and reforms in American history — the largest.” 
This is a Bottomless Pinocchio claim, our worst rating. Trump’s tax cut amounted to nearly 0.9 percent of gross domestic product, meaning it was far smaller than President Ronald Reagan’s tax cut in 1981, which was 2.89 percent of GDP. Trump’s tax cut is the eighth largest on record — smaller, even, than two tax cuts passed under Obama.
Media outlets that try to stay neutral offered some analysis that pointed out possible pitfalls in his reelection campaign or, in some cases, didn't cover it themselves at all, running AP copy instead (that's what we did at U.S. News). Here's Bloomberg's analysis

Trump wound up saying little new in his Orlando speech and he’s probably going to have to do much better if he wants a second lease on the Oval Office. While he’s successfully mobilized the emotions and resentments of a large portion of the electorate, and has commandeered the Republican Party machinery, the biggest fruits of his presidency have been enjoyed by cultural conservatives and his most affluent supporters. Other voters have now road-tested the unproven Trump of 2015 who promised to take a wrecking ball to the Washington bureaucracy, drain the swamp, and negotiate a series of political and economic deals that would benefit average Americans struggling with uncertainty. A significant number of those folks may review Trump’s original promises and find him lacking.

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