Soledad O’Brien paid a visit to her former stomping grounds, CNN, to criticize cable news’ chosen methods of reporting on Donald Trump. She feels that the approach “normalizes” white supremacy by hosting Trump surrogates who are white supremacists. And O’Brien suspects that this is not only motivated by profit but also through other “contortions,” which she explained at length.
O’Brien’s complicated criticism, which she discussed with host Brian Stelter and Jacob Weisberg (editor-in-chief of The Slate Group), is aimed towards the media’s treatment of Trump’s entire campaign, which she believes was “over-covered at the beginning,” and now the trend has lost all context and has grown unstoppable. That’s a fair criticism and something that many media outlets struggle with when it comes to such a visible candidate. And with Hillary Clinton choosing to spend much of her campaign time at private fundraisers rather than pulling multiple rallies per day (like her opponent), Trump is naturally receiving the bulk of the reporting.
But O’Brien has a finer, two-prong point. She first mentions the most recent example of Trump calling Clinton a “bigot” and then doubling down while never making an effort to explain why he believes this is the case. And O’Brien explains how Clinton’s comeback speech — where she accused Trump of fueling the Alt-Right movement — was filled with fact-based examples to compile “a very good argument, almost like a lawyer.” O’Brien says Clinton’s speech pointed out how Trump has “normalized white supremacy,” which is something that O’Brien says is happening with the media’s coverage. That is, they interview white supremacists because they are Trump delegates: “They do a five minute segment, the first minute or so talking about what they believe as white supremacists. So you have normalized that.”
O’Brien also thinks the media portrayed the “bigot” incident as “he-said/she-said” without pointing out that Trump doesn’t back up his case but only utters a soundbite. O’Brien wonders if this failure to point out the obvious might be a media contortion to avoid seeming biased, but she also believes cable news is enjoying their increased audience, so the trend might continue after the election:
“So hateful speech brings a really interested, angry audience. This is genius! We should do this more often. What shall we do when this election is over? We’re going to have to think about ways to really rile people up, make them angry and divide them.”
O’Brien then expresses frustration at how this would be “funny to watch if it weren’t our own country and our own government actually operating.” In a general sense, O’Brien makes a valid criticism, but in all fairness, Anderson Cooper did press Trump to defend his “bigot” claims while the Republican nominee simply kept uttering the same soundbite. But O’Brien’s overall point addresses what she sees as a larger trend of not making Trump defend his broad statements. And she believes the appearance of white nationalist Trump surrogates on cable news will “soften the ground” for them to find a mainstream platform for their views in the future.