Jake Tapper’s response to the final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was simple: though the debate itself was far more civil than the first debate in late September, the rhetoric of the Trump campaign in the last days of the campaign will get a lot worse.
Tapper issued a warning to people on CNN on Thursday night in the aftermath of the debate, calling Trump’s campaign “disgusting” and calling it the “single most negative, sleazy campaign in American history.” The comments were in relation to largely the campaign Trump has ran online, both through his own Twitter account and surrogates elsewhere but also when speaking during debates and campaign appearances.
Tapper started by referencing some “code words” that Trump “spews” that make QAnon believers get excited, and also took a shot at Fox News host Sean Hannity in the process, then focused on the misinformation campaign that’s circulated online in various forms this election season.
—@JakeTapper warns about final days of campaign w/Trump allies pushing "crap tied into QAnon" about Bidens.
"It is so disgusting," Tapper says, warning viewers it will soon be all over their "grandparents' Facebook feeds."
"It's going to be so heinous over the next 11 days." pic.twitter.com/yoVF540ibo
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) October 23, 2020
“The president, even though he learned into it a little bit, he really didn’t go full bore. Which I think was wise, or at least not stupid,” Tapper said before bluntly criticizing the Trump campaign overall. “He’s running the single-most negative, sleazy campaign in American history for a major-party candidate.”
Tapper said the history here is clear: the disinformation from pro-Trump people and websites, and the rhetoric they’ve leaned into as they attempt to find things to criticize Biden about, has blown away any norms we’ve grown accustomed to in modern politics.
“It used to be people would be negative, and you could always say, ‘Well, don’t forget the campaign against (Michael) Dukakis’ or historians like (Michael) Beschloss could say ‘In 1800 Jefferson had pamphleteers who would accuse John Adams of being a hermaphrodite or whatever,” Tapper said. “The campaign that Trump and his allies in the media and members of his family and the Trump aligned-websites and such are leveling, with charges so heinous I’m not even going to say them. Just nonsense, crap, tied into QAnon, tied into Pizzagate, tied into the worst things you could say about a person. With no evidence, just completely made up is so disgusting and so beneath what this election should be.”
Tapper ended with a warning: what you’re likely to see online and in social media in the final days of the campaign will only get worse, and people need to be “ready” for what will show up on “their grandparents’ Facebook feeds.”
“I just want viewers at home to be ready. Because all of their grandparents’ Facebook feeds and all of the Twittersphere — it’s going to be so heinous over the next 11 days. And people should just be prepared for it,” Tapper said. “The president leaned into some of it, gently into some of the sleazier baseless allegations and accusations, not the worst. But it’s gonna get a lot worse.”
Social media has changed politics and how people gather news so considerably in recent years that it’s difficult to keep track of how much has changed. Which is why it’s interesting to see a member of the news media address disinformation like this, and its unprecedented nature, in real time as an election unfolds.
Van Jones later credited Tapper’s statement about the matter, calling it “disgusting” and pointing out that “good people” are trading in rumors and that spreading disinformation needs to stop. That last part happening seems unlikely as ever, but hearing it called out on national television is certainly something new, too.