What is it about Donald Trump’s vulgar, shameless, fact-free Presidential candidacy that appears to suck the intelligence, discernment, fairness, judgment and journalistic integrity out of our callow cadre of TV news anchormen and women?
It’s as though Donald Trump is some sort of insidious political vampire with the power to mesmerize, fascinate and overpower his overpaid, under-researched and ratings-infatuated newsreader victims.
With about eight weeks to go until Election Day, it’s long past time for television news anchors, interviewers and, hopefully, the moderators of the upcoming debates to get tough with Trump.
It was hard enough to watch the weak performance of NBC’s Matt Lauer in the recent Commander-in-Chief Forum, as he let Trump tell lie after lie with impunity — especially his whopper about opposing the Iraq War from the start. But much worse is the spectre of what we can expect from FOX’s Chris Wallace in the third Presidential Debate on October 19. Consider this exchange with Howard Kurtz.
KURTZ: …as they go at it, let’s say Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, what do you do if they make assertions that you know to be untrue?
WALLACE: That’s not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad.
Getting at the truth is not Wallace’s job? What would his father, the late CBS News and “60 Minutes” stalwart, Mike Wallace, have said if he heard his son say such a thing?
And is there any doubt how Mike Wallace’s mentor, the legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow — the man who stood up to Joe McCarthy’s lies — would have answered Kurtz’s question?
Then again, maybe I should just set FOX News aside. After all, it’s little more than the unofficial cable channel of the Republican Party. Sure, there are elements at FOX that share some in the GOP’s ambivalence about Trump’s rogue candidacy – but it’s also clear that FOX News will not seriously challenge the rise of the Great Orange Hope.
However, we should expect much more of CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC and MSNBC.
So, why do so many supposedly professional newsmen at these major media outlets fail to ask the most obvious follow-up questions when Trump and his clownish parade of lying, low-ball, blowhard surrogates mislead viewers by misstating the facts?
Are they simply unaware of the facts? Is it a research problem? Not enough time in their busy day to pursue the truth?
Of course, I’m not a professional journalist. I’m just another blogger. But I read the newspapers. (Seriously. One gets tossed onto my driveway every morning.) And I spend a little time every day surfing the news through the Internet tubes. I’m a lifelong history buff and a concerned citizen. So, it’s clear to me that our television news anchors are in dereliction of their journalistic duty.
Why else would they allow Trump and his cohort to perpetuate the calumny that Hillary Clinton is the dishonest, untrustworthy person in this race? Do they fail to challenge this relentless lie because they have no access to the fact checking by PolitiFact?
Here’s how PolitiFact analyzes Hillary’s relationship to the truth…
Just in case Chris Wallace is too busy to do the math – 72% of Hillary’s assertions range between true and half-true. She’s been caught tell a lie only 2% of the time.
Trump’s pants, on the other hand, are en fuego 18% of the time. And a full 71% of his statements range from mostly false to flaming pantaloons.
No wonder Chris Wallace doesn’t want to fact-check The Donald during his debate. Wallace would have to interrupt Trump at least 71% of the time. And nobody likes to watch a football game where the referees are throwing a flag on every 7 out of 10 plays. It would be unwatchable.
Unwatchable perhaps. But it sure would be enlightening.
Going back to Matt Lauer’s pathetic Commander-in-Chief Forum performance, it should be noted that Lauer did try to challenge Trump by confronting him with a Tweet that suggested The Donald was blaming the presence of women in the military for incidents of military sexual assault.
However, had Lauer done a least the ten minutes of research I just did he wouldn’t have been caught slack-jawed and flat-footed when Trump doubled down on his ignorant, erroneous notion that military sexual assault is a problem created by putting men and women together in uniform.
Lauer could have pointed out that the majority of military sexual assault victims are men.
In 2014, the Pentagon estimated that 20,300 servicemen and servicewomen were assaulted that year. Of those attacks, roughly 10,600 of the victims – more than half — were men.
And since investigations have found that, for instance, 1 in 5 females in the U.S. Air Force report assault — but only 1 in 15 males report having been sexually assaulted — we can assume that the number of male victims in the military is much higher than current estimates.
Yet, Trump and his surrogate minions are allowed, unchallenged, on network after network, to continue to frame this particular debate as an issue that’s all about women in the military.
That’s because TV news has become a lazy, undisciplined, unfocused and ill-informed show-biz circus.
The great Edward R. Murrow is surely rolling over in his grave.
With the truth under constant attack and undefended by the wretched watchdogs of TV journalism, all I can say is, “Good night, and good luck.”
C’mon, you TV newsreaders!
It’s not too late to do a little research, grow some balls — and make Mr. Murrow proud.