From penning puff pieces to “pivoting to ‘Trump as our kooky uncle'” to glossing over his promotion of white nationalist Steve Bannon, the media is helping to normalize President-elect Donald Trump, critics charged this week.
It was a trend that began during the campaign, FAIR’s Adam Johnson wrote on Sunday, and it has only accelerated since the election.
“Oprah Winfrey, in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, said Trump’s recent visit to the White House gave her ‘hope’ and suggested he has been ‘humbled’ by the experience,” Johnson wrote. “The Guardian‘s Simon Jenkins told his readers to ‘calm down’ and that Trump wasn’t the ‘worst thing.’ His college, Nouriel Roubini, insisted the Oval Office will ‘tame’ Trump. People magazine ran a glowing profile of Trump and his wife Melania (though a former People writer accused Trump of sexual assault). The New York Times‘ Nick Kristof dubiously added that we should ‘Grit our teeth and give Trump a chance.’ The mainstays—Washington Post, New York Times, and CNN—while frequently critical, are covering Trump’s transition as they would any other.”
Needless to say, Trump’s transition is hardly run-of-the-mill. Less than a week after his election, Trump appointed Steve Bannon as “chief strategist to the president.” Or, as Charles Pierce put it at Esquire, “[t]he president-elect went out of his way to hire a white supremacist and anti-Semite to run his policy shop.”
The selection of Bannon, despite his integral role in Trump’s presidential campaign, is radical when one considers his affiliation with the alt-right movement and espousal of wide-ranging conspiracy theories.
“But if you picked up any copies of the nation’s major newspapers, everything seems normal,” ThinkProgress wrote, noting major outlets’ portrayal of Bannon as an “outsider” and “loyalist.”
Columnist Will Bunch, writing at Philly.com, is of a different mind. “Did I mention, folks, that this is #NotNormal?” he said, referencing an increasingly popular Twitter hashtag. “Of course, this probably ensures Bannon on next week’s glam cover of People—’Trump’s Bomb Thrower!’ or some such thing—and a lot of inside-the-Beltway suck-up profiles of Bannon by journalists desperate for access to the corridors of power.”
The normalization stretches beyond Bannon, too.
Media Matters, for example, lambasted “60 Minutes” for its “softball” interview with Trump on Sunday. Interviewer Lesley Stahl’s “framing assumes that the Trump who will soon be leading the country is not going to be the same Trump who ran one of the most divisive, undisciplined, and dangerous presidential campaigns in modern American history,” wrote Carlos Maza, calling the episode “a master class in normalizing a dangerous demagogue.”
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