The Donald Trumps Cable News

You can almost see cable news reporters starting to panic. They simply don’t understand how more than 20% of Republicans could favor Donald Trump. Most are still publicly saying that he’s not a serious presidential contender, or trotting out their own biased pundits to say it.

People with selective memory (i.e., most of us) don’t seem to recall that the press was in a similar panic when John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate -- particularly as they surged ahead of Barack Obama in the polls. They couldn’t explain it and actually seemed angry that something might conflict so strongly with their preferred narrative.

It wasn’t until the economy started to collapse at virtually the same time that McCain said that the economy was not his strong suit, that McCain/Palin fell apart.

Cable news reporters on CNN and MSNBC were almost giddy after Donald Trump’s comments about John McCain.  They thought this was finally the thing that would hurt him.  They simply didn’t understand.  Donald Trump is acting like he’s still running "The Apprentice."  I almost expected him to say, “John McCain is a hero because he was captured.  I like people who aren’t captured.  John, you’re fired.”



While MSNBC was trashing Trump and Fox News was sort of defending him, CNN, always terrified it might offend someone, was walking back its story, reluctantly acknowledging that if you watch the full exchange, Trump never actually said McCain was not a war hero.

One problem is that cable news reporters have no idea how to deal with Donald Trump. 

They are used to lying about what a politician they don’t like says or taking something out of context for a quick sound byte. Then, they just move on because the politician has no real platform to constantly respond to misquotes. 

Ideological politicians need to stay on message. Trump is different.  He has no real ideology, so he can attack the left and right with equal gusto having no general platform he needs to defend.  

Cameras will cluster wherever Trump shows up.  And he will come out every time there’s something he doesn’t like and say, wait a minute, you’re lying, I never said that. 

Ordinarily, Democrats running for office stay away from the conservative bias of Fox News, while Republicans stay away from the liberal bias of MSNBC.  Donald Trump doesn’t care.  He says whatever he wants no matter who is interviewing him, and when he gets the typical biased question he just replies: “you’re being silly,” or “Come on, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

As Trump makes one reporter after another look like biased amateurs, they remain clueless as their networks re-run the interviews throughout the week.  Then they seem perplexed when his poll numbers rise.

While he likely won’t win the nomination, he will continue to be a force.  He may actually be good for the Republican party.  Unlike in 2012, we won’t see a series of marginal candidates one after the other take the lead for a month and drive independents away from the GOP.  The mainstream GOP candidates can distance themselves from Trump, not get the negative press they otherwise would have received, and then proclaim, OK, the summer replacement series is over, here’s Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and one or two others.  Pick one.

How many people will watch a 10-candidate Republican debate in the first week of August?  With Trump involved, probably three or four times as many who otherwise might.  While the Donald may trump cable news, ratings trump everything when you have 24 hours a day of airtime to fill. 



7 comments about "The Donald Trumps Cable News".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, July 29, 2015 at 9:34 a.m.

    His attraction is that most people cannot look away, kind of like a car crash. And it appeals to many that he says whatever he thinks without a PR filter. It must be liberating to be so rich that you can say whatever you want. Even with academic tenure, most of us self-censor. The best take is from The Onion:

  2. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, July 29, 2015 at 10:35 a.m.

    It's so early in the game that Trump will burn out long before Iowa.  Remember how in 2012 Rick Santorum briefly rose to the top - and during the primaries - and yet his momentum ended a month or so later.

  3. Steve Sternberg from The Sternberg Report, July 29, 2015 at 11:31 a.m.

    Hi Rob - I think people are making the mistake of equating Donald Trump with marginal extremist candidates like <ichel Backman, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum.  It's easy to dismiss him on that basis, but he is nothing like them and his popularity (however brief it might be) is not related to support from the Tea Party or their ilk.  But the debate will be a tipping point one way or the other.

  4. Charles Pinkerton from Theseus Communications, July 29, 2015 at 2:05 p.m.

    Trump isn't a marginal candidate, he is the candidate to beat for the Republican party nomination.   He is popular 1) Becasue he says exactly what many Republicans believe. He is operating as the Republican party ID.  There is no Super Ego (i.e. party money) to filter him out.  2) Because he isn't prepackaged and sticking to talking points, the intellecutals are aghast at how he can break the rules of campaigning and be in the lead; but everyone is attracted to him exactly because of that. He doesn't come out and say the same thing or the same non-thing every time he opens his mouth. 

    Recently Bill Clinton was on Jon Stewart's show and he asked Clinton what he thought about Trump.  Clinton responded something like "well, as the spouse of a candiate for the Presidency, I can't comment directly on him.  Although, I will say, that he has been the first to contribute to some of the causes I work on".  it would be hard to come up with a more boring answer.  

    How much better it would have been to hear  "Look I know this guy, and while he is great donor, he is a complete lunatic and an uncomparable ego-manical wanker whose only ideas revolve around how next to get himself on TV, he might just start a nucluear holocast so he can get more five more minutes of air time, and if Americans elect him, we will only get what we deserve"   That would have put Trump down by 10 and gotten Hillary elected just so we could hear Bill put another zinger in.

  5. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, July 29, 2015 at 2:19 p.m.

    This entire "Trump" matter, however we all choose to define it, is greater than "Cable News."  It's as big as America because, to one degree or another, we've all made Trump a Presidential Candidate as Citizen Consumers.  But we are also capable of supporting qualified alternatives to this madness.  And we also capable of choosing our higher calling:  Consumer or Citizen?

    Maybe the current situation is OK in a Country with a Bill of Rights and a Constitution like ours.  The larger issues, I think, are Voter Turnout and Political Polls used to determine the voices in the Greater Debate.  What's at stake is the future of the USA.

    Perhaps we are saying the same thing, Steve.  I have long admired your work in media matters of all kinds.   Thank you.

    It is good to remind readers that if they feel dissatisfaction with the Cable News alternatives, there are many alternatives that do not have the same operating rules and principles as FOX News, MSNBC & CNN.  (Remember NBC & ABC News of discouraging recent memory. At least, CBS News has Scott Pelley, Charlie Rose, Major Garrett, etc. and the innovative live streaming news service called CBSN. [])

    Those who have read my prior Comments on Commentaries know that in addition to 24/7 Cable News, we can not only watch The PBS NewsHour every night of the week, but we can also listen to NPR every hour of the day, as well as read the New York Times or the any time the spirit moves.  Essentially, the options are abundant if one endeavors to seek truth and wisdom as best we can.
    (Please Note: No one really has 24/7 to view news of any kind on any platform, if one seeks to preserve ones' mental health and well-being.)

    In the final analysis, I think we have a question of whether or not our Educational Systems are creating Citizens or Consumers for our Political Systems.  In the end, we'll get the Country and World we deserve based on our understanding and appreciation of the Nation's Founding Principles ... and the effort we make to serve, protect and defend the United States of America through a well-informed, good-willed and courageous participation in our Federal, State and Local Governments.

    Onwards & Upwards.

    Nicholas P. Schiavone

  6. Steve Sternberg from The Sternberg Report, July 29, 2015 at 2:33 p.m.

    Hi Nick- In a MediaPost article limited to 6-700 words there is not enough space to cover all the issues you bring up, so I decided to focus on the absurdness of the cable news response to Trump.  There will be a more in-depth column on the subject at in a few days.

    We are, however, fortunate to live in a country where anyone can run for office, and the process tends to winnow out the extremists in the end (at least for national office).  I would not want to live in a country where either you or I, even though we are convinced we are intelligent and correct, can simply impose our will or beliefs on others.  It would be interesting to see what might happen if 70% or more of potential voters actually voted.

  7. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, July 29, 2015 at 4:42 p.m.

    Dear Steve,

    Thank you.  And my earlier words of appreciation for your work stand.

    With someone of your calibre and character, I use the Comment as a way to enrich the dialogue that Commentary like yours starts.

    If it is helpful, please feel free to use or reference anything I wrote earlier on the topic of an informed, enlightened and energized electorate.

    Onwatds & upwards.


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