Former CNN host Soledad O’Brien recently shamed her former network and the entire cable news industry for its embarrassing coverage of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign and how they’ve indirectly contributed to the surge of racism in America.
She accused the major networks of profiting off of Trump’s hate speech, stating that the media undergoes “contortions to make things seem equal all the time” when comparing Hillary Clinton to Trump.
“If you look at Hillary Clinton’s speech where she basically pointed out that what Donald Trump has done — actually quite well — has normalized white supremacy,” O’Brien explained to CNN host Brian Stelter on Sunday. “I think she made a very good argument, almost like a lawyer. Here is ways in which he has actually worked to normalize conversations that many people find hateful.”.
O’Brien pointed out the increased mainstream media coverage of white supremacists because of their connection to the Trump campaign as an example of how the networks are giving hate a bigger platform.
“I’ve seen on-air, white supremacists being interviewed because they are Trump delegates,” she noted. “And they do a five minute segment, the first minute or so talking about what they believe as white supremacists. So you have normalized that.”
However, the former CNN host mostly took issue with how addicted the media has become to relativity with regards to covering politics.
“And then Donald Trump will say, ‘Hillary Clinton, she’s a bigot.’ And it’s covered, the journalist part comes in, ‘They trade barbs. He said she’s a bigot and she points out that he might be appealing to racists.’ It only becomes ‘he said, she said.’ When in actuality, the fact that Donald Trump said she’s a bigot without the long laundry list of evidence, which if you looked at Hillary Clinton’s speech, she actually did have a lot of really good factual evidence that we would all agree that are things that have happened and do exist. They are treated as if they are equal.”
O’Brien insisted “that’s where journalists are failing: the contortions to try to make it seem fair.”
O’Brien pointed out that journalists need to dig deeper by asking Trump and his campaign tougher questions such as are they “softening the ground for people — who are white supremacists, who are white nationalists, who would self-identify that way — to feel comfortable with their views being brought into the national discourse to the point where they can do a five minute interview happily on national television?”
“And the answer is yes, clearly,” she said. “And there is lots of evidence of that.”
The reporter opined how the cable news industry has effectively mainstreamed the most fringe negative behavior in America.
“So hateful speech brings a really interested, angry audience,” she noted. “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.”
“Because that is something that cable news, frankly, and everybody can cover really well,” O’Brien lamented. “So, I find it very frustrating. I believe he was over-covered at the beginning.”
O’Brien concluded with a very good point about how the media has focused less on context and more on “the back and forth of it.”
“Now, it is ‘he said, she said’ all the time. We have lost context. We actually don’t even cover the details of something. We just cover the back and forth of it. It’s funny to watch if it weren’t our own country and our own government actually operating.”
She raises some interesting points regarding how the media has covered the Trump campaign. On one hand, the media has given white supremacists the biggest platform they’ve had in decades, but on the other hand, it’s almost impossible not to report on the influence these forces are having on the election.
As for the emphasis on the “back and forth of it,” there is usually a very fine line between keeping your audience informed and entertained. With the popularity of political comedy, it’s clear that Americans are not tuning into dry PBS-style political reporting.
It’s important for the few real journalists left on air to constantly scrutinize their coverage as closely as they scrutinize the people they cover.
However, they must be aware of Trump’s strategy to seek every opportunity to de-legitimize his critics. His has been a campaign that’s become very difficult to hold to account because he openly and viciously attacks anyone who raises uncomfortable questions.
Featured image via YouTube.