Over Memorial Day weekend, NBC’s Chuck Todd opened his show “Meet the Press” by angrily lecturing his viewers about a so-called Trump “tactical playbook” on how to spin the Robert Mueller probe and the FBI informant in his presidential campaign.
Here’s Todd’s list of Trump tactics, with our commentary:
1. “Perhaps fearing that Mueller is closing in, the president is applying a well-worn tactical playbook. Number one, distract with an invented crisis that attacks the investigators without evidence to plant a seed of doubt.”
Let’s pick at two phrases here. Many of Trump’s supporters and more than a few independents would tell Todd that “distract with an invented crisis … without evidence” is a better description of ABC, CBS and his own NBC offering about 1,500 minutes of evening-news hype about Russian “collusion” that still hasn’t surfaced.
Let that sink in: a full 25 hours of coverage about nothing much to date.
In contrast, what is “invented” about the FBI confidential informant? You can spin about how he was really “spying on the Russians,” but was The New York Times making up Stefan Halper?
Instead of actually reporting on Halper and his attempts to “inform” on Trump aides, they would rather just call it a “distraction” and, therefore, somehow a lie.
2. “Brand the crisis. According to the Associated Press, Mr. Trump wants to brand the FBI’s confidential informant a spy, believing the more nefarious term would resonate more in the media and with the public. The president used some version of the word ‘spy’ 24 times in 15 tweets over 10 days.”
Earth to NBC: Calling Trump’s current standing a “crisis,” even as his polls are actually improving, is … branding. Is Todd saying NBC would never dream of using “nefarious” terms that “resonate … with the public”? Here’s Todd leading off in his May 22 MSNBC show: “Fatal distraction! Are the president’s systemic attacks on the Justice Department undermining the rule of law as we know it?” “Fatal”? Who died, Chuck? It sounds like he’s writing Democrat direct-mail copy for his wife’s company, Maverick Mail & Strategies.
The media also use branding in a positive way. For example, immigrants who live in the country illegally and arrived to America as minors are typically framed as “Dreamers,” and with no “so-called” warning necessary.
3. “If accused of wrongdoing, use the ‘I’m rubber, you’re glue’ defense, pinning anything you’re accused of on your opponents.”
This is especially obnoxious coming from journalists whose first rebuttal is often “You can’t call us biased! You are biased!” We wonder if Todd slept through the Clinton years. When the then-President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign took donations from Chinese communists and Indonesian businessmen, “everybody does it” became the dominant media spin.
4. “If still caught with irrefutable facts closing in, assert that all facts are relative anyway.”
President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani is worried about Trump walking into a perjury trap. He told the Washington Post “truth is relative” and the Mueller team “may have a different version of the truth.” At least those are the quotes the Post used.
When the irrefutable facts of Clinton’s lying about having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky were closing in, it was NBC’s Matt Lauer who enabled Hillary Clinton to distract the country with warnings of “a vast right-wing conspiracy.” Lauer even suggested this Lewinsky scandal could be “the worst and most damaging smear of the 20th century.”
The liberal media have no right to lecture about “distractions” and “branding” and treating facts as relative. These are all well-worn moves in their own “tactical playbook.”
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L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.