How Political Media Reacted To Trump's Vulgarity

Jan 13, 2018
Originally published on January 13, 2018 5:12 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump's vulgar remark about immigrants from certain countries has played out differently in this country depending on the media outlet. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann has a roundup.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: During President Trump's first year, the same events, the same facts have been portrayed so differently in different media outlets they seem unrecognizable. This week, it dialed up a notch. Trump's comments about countries in Africa and about Haiti drew fierce condemnation from outlets generally seen as being in the middle, the mainstream. On CNN, Anderson Cooper scolded Trump, arguing that the Haitian people have shown courage and dignity.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ANDERSON COOPER 360")

ANDERSON COOPER: It's a dignity many in this White House could learn from. It's a dignity the president, with all his money and all his power, could learn from as well.

MANN: But this time, a number of mainstream outlets went further than scolding. The New Yorker and the online journal Slate declared that Trump's latest comments revealed him to be a bigot. The New Yorker ran a banner headline claiming that there is a racist in the White House. This narrative was taken up by America's media widely viewed as left-leaning, with commentators like Rachel Maddow on MSNBC saying the time has come to pass judgment on Trump's character.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW")

RACHEL MADDOW: One of the things that we can now factor into the balance of harm to this country that is caused by having an openly racist president - I don't say that lightly. One of the things we can factor...

MANN: Trump's language did also draw criticism from some outlets considered conservative. But for the most part, they portrayed his comments very differently. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson argued that the president spoke with welcome frankness and honesty.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

TUCKER CARLSON: President Trump said something that almost every single person in America actually agrees with. An awful lot of immigrants come to this country from other places that aren't very nice. Those places are dangerous. They're dirty. They're corrupt, and they're poor.

MANN: This controversial idea that immigrants from Africa and some other parts of the world are undesirable and the president was right to say so out loud echoed widely across conservative-leaning outlets popular with Trump's base, on websites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart and also on Rush Limbaugh's radio show.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Forget the words used. The question was, why do you people on the Democrats' side want to continue to bring people to this country that are not going to benefit this country? Why, instead, do you not want to bring the best and brightest of the world to this country?

MANN: It's important to remember that it didn't used to be this way. There was a time when Americans mostly saw the same political events portrayed in the same way.

DIANA MUTZ: When I was growing up, there were, you know, the three network sources for national news. And that was pretty much it.

MANN: Diana Mutz studies media and politics at the University of Pennsylvania. She says a lot of people still get their news from a variety of sources. But we tend to be more and more polarized, she says, seeking information that reflects our convictions. That means we develop widely different views of the world and its leaders.

MUTZ: I think they don't converge, unfortunately. People do and always have interpreted political facts in a way that is most congenial for them.

MANN: So this week, millions of Americans heard trusted media figures - journalists, writers, news anchors - describe the president as vulgar, offensive, even racist and bigoted. Meanwhile, millions of other Americans opted for equally trusted media who described Trump as plainspoken, a truth-teller willing to violate the norms of political correctness.

Brian Mann, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.