WASHINGTON — Chris Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday who moderated the final presidential debate, said some of the media coverage of the presidential race, particularly in the Washington Post and the New York Times, has been “prejudicial” toward GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
David M. Rubenstein, president of the Economic Club of Washington, asked a panel of media personalities Wednesday how they think the press will cover the next election compared to the 2016 race.
“Do you think they have learned anything they can improve upon or do you think they did a great job and they don’t need to make any changes?” Rubenstein asked during an Economic Club of Washington event about the election held at the Ritz Carlton.
“I think the media could not do a worse job than this year. I really believe that,” Charles Cook, publisher and editor of the Cook Political Report, said to applause from the audience.
“I think early on, basically, cable news handed their airwaves to Trump and then begrudgingly added in Bernie and Hillary so they gave him a free ride for a long time and maybe were not as aggressive in holding his feet to the fire during the primaries and during the debates as they should have,” he added.
Cook compared the current media coverage of the election to a “badly refereed” basketball game, particularly due to the press coverage of Trump.
“Within the next month or so, it’s like watching a badly refereed basketball game where we’re seeing make-up calls and we’re seeing particularly print going – and I’m not a Trump defender at all – but going after Trump in ways that I think violate every canon of ethics for news reporting,” he said.
Wallace agreed with Cook’s analysis.
“I completely agree with that. If you read the adjectives, just look at the adjectives in the news stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post. One I think today talked about Trump lurching into something, they just, well, that’s a verb. They use adjectives and verbs in a very prejudicial way,” Wallace said.
Gloria Borger, chief political analyst at CNN, said Trump’s availability to the media for interviews serves as a lesson to future presidential candidates because he “put himself out there” and was “interesting.”
“If you make yourself available to the press, the press will interview you – and I recall during the primaries, would Jeb Bush talk to us frequently? The answer is no, because he was behaving like the frontrunner who didn’t have to speak to the media,” she said.
Cook disagreed with Borger’s assessment.
“I would respectfully disagree. I think you could have given every other candidate infusions of sodium pentothal and many of them would not have gotten coverage. I think this was about ratings and it was about people allowing him to do phone-in. You could not phone-in these shows before,” he said.
Wallace clarified that not everyone allowed him to phone-in for interviews on their shows.
“Well, good,” Cook said before Borger added that Clinton used to phone-in to some shows.
“Well, then they started allowing her because they allowed him,” Cook said.
Rubenstein asked if the winner of the presidential race would be able to govern effectively given the division in Congress.
“I think they can,” Wallace said, pointing to former President George W. Bush’s first term after winning a close election.
“He actually had a very successful first year,” he said.
Mike Allen, chief White House correspondent at Politico, said Clinton “should pray for a Republican Senate – a Republican Senate would help her contain her own instincts, but even more than that it would be for her left wing, for Elizabeth Warren, Sanders, she would say ‘I have to deal.’”
Wallace also weighed in on the role former President Bill Clinton might play in the White House if Hillary Clinton wins.
“The answer is I don’t know. I assume he will have a substantive policy role, probably not up front, but he will be an emissary. She’s talked about wanting him to be the emissary to blue collar America, to ‘I feel your pain,’ to get that economy going again. Actually, he would be very effective at that,” Wallace said.
“West Wing or East Wing office?” Rubenstein said. “Probably both,” Wallace replied.
Cook jumped in, adding, “I would say if elected president, Hillary Clinton should try to get him a job as a lecturer on a cruise ship that had no telecommunications whatsoever.”