The topic of the press and Donald Trump has dominated the news and tweets from Trump over the last few days. And years. The president has upped his rhetoric steadily, calling the press the “enemy of the people” and “disgusting” and on and on. On “Reliable Sources” on CNN this morning, Brian Stelter covered the topic and played a clip of a threat called in against him and CNN’s Don Lemon.
The individual was calling in to C-SPAN on Friday and he echoed what many of us see every day on social media and other places.
(You can watch the video and listen to the audio of the caller below.)
What he said will sound familiar in some respects.
“It all started when Trump got elected. Brian Stelter, Don Lemon from CNN, called all Trump supporters racists,” he said. “They don’t even know us. They don’t even know these Americans out here and they are calling us racists because we voted for Trump? Come on. Give me a break.”
“They started the war,” he warned. “I see them, I’m going to shoot them. Bye.”
Stelter wonders where the caller gots the idea that he, in particular, referred to all Trump supporters as racists, and then says that Sean Hannity played a clip of Stelter talking about racial anxiety playing a role in the election of 2016 the night before the caller’s threat.
“I don’t know if the C-SPAN caller watched Hannity,” he said. “I’m not blaming Hannity. I just thought the timing was odd.”
The caller wouldn’t need to watch Hannity, though, as the MAGA hashtags are full of people claiming that the press labels all Trump supporters as racist. Every press outlet (but Fox News) is regularly accused of this broad attack on Trump supporters. It’s a complaint made across MAGA media.
The talk of war is also familiar if you read the right—it comes up a lot with a certain type of low-brow blogger. Not figurative war, like “war on poverty,” but actual, literal warfare between the right and the left. Perhaps the caller reads those blogs.
In any case, it’s a pretty disturbing call, and all the more disturbing for being familiar in tone and content.
Watch and listen to the clip below, from CNN.
Brian Stelter, for his part, sees one part of the equation. He sees a threat against the press and increasing attacks from the president.
“Friday’s threatening phone call is a just a tiny illustration of the threats that are out there. Many journalists who cover politics say they are receiving more and more threats nowadays in the Trump era,” he said. He also played a clip from Katy Tur reading a threat against her that wished she’d be “raped and killed” and ended with “MAGA” (you can see it in the clip above).
He did not address, though, what Mollie Hemingway addressed on Fox’s corresponding show, “Media Buzz.” Hemingway said the relationship between Trump and the press is “dysfunctional,” which is a good word because it correctly suggests all parties are wrong.
The media is not to blame for, has not invited, and should not be subject to, this “war” talk or threats of rape or murder. Seriously, that’s not just a disclaimer to throw out there. It’s outrageous and everyone should be outraged. It’s terrible. Stelter is absolutely right about that. They have not earned this. You cannot caveat that.
It doesn’t mean you can’t also address other issues, like how the press covers Trump. Hemingway is correct about that part, though similarly one-sided in her perspective.
Trump is never going to stop bashing the media, no matter what anyone says. His base eats it up and it’s one of the few issues where he’s expressing his genuine point of view. Any pushback only makes him angrier. He wants the press to be hated by Americans so Americans won’t listen to press that is critical of him. You can’t change that.
But that doesn’t mean media can’t try harder to be more accurate and less agenda-driven.