Media Caught in the Trap Despite Being on Their Guard

After his new attack on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump is leaving the stage without responding to the journalists’ questions. The appearance took place at Trump’s newly opened luxury hotel in Washington.

Trump is attracting the spotlight through obvious lies and threats of violence. He is lacking political experience, but knows exactly how he can use the media to his advantage. This could help him to victory in November.

One of the ironies of this year’s presidential election is that Hillary Clinton’s most serious problem is that she is seen as dishonest. Even if she also skirts around the truth in debates and speeches, she doesn’t even get close to Trump’s lies — both in forms of lies and sheer number of them. Calculations have been made on how good the candidates are at sticking to the truth, and here Trump often ends up at a lie ratio of between 70 and 85 percent, Clinton between 35 and 50 percent. Trump is often not confronted on his lies.

When Donald Trump claimed that it was Hillary Clinton who in 2008 started the accusations that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, it was so obviously false that all media pointed this out as soon as he was cited on his comments. The attack on Clinton was repeated again on Friday, as Trump, after many years, admitted that Obama was born in the U.S. He disappeared without responding to any questions.

The events around the appearance also serve to illustrate the media’s treatment of Donald Trump. Even when he is backed into a corner, he manages to turn a retreat to his advantage. The Friday event took place in Trump’s own newly opened luxury hotel in Washington and was delayed by a full hour. During the wait all the cable networks were broadcasting live, constantly mentioning his hotel.

However, when the Trump campaign office changed the rules around the media tour of the hotel to only include photographers, the networks reacted quickly and, following a speedy phone conference, collectively agreed to delete the pictures. Without a chance to ask questions, it had nothing to do with journalism (and even less to do with the election).

Trump is being watched more carefully, but the media often fall into his trap, or as CNN’s experienced political journalist John King put it live on air, “We got played, again.”

The campaign leadership Trump instated a month ago, with the Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway as manager, knows that the demands on Trump will increase in the last few weeks before the election. She is also believed to be behind Trump increasingly following a script and less often making off-the-cuff remarks. In all likelihood it is also under advice from Conway that Trump has reduced the number of press conferences. He hasn’t held one since July.

Media researcher Dan Gillmor said to The Washington Post, “This is a campaign and a candidate that completely understands how the press works — or doesn’t work — and exploits the blatant weaknesses of political journalism.”

Now, when Trump proposes that moderators are removed for the coming TV debates (the first one taking place Sept. 26), he also casts suspicion on the media in order to avoid scrutiny. After the last TV debate, critics actually said that Clinton was the one who was treated unfairly, not Trump.

Clinton, who has a long and very complicated relationship with the media, has gone the opposite way to Trump. She held the first press conference of 2016 just over a week ago. Before then, she only met with individual journalists for one-on-one closed-door interviews, a situation much easier to control than a room full of reporters. Journalists are also allowed to travel in her campaign plane (which is pretty much standard procedure during U.S. election campaigns).

He is lacking political experience, but Trump has substantial media experience. He understands that nothing is more important than publicity, and knows how to remain at the center of attention. He is also more than happy to run his own race. When he warned what would happen to Hillary Clinton if her bodyguards were not there, a few hours after the appearance in Washington during a campaign meeting in Miami, it was not scripted.

Trump called for Clinton’s Secret Service guards to lay down their weapons, then added, “Let’s see what happens to her.” It is not the first time he has insinuated violence against his political opponent through spectacularly threatening phraseology.

This is another reason Donald Trump is such a unique candidate.

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