Rachel Maddow urged the media on Monday not to allow a repeat of 2016 when they took Donald Trump’s bait on a fake Democratic scandal – Hillary Clinton’s emails – in order to distract from his own mountain of corrupt behavior.
The MSNBC host said the press convinced voters in 2016 that “bad news and scandal are evenly distributed between the two sides, even when on one side, you’ve got basically a normal candidate.”
“On the other side, you’ve got a walking, talking crime wave,” she said.
In other words, in the media’s search for objectivity, they often elevate minor Democratic “smudges and insinuations” to such a high level that it looks as though both sides are equally corrupt – even though Trump’s unethical and criminal behavior is unmatched in American history.
Maddow said Trump is already deploying this strategy for the 2020 election as his presidency faces the growing threat of impeachment.
“The side supporting the crime wave guy knows how to play this game and they are playing it again already for the next election,” she said. “Some of it is worse and I think it’s going to be more powerful than it was in 2016.
— PoliticusUSA (@politicususa) October 22, 2019
You might not have noticed the blanket coverage that didn’t exist of the ending of this scandal that was the most important thing, according to the media, in 2016, that you needed to know about Hillary Clinton and her candidacy. So part of what we need to reckon with here is whether we’re about to do this all again as a country, right? Whether we are going to slog through another campaign season in which there are super serious scandals and corruption issues involving one of the candidates and so, perversely, on the other side, whatever smudges and insinuations can be smeared under the other candidate, those will get elevated into things that are supposed to look just as bad or maybe even worse than what Trump is dragging around behind him in plain sight. I mean, it happened in 2016, in large part because of a media environment where we’re all supposed to pretend that bad news and scandal are evenly distributed between the two sides even when on one side, you’ve got basically a normal candidate. On the other side, you’ve got a walking, talking crime wave. It happened because of that media environment, which still plagues us. It also happened because the side supporting the crime wave guy knows how to play this game. And they are playing it again already for the next election. And some of it is happening just like it did in 2016. And some of it is worse and I think it’s going to be more powerful than it was in 2016.
Trump is counting on the both-sides media to score him a second term
In 2016, Trump’s campaign was drowning in scandal – whether it was his casual admission that he enjoys sexual assaulting women or the fact that his team was actively coordinating with the Russians to win a presidential election.
What Trump did in that cycle was inflate the non-scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton’s emails in hopes that it would cancel out his own misconduct. It created a “lock her up” narrative that millions of voters bought into – and in a lot of ways, the media was his biggest megaphone.
It doesn’t matter that after a years-long investigation, Clinton has been cleared of wrongdoing; Trump only needed that narrative to last long enough for him to get elected president.
In 2020, the sinking president is hoping to play the media in a similar way by creating fake corruption on the other side to take the focus off his own abuses of power.
If the media falls for it again, Donald Trump could win a second term in the White House.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.