CBS Evening News aired an extraordinary report last night on a president “divorced from reality.” Here is a link to the video. ‘It Has Been a Busy Day for Presidential Statements Divorced from Reality’.
Here is a rush transcript of Scott Pelley’s introduction:
President Donald Trump told a U.S. military audience that there have been terrorist attacks that no one knows about because the media choose not to report them.
It has been a busy day for presidential statements divorced from reality.
Mr. Trump said this morning that any polls that show disapproval of his immigration ban are “fake.”
He singled out a federal judge for ridicule after the judge suspended his ban, and Mr. Trump said that the ruling now means that “anyone can enter the country.”
The president’s claims, whether fabricated or imaginary, are now worrying even his backers, particularly after he insisted that millions of people voted illegally giving Hillary Clinton her popular vote victory. There’s not one state election official, Democrat or Republican, who supports that claim.
In his first address to U.S. troops as commander–in-chief at CENTCOM in Tampa, Florida, our Dear Leader Donald Trump said about terrorism, “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported, and in may cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.” Trump Says Journalists ‘Have Their Reasons’ to Play Down Terror Threat:
President Trump on Monday asserted that the news media was playing down the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State, telling American military personnel that journalists were reluctant to report on the militant group’s attacks in Europe and “have their reasons” for failing to cover them.
Mr. Trump initially did not provide examples of a news media conspiracy to underplay terrorist attacks, and his comments appeared to ignore the vast amount of reporting on violence committed by the Islamic State and its supporters in the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Later Monday night, the White House released a list of what it said were 78 attacks from September 2014 to December 2016 that were carried out or inspired by the Islamic State. The White House said that “most have not received the media attention they deserved.”
The list included the major attacks in Paris; Brussels; San Bernardino, Calif.; and Orlando, Fla., that dominated the news for weeks. Other attacks overseas, lesser known to Americans, received extensive local coverage, like a shooting in Zvornik, Bosnia, in April 2015 in which one police officer was killed and two others were wounded.
The president’s speech was the second time in recent weeks that he has used an appearance before national security personnel — usually apolitical settings in which the focus is on strategy and sacrifice — to discredit journalists and exult in his election victory.
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The theory that the news media is trying to whitewash terrorist attacks to protect Islam or Muslim migrants has been pushed by several right-wing news organizations, including the conspiracy-filled site Infowars, whose founder, Alex Jones, is an ally of Mr. Trump’s.
The president’s comments on Monday were reminiscent of his claim during a visit last month to the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Va., that the news media had fabricated his feud with the intelligence community. Those remarks came only days after he likened American intelligence officials to Nazis, after several weeks in which he had denigrated their work.
It also comes days after White House counsel Kellyanne Conway alleged a nonexistent terrorist attack, the “Bowling Green massacre.” Kellyanne Conway’s ‘Bowling Green massacre’ wasn’t a slip of the tongue. She has said it before.
White House press secretary “Baghdad Sean” Spicer hurriedly threw together a list – complete with typographical errors — of 78 attacks from September 2014 to December 2016 in an attempt at damage control, and to “work the refs.” Phillip Bump of the Washington Post reports, The White House released a list of ‘under covered’ terror attacks it would like you to look at:
It wasn’t that the attacks weren’t being reported at all, Spicer told reporters on Air Force One. It was that the attacks weren’t being reported enough. “Protests will get blown out of the water, and yet an attack or a foiled attack doesn’t necessarily get the same coverage,” he said. He promised to release a list of those so-called under reported attacks shortly.
A few hours later, he did. The White House produced a list of 78 attacks that it felt met the criterion of receiving less attention than deserved, unlike, say, anti-Trump protests involving millions of people.
We decided to take a quick look at the list and see how many hadn’t been reported in the American media. Below are the first 25 attacks on the list, with links to coverage.
- Melbourne, Sept. 2014. Deaths: 0
- Tizi-Ouzou, Sept. 2014. Deaths: 1
- Quebec, Oct. 2014. Deaths: 1
- Ottawa, Oct. 2014. Deaths: 1
- New York, Oct. 2014. Deaths: 0
- Riyadh, Nov. 2014. Deaths: 0
- Abu Dhabi, Dec. 2014. Deaths: 1
- Sydney, Dec. 2014. Deaths: 2
- Tours, Dec. 2014. Deaths: 0
- Paris, Jan. 2015. Deaths: 5
- Tripoli, Jan. 2015. Deaths: 10
- Riyadh, Jan. 2015. Deaths: 0
- Nice, Feb. 2015. Deaths: 0
- Copenhagen, Feb. 2015. Deaths: 1
- Tunis, March 2015. Deaths: 21
- Karachi, April 2015. Deaths: 0
- Paris, April 2015. Deaths: 1
- Zvornik, April 2015. Deaths: 1
- Garland, May 2015. Deaths: 0
- Boston, June 2015. Deaths: 0
- El Gora, June 2015. Deaths: 0
- Luxor, June 2015. Deaths: 1
- Sousse, June 2015. Deaths: 38
- Lyon, June 2015. Deaths: 1
- Cairo, July 2015. Deaths: 1
- Cairo, July 2015. Deaths: 1
- Paris, Aug. 2015. Deaths: 0
This is a somewhat arbitrary point at which to stop, but there’s a reason for it.
There’s a concept in interactions with the press called “working the refs.” The idea is that it’s worth paying attention to trying to shape the coverage you receive before you receive it by offering criticisms that hopefully push the media where you want. Trump’s point about the media not reporting on terror attacks wasn’t necessarily that he thought the media was burying stories — though it very well may have been. Spicer, at least, was smart enough to understand that this was an opportunity to get the media to run with a lengthy list of terror attacks that, he hoped, would reinforce Trump’s broader message that terror attacks were a constant threat that demanded a strong response. Spicer, in other words, hoped to work the refs.
The problem with this effort is that it’s both transparent and irrational. Should the media write dozens of stories about terror attacks in Egypt in which a couple of people were wounded? Notice that in the first 25 attacks listed above, only three were in America. In none of those three was anyone killed.
And notice that the attack in Garland, Tex., is included in that list. That story, an attack on an event showing cartoons of Muhammad, received tons of media attention. So did the attack in Souse, Tunisia: This was the attack on a beach resort that left nearly 40 people dead. You likely remember that story — because it received a lot of media attention.
Missing are attacks that don’t involve a Muslim or Islamic State-sympathetic attacker. But the list does includes stories that no person in his or her right mind could consider undercovered. The bombing in New York City. The attacks in Paris on cafes and the Bataclan theater. The shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. (misspelled on the White House list). The bombing at the airport in Brussels. The shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. These stories received wall-to-wall coverage, and deservedly so.
They also give the lie to the intent of Spicer offering the list. The point wasn’t to complain that there was not enough coverage of the shooting in San Bernardino. It was to turn Trump’s baffling remarks into an opportunity to make a broader point in service to Trump’s policies.
The list was rushed — “attacker” is misspelled repeatedly and there is incorrect information, such as the statement that multiple people were involved in the recent attack at Ohio State University. This wasn’t something that the White House was sitting on, waiting to raise as a legitimate critique of how the media approached an issue central to Trump’s presidency. It was, instead, an attempt to make lemonade (out of lemons).
Trump didn’t stop there. Trump is laying the groundwork to blame a future terrorist incident on the judiciary and media by scapegoating them. ‘If something happens’: Trump points his finger in case of a terrorist attack:
President Trump appears to be laying the groundwork to preemptively shift blame for any future terrorist attack on U.S. soil from his administration to the federal judiciary, as well as to the media.
In recent tweets, Trump personally attacked James L. Robart, a U.S. district judge in Washington state, for putting “our country in such peril” with his ruling that temporarily blocked enforcement of the administration’s ban on all refugees as well as citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.
“If something happens blame him and the court system. People pouring in. Bad!” Trump wrote in a tweet Sunday.
Then on Monday, Trump seemed to spread that blame to include news organizations. In a speech to the U.S. Central Command, the president accused the media of failing to report on some terrorist attacks for what he implied were nefarious reasons.
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News organizations have reported extensively about terrorist attacks around the world, including the two in France mentioned by the president. Trump did not offer a single example of an attack that had gone unreported to support his accusation.
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Late Monday, the White House released a list of 78 terrorist attacks worldwide since September 2014, after the Islamic State declared its caliphate, and argued that “most” of them were not widely reported.
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Trump’s terrorism blame-game is in keeping with how he ran his campaign, looking for scapegoats at nearly every turn. He often blamed his own failings — a poor debate performance or a gaffe or a primary loss — on the media or other perceived enemies, and he fed his own conspiracies that his adversaries were out to undermine him.
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Trump’s approach is not without risk. He could come across to many Americans as thin-skinned if he skirts the responsibilities of being commander in chief and looks to assign blame to outside forces.
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In the days since Robart’s ruling last Friday night, Trump sent nine tweets about the judge and stoking fear that suddenly the door had been opened for terrorists to enter the country and cause “death & destruction.”
“The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy!” the president said in one tweet sent Saturday night.
In his commentary, Trump has ignored the screening measures and other counterterrorism precautions that have long been in place by U.S. customs and border officials.
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Trump also sought to diminish the credibility of Robart, calling him a “so-called judge.” Although presidents at times critique judicial rulings, they rarely take personal swipes at individual members of the federal bench. Trump’s breach of protocol could have a chilling affect on the judiciary, which constitutionally rules independently of the executive branch.
Lawmakers of both parties took issue with Trump’s attack on Robart.
A president “divorced from reality” requires Congress to invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment at a bare minimum, or to impeach him as a last resort. Legal Scholars: Why Congress Should Impeach Donald Trump; The House should start impeachment against Trump now.