(Author’s Note: This is a column that I didn’t intend to write. Previously I authored 16 political articles for CommPRO.biz leading up to Election Day. I thought # 16, written the morning of November 1, would be my final article until after the election, and said that between November 4 and Inauguration Day, January 20, I’ll be writing an occasional political column. But something happened later in the day of November 1 that brought me back to the computer. It was an exclusive article by Jonathan Swan of Axios. FYI – My first public relations job was with a political firm, where I worked on local, statewide and presidential campaigns.)
The first two lines of Mr. Swan’s article read, “President Trump has told confidants he’ll declare victory on Tuesday night if it looks like he’s “ahead, according to three sources familiar with his private comments.”
And I have no doubt that he will do so.
If the president follows through with what he said, the industry that has played a large part in poisoning the American political scene – the television business, with emphasis on the cable TV networks – will be first to report Trump’s comments. If the election is still in doubt at that time they should immediately make it clear that the president’s remarks are not based on facts and keep saying so until a clear winner is obvious.
That is the least the networks can do and should do, given their sorry political reporting history, which in a large way helped elect Trump in 2016. And CNN and MSNBC deserve as much blame as Fox News for Hillary Clinton’s defeat:
- Remember how the cables covered Trump’s rallies as if they were hard news instead of what they were, political rallies?
- Remember how they played up every Trump tweet as if it was news, without explaining that the overwhelming majority were lies?
- Remember how cute they though it was to let Trump call-in to shows, giving him unlimited time to express his views, without challenging what he said?
- Remember how long it took them to use the word “lie” when referring to Trump’s statements?
- Remember how they credited him with being able to change the news topic of the day, when in reality the cable networks made it possible.
- Remember how they played into Trump’s trap by continually reporting on Trump’s emails accusation against Hillary Clinton, without challenging his facts?
- Remember how they let Trump surrogates consistently lie without having program hosts or reporters call out the Trump supporter’s lies.
- Remember what Politico reported: Les Moonves, the CBS chief, said of Trump’s 2016 act, on February 29, 2016. “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” Moonves said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco, according to The Hollywood Reporter — perfectly distilling what media critics have long suspected was motivating the round-the-clock coverage of Trump’s presidential bid.”
The above are only a few examples of how the television industry helped elect President Trump.
The American political scene is now poisoned. If it can be repaired it will take decades. And the cable networks’ 2015 and 2016, and thereafter, reporting have played a large part in making it so.
The least the TV business, especially the cable networks, can do to gain a modicum of respect is to continually report on the Axios story on election night and keep doing so until a winner is declared, not by the president, but by the entire vote of the public.
Doing so will not cleanse the TV business from its sins, but at least it will be a starting point for them to atone for them.
About the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com and artsolomon4pr (at) optimum.net.