Maddow Tries and Fails to Defend Media’s Trump Obsession to Former Fiorina Staffer

In the wee hours of MSNBC’s live coverage of caucus and primary results in Arizona, Idaho, and Utah, co-host Rachel Maddow attempted to mount a forceful defense of the media’s obsessive attention to Donald Trump (to the detriment of the other Republican candidates) but was met with firm opposition by former Carly Fiorina deputy campaign manager Sarah Isgur Flores. 

The brief and civil but tense debate was touched off by Maddow asking Flores how current and former Republican Governors Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker “flame[d] out so bad and so early” despite being seen by many as “sort of less complicated messengers of that conservative message.”

Flores responded by immediately pointing to how candidates not named Trump were marginalized as the billionaire attracted instant attention with tweets like one from Tuesday night in which he threatened Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi.

“Well, I think one way you look at that is just tonight. Donald Trump tweets something, all of Twitter ended over his tweet about Ted Cruz' wife. The media has covered it endlessly,” she noted.

When she tried to push Maddow on how much airtime Trump was given for interviews and town halls, the MSNBC host chalked it up to being a “competitive advantage” for Trump that he “chose to” seize on in a way that “nobody else in the field” could “on those terms.”

Needless to say, Flores was not convinced and shot right back: “Or that cable news cared more about the that than the democracy that they were reporting about where you look at — I mean, $2 billion in earned media isn’t just that he was better at capturing earned media.”

Maddow touted the fact that “the root word of news is the word new” and therefore the media can be absolved from blame for Trump’s rise because “every time he opened his mouth, he made some sort of controversial comment that changed the news cycle and so, people ended up following him to do that.”

Assuring Flores that “[t]he media wasn’t rooting for him to become president,” Maddow continued to inadvertently prove the former Fiorina staffer’s argument: “They were following him because he was driving a good media strategy. No other Republican even competing with him on that for a second, which is a competitive failure. Not something that you can say the media choose the candidate.”

With little else to say, Flores simply retorted that, with a mind set like that, “we’ve set up an incentive system moving forward where I don’t think you’re going to like the candidates you’re going to see.”

The relevant portion of the transcript from MSNBC’s The Place for Politics 2016 on March 23 can be found below.

MSNBC’s The Place for Politics 2016
March 23, 2016
1:46 a.m. Eastern

RACHEL MADDOW: Why do people like Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker and Jeb Bush and so many other sort of less complicated messengers of that conservative message flame out so bad and so early? 

SARAH ISGUR FLORES: Well, I think one way you look at that is just tonight. Donald Trump tweets something, all of Twitter ended over his tweet about Ted Cruz' wife. The media has covered it endlessly. How much live town halls did any of the cables cover for any of the people you just mentioned versus that the time they gave —

MADDOW: But that’s competitive advantage that he chose to try to — he ran a —

FLORES: It’s an enormous competitive advantage.

MADDOW: Right. Right, but that just means that nobody else in the field was good at competing with him on those terms.

FLORES: Or that cable news cared more about the that than the democracy that they were reporting about where you look at — I mean, $2 billion in earned media isn’t just that he was better at capturing earned media.

MADDOW: The way that — the root word of news is the word new. The reason that the news spent a lot time covering Donald Trump more then it spent covering other candidates is that every time he opened his mouth, he made some sort of controversial comment that changed the news cycle and so, people ended up following him to do that. The media wasn’t rooting for him to become president by doing that. They were following him because he was driving a good media strategy. No other Republican even competing with him on that for a second, which is a competitive failure. Not something that you can say the media choose the candidate.

FLORES: Well then, we’ve set up an incentive system moving forward where I don’t think you’re going to like the candidates you’re going to see. 

EUGENE ROBINSON: Well — well — yeah but — look —

MADDOW: Right. The incentive system is something that the candidates exploit to win.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center