Nets Reject Trump’s Call for Media Civility, Blame Him for Mail Bombs

On Thursday, the network morning shows were aghast that President Trump would accuse the news media of incivility and divisiveness, even as they repeatedly suggested that his rhetoric was to blame for mail bombs being sent to prominent Democrats. Reporters ignored recent polling that found people across the political spectrum agreed that the press was one of the main sources of division in the country.

Accusing the President of sending “mixed messages” during a Wisconsin midterm campaign rally Wednesday night, co-host Hoda Kotb led off Thursday’s Today show by proclaiming: “President Trump calls for calm and a toning down of the rhetoric, then goes after one of his favorite targets: The media.” A soundbite ran of Trump telling supporters that the press should “Stop the endless hostility and constant negative, and oftentimes false, attacks and stories.”

 

 

In the report that followed minutes later, National Correspondent Peter Alexander noted that the President seemed “much more subdued than usual” in his speech, “abandoning his specific personal attacks on political adversaries.” However, the reporter lamented: “At times, he called on others to dial back their language, but he took no responsibility for his own rhetoric.”

Alexander complained: “And while the focus was on toning down the rhetoric, the President still managed to criticize two of his favorite targets: Democrats, without ever naming them, and the media.” A longer clip played of Trump warning:

Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective. The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative, and oftentimes false, attacks and stories. Have to do it.

Alexander dismissed the argument by citing media hyperventilating against the President: “Those comments come after CNN was evacuated over a suspicious package. The network’s president, Jeff Zucker, taking aim at the White House, tweeting, ‘There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media...words matter.’”

“And packages sent to more top Democrats on the heels of those pipe bombs sent to the Obamas, the Clintons, and John Brennan at CNN. All targets of President Trump on the campaign trail,” co-host George Stephanopoulos declared at the top of ABC’s Good Morning America, making it clear who he blamed for the criminal incidents.

Introducing a report on the President’s campaign rally minutes later, the anchor reiterated: “As we said, all these targets have been verbal targets of President Trump.” While noting that Trump “condemned the attacks” and was “calling for unity,” Stephanopoulos fretted over him “also criticizing the media for the current political climate without taking any responsibility himself.”

Throughout the segment, Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl kept emphasizing how “unusual” it was for the President to avoid tough rhetoric:

In a most unusual start to a Trump campaign rally, the President called for all sides to, quote, “Come together in peace and harmony”....And the President, known for taunting and vilifying his opponents, made an uncharacteristic plea for civility....But it has been President Trump who has been relentlessly attacking the very targets of the bombs sent yesterday....And those lines have whipped up his supporters.

After strongly hinting that Trump may have inspired the would-be bomber, Karl worried: “And amid his plea for civility, he also suggested the media is to blame.” Following the soundbite of the President calling on the press to “stop the endless hostility and constant negative, and oftentimes false, attacks and stories,” Karl concluded:

Also notable about last night’s rally is what the President did not say. He made no mention whatsoever of Hillary Clinton, Maxine Waters, CNN or any of the others targeted with yesterday’s bombs. George, those are names that the President at virtually every campaign rally he routinely attacks by name, but not last night.  

“The FBI warns there may be more out there after the discovery of at least nine homemade explosives sent to leading critics of President Trump,” CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King told viewers at the start of the show. Minutes later, fellow co-host Bianna Golodryga engaged in hand-wringing over the President’s remarks: “Well, President Trump is condemning the attempted attacks, but at a political rally in Wisconsin last night, the President also blamed his political opponents and the media for raising tensions.”

Like Karl on ABC, CBS correspondent Weija Jiang was perplexed by Trump’s conciliatory tone as she connected his usual rhetoric to the attempted attacks:

Last night, President Trump called for unity, but often at his rallies he launches some of his harshest insults at political opponents, including those who were sent the packages....He swapped a fiery stump speech for a softer tone....Noticeably missing, the President’s usual attacks on political opponents. He has lashed out on all the victims who were sent suspicious packages.

Later in the report, Jiang scolded: “Last night, the President named one of his main targets as a culprit.” The same clip ran of Trump declaring: “The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility.” As Alexander did on NBC, the CBS reporter touted CNN’s Zucker slamming the White House:  

Now, earlier Wednesday, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker released a statement saying, “There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media.” He said, “The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter.”

While the journalists repeatedly longed for Trump to “take responsibility” for the foiled bombing attempts and the overall divided state of the country, they failed to spend one moment on any self-examination.

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, released on Sunday, found that 80% of voters (85% of Democrats, 73% of Republicans) agreed that the nation was divided. When asked to name the source of this divisiveness, both sides predictably blamed the other, with plenty of fingers being pointed specifically at President Trump. However, one of the other common responses was that the news media itself shared in the blame.

That finding was so notable that even NBC News pollster Peter Hart highlighted it when talking to MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell about the poll on Tuesday. After Mitchell noted people across the political spectrum agreeing on the divided nature of the country, Hart confirmed:

 

 

We’re totally divided as a nation. And it’s shocking and awful. And the only thing they agree on, actually, is that the media’s to blame, Democrats and Republicans. But otherwise, they just point the finger at the other party and say all of the problem belongs to them. There’s no sense of how we thread these two parties together and become a nation again.

Given that data, perhaps the media should take a moment to consider why so many viewers feel that they are part of the problem, instead of just putting all of it on Trump.

Here is a full transcript of Alexander’s October 25 report on NBC’s Today show:

7:11 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:  And as we mentioned, the President had a lot to say about the attempted bombings at his overnight rally, it was in Wisconsin. NBC National Correspondent Peter Alexander has more on that and how the political world is reacting. Peter good morning.

PETER ALEXANDER: Hey, Savannah, good morning. President Trump last night much more subdued than usual, largely sticking to prepared remarks, calling on Americans to come together in peace and harmony and abandoning his specific personal attacks on political adversaries. At times, he called on others to dial back their language, but he took no responsibility for his own rhetoric.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Toning Down the Rhetoric?; Trump Attacks “Media Hostility” While Calling for Calm]

DONALD TRUMP: Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy itself.

ALEXANDER: The President late Wednesday in Wisconsin again condemning the wave of potential explosive devices while touting his own restraint.

TRUMP: By the way, do you see how nice I’m behaving tonight? This is like, have you ever seen this?

ALEXANDER: And while the focus was on toning down the rhetoric, the President still managed to criticize two of his favorite targets: Democrats, without ever naming them, and the media.

TRUMP: Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective. The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative, and oftentimes false, attacks and stories. Have to do it.

ALEXANDER: Those comments come after CNN was evacuated over a suspicious package. The network’s president, Jeff Zucker, taking aim at the White House, tweeting, “There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media...words matter.”

Late Wednesday, former CIA director and NBC News National Security Analyst, John Brennan, the intended recipient of one of those packages, insisted the President’s actions must match his words.

JOHN BRENNAN: He needs to rethink what he is doing and saying. He should not be beating the tom-toms of anger and animosity and war.

ALEXANDER: Among those weighing in, the President’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, who was also targeted.

HILLARY CLINTON: It’s a time of deep divisions, and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together.

Here is a full transcript of Karl’s October 25 report on ABC’s GMA:

7:08 AM ET

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: As we said, all these targets have been verbal targets of President Trump. And yesterday, he condemned the attacks. Hours later, back on the campaign trail, a bit more subdued than normal. Calling for unity, but also criticizing the media for the current political climate without taking any responsibility himself. Our Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl covering that part of the story. Good morning, Jon.

JON KARL: Good morning, George. At his campaign rally in Wisconsin last night, the President toned down his attacks on Democrats and he vowed an aggressive investigation to capture whoever sent those bombs yesterday, declaring that his most important job is to keep America safe.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Trump Responds to Attempted Bombings; “We Want All Sides to Come Together in Peace and Harmony]

In a most unusual start to a Trump campaign rally, the President called for all sides to, quote, “Come together in peace and harmony.”

DONALD TRUMP: Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy itself. No nation can succeed that tolerates violence or the threat of violence as a method of political intimidation, coercion or control.

KARL: And the President, known for taunting and vilifying his opponents, made an uncharacteristic plea for civility.

TRUMP: There is one way to settle our disagreements. It’s called peacefully at the ballot box. That’s what we want. As part of a larger national effort to bridge our divides and bring people together.

KARL: But it has been President Trump who has been relentlessly attacking the very targets of the bombs sent yesterday.

TRUMP [OCTOBER 10]: Fake news, CNN.

TRUMP [OCTOBER 19]: Very dishonest person, crooked Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP [OCTOBER 22]: Good old Maxine. Low-I.Q. individual.

KARL: And those lines have whipped up his supporters. In fact, back in June, the President even tweeted a warning to Maxine Waters, after she called for Trump administration officials to be publicly harassed, “She has called for harm to supporters of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for, Max!”

Shortly after the bombs were sent, the President condemned the attacks.  

TRUMP: In these times, we have to unify. We have to come together.

KARL: The devices were sent to top Democrats, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former CIA Director John Brennan, who said he hopes the President will tone down his rhetoric.

JOHN BRENNAN: What he said today is what the president should be doing, but follow-up on those words with actions and with his future comments. I’m hoping that maybe this is a turning point.

HILLARY CLINTON: It is a troubling time, isn’t it? And it’s a time of deep divisions and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together.

KARL: Meanwhile, at last night’s rally, the President joked about his own change in tone.

TRUMP: Do you see how nice I’m behaving tonight? This is like – have you ever seen this? We’re all behaving very well. And hopefully we can keep it that way.

KARL: And amid his plea for civility, he also suggested the media is to blame.

TRUMP: The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative, and oftentimes false, attacks and stories.

KARL: Also notable about last night’s rally is what the President did not say. He made no mention whatsoever of Hillary Clinton, Maxine Waters, CNN or any of the others targeted with yesterday’s bombs. George, those are names that the President at virtually every campaign rally he routinely attacks by name, but not last night.  

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is a change. Okay, Jon, thanks very much.

Here is a full transcript of Jiang’s October 25 report on CBS This Morning:

7:11 AM ET

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: Well, President Trump is condemning the attempted attacks, but at a political rally in Wisconsin last night, the President also blamed his political opponents and the media for raising tensions. Weija Jiang covered the rally and is with us from Wausau, Wisconsin. Weija, good morning.

WEIJA JIANG: Good morning, Bianna. Last night, President Trump called for unity, but often at his rallies he launches some of his harshest insults at political opponents, including those who were sent the packages. And now, some of his own supporters are calling for both sides to tone down the rhetoric.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Presidential Restraint?; POTUS Condemns Bombs & Calls for Peace]

DONALD TRUMP: Let’s get along. Great country, we’re gonna get along.

JIANG: President Trump opened his campaign rally in central Wisconsin by condemning violence.

TRUMP: Such conduct must be fiercely opposed and firmly prosecuted. We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony.

JIANG: He swapped a fiery stump speech for a softer tone, one even he recognized.

TRUMP: Do you see how nice I’m behaving tonight? This is like – have you ever seen this? We’re all behaving very well. And hopefully we can keep it that way.

JIANG: Noticeably missing, the President’s usual attacks on political opponents. He has lashed out on all the victims who were sent suspicious packages.

TRUMP: Hillary, crooked Hillary. Good old Maxine, low-I.Q. individual.

JIANG: Earlier this month, former Attorney General Eric Holder said this about the GOP.

ERIC HOLDER: When they go low, we kick ’em.

JIANG: Triggering this response from the President.

TRUMP: He’d better be careful what he’s wishing for, that I can tell you. He’d better be careful.

JIANG: Hillary Clinton did not mention Mr. Trump by name when she talked about the threats in the mail.

HILLARY CLINTON: But it is a troubling time, isn’t it? We have to do everything we can to bring our country together.

JIANG: Former CIA Director John Brennan, whose security clearance President Trump revoked in August, was more blunt.

JOHN BRENNAN: A lot of this rhetoric really is counterproductive. It is un-American. It is what a president should not be doing.

JIANG: Some Wisconsin Trump supporters we met say there’s plenty of blame to go around.

LINDA EDWARDS [TRUMP SUPPORTER]: I think both sides need to take a step back and say certain things are nor longer acceptable to say and to do.

JIANG: Last night, the President named one of his main targets as a culprit.

TRUMP: The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility.

JIANG: Now, earlier Wednesday, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker released a statement saying, “There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media.” He said, “The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter.” Bianna?

GOLODRYGA: Weija, thank you.


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