Thursday morning, Hallie Jackson, NBC's White House correspondent, acted as if President Donald Trump had just invented political choreography, and that no previous presidential administration or politician has ever engaged in it. Jackson spent an inordinate amount of time describing the President's greeting of the three U.S. hostages released by North Korea as a "staged production" presented by a "former reality show producer."
Jackson's presentation fit the bitter tone at MSNBC's Morning Joe Thursday, as described in a separate NewsBusters post by Bill D'Agostino. His post, and what follows in this one, support a belief that no positive news involving Trump can be broadcast on the peacock network without raising negative points, no matter how artificial.
The negativity Jackson tried to create out of a positive event came off as more contrived and "choreographed" than the alleged horror she described:
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS: We have been witness to what has been a remarkable several hours here at Joint Base Andrews. The President is back at the White House. The detainees, the returnees now, are at Walter Reed Medical Center.
But this is something that we’ll be talking about for a while. It was a moment of intense anticipation. You had — it also (was) very carefully choreographed right? The Vice President landed, the President, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and then that plane carrying these three American citizens.
What was sort of striking in the moment — and you’ve talked already about the geopolitical implications of this, what this means for the summit moving forward between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un — But what was striking, was that this was, listen, Donald Trump is a former reality show producer. This was a staged production meant for television, meant for the cameras, meant to be shown and seen here in this country and around the world.
You had floodlights lighting up this 30 X 50-foot American flag, hanging in between two ladder trucks, as the plane carrying these men rolled in. This moment when the President and First Lady holding hands went up the stairs, spending six minutes in private conversation.
And then unexpectedly, because we didn’t think that was going to happen, unexpectedly coming over with these men, and taking a number of questions from reporters who had gathered around in front yelling questions, including about where the summit is. The President wouldn’t say. Including about whether he’s spoken with President Kim Jong Un. The President wouldn’t say.
So an "unexpected" thing occurred when Trump came over and took questions. Maybe it wasn't all as "choreographed" as Jackson claimed.
Chronicling examples of genuinely cynical political choreography — Trump's greeting of released hostages certainly doesn't fit into that category — would fill a library. The size of that library would barely shrink if one excluded instances where the press commented on or criticized it.
It's also worth noting that the press never made an issue of how President Barack Obama rarely spoke without the assistance of a teleprompter — a form of choreography previous presidents and Trump used and have used, respectively, with far less frequency.
Additionally, there are plenty of instances of political choreography which have involved active press participation — from planted debate questions, to preventing opposing views from appearing at supposedly wide-open forums, to using visual tricks to exaggerate the perceived size of demonstrations and protests relating to causes they support (while using those same tricks to downplay those they don't).
And of course, the press "choreographs" its print and broadcast output through a process known as editing — and if done honestly, there's nothing wrong with that. In other words, "choreography" as Jackson used the term is part of modern media life. The NBC reporter came off as complaining that someone her network doesn't like appears to have done it well.
A genuine example of ethically challenged, media-assisted choreography involving Jackson's NBC colleague Andrea Mitchell is here.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.