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Making the confederate flag a centerpiece of his re-election run, Trump leaves no doubt about his racist ways. The truth about Trump has been obvious for years, because he has made no effort to hide his bigoted views. In fact, he revels in them. It's shocking behavior for an American politician, and it's unheard of for a U.S. president to advertise his racist core. ("Laziness is a trait in blacks," Trump once told a colleague.) So why won't the press report the truth?
Trump made news this week when he attacked black NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, lied about the facts surrounding the controversy of a noose found by the driver's stall, and then demanded the Southern-based race car circuit remove its recent ban on the confederate flag, which stands as a symbol of oppression and slavery.
Clearly racist, right? Not if you write headlines or file stories at the New York Times. The daily unfurled this clunky headline: "Trump Defends Confederate Flag in Latest Race-Based Appeal to White Voters." Tweeted journalist Soledad O'Brien, "Hmmm a “race-based appeal to white voters” Whatever does she mean? Utter embarrassment."
Meanwhile at CNN, the talk all day from the newsroom was about Trump's "racially tinged" tweet, and how he's "stoking the flames of racial tension." (In primetime, CNN host Anderson Cooper was more direct, lamenting, "He’s just leaning full into the racist he’s long been.")
The larger journalism problem stems from the fact that simple truth-telling remains one of the biggest self-imposed obstacles for the press in this age of Trump. (See: “Falsehood,” “misleading,” and “baseless,” euphemisms for Trump's endless lies.) Covering and confronting an openly racist presidential candidate requires confidence and courage, neither of which the halting Beltway press has advertised during the Trump era. Recall that the press failed in 2016 when they largely turned a blind eye to Trump's racist birther crusade against President Barack Obama.
The media failures have marched on since then. From the Times in June:
While Mr. Trump has a long history of making insensitive and tone-deaf comments on race, including remarks widely seen as racist, he has never appeared more isolated on a dominant social and political moment in the country, hunkered down at the White House tweeting conspiracy theories about injured protesters and describing demonstrators as “THUGS.”
The newspaper concedes Trump's comments are "widely seen as racist," including, I assume, by those who work inside the Times newsroom. But the daily itself won't say so. Instead, it falls back on vague, meaningless language, like "insensitive and tone-deaf comments on race."
Refusing to call Trump a racist poses longer-term consequences for the country, which is experiencing a wave of white nationalist violence. Trump stands at the fulcrum of a hate movement as he constantly spouts racist rhetoric. "Members of the press, what the fuck?" asked an exasperated Beto O'Rourke in the wake of the El Paso gun massacre last year, which targeted immigrants. "It's these questions you know the answers to. I mean, connect the dots about what [Trump's] been doing in this country. He's promoting racism." The El Paso rampage was sparked by a white gunman whose manifesto explicitly cited Trump's "invasion" rhetoric about migrants as his motivation to kill as many brown-skinned people as possible.
Defenders inside the press corps suggest it doesn't really matter if they use the "R" word to describe Trump, just like it doesn’t' really matter if they use the "L" word (liar). They claim that using those words won't change Trump's behavior and that news consumers can figure out the big picture on their own. So the silly words games persist.
If calling Trump a racist is no big deal, why don't news outlets go ahead and call him a racist — thereby proving that it's not big deal? The media’s defense represents an excuse not be accurate and explicit because calling a Republican president a racist makes news outlets nervous and they would prefer to deflect in order to avoid offending Trump with the truth. Instead, we get word salads made up of empty phrases like "racially tinged,""vulgar,""racially charged,""disparaging,""expressed a preference for immigrants from Norway,""the vulgarity,""crass epithet,""derogatory,""crass denigrations," and "bluntly vulgar language."
Last year, the Associated Press updated its influential AP Stylebook and urged editors, producers, and reporters to walk away from the hollow, mushy euphemisms. The AP is careful to suggest that journalists should still avoid calling out individuals as racists, noting, "It’s far harder to match the complexity of a person to a definition or label than it is a statement or action.” But when it comes to actions and comments, journalists should not shy away from the truth.
That's why Trump's hate tweet about Bubba Wallace and the confederate flag should have been easily labeled "racist" by news outlets. What are journalists afraid of?
⌨️ GOOD STUFF:
The newsroom refusal to call Trump a racist highlights how in this instance there exists an unnecessary divide between news and opinion standards. If columnists and TV hosts can't figure out Trump's a racist, why can't reporters?
At the Washington Post, columnist Jennifer Rubin urges reporters to play it straight:
Phrases such as “racially charged” or “racially sensitive” should be dropped from journalists’ lexicon. “Raising racial tensions” is devoid of meaning. Trump is saying racist things. It is part of decades of racist rhetoric. Let’s not mince words. Journalists should not construct tortured sentences to make racism appear as an unfortunate and perhaps accidental byproduct of his rhetoric.
🎸 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Tyler Childers, "All Your'n"
Boy, this song reminds me of last summer, as Childers delivers a mystic look at life and love with a simplicity that we chase after all day. Sometimes we're lucky enough to catch it.
There ain't two ways around it
There ain't no trying 'bout it
I'm all your'n and you're all mine