As someone who spent 29 years in prison for a crime that I did not commit, I would be the first to admit that I benefited from media coverage during my efforts to prove my innocence. While I don’t want to sound overly critical of the media with respect to their election coverage, I do think it’s very important to point out that the media had done a major disservice to the American people during the presidential election. It can be argued that President-elect Donald Trump benefited extensively from television networks that covered his entire campaign in a way that no other presidential candidate had ever been covered. Now, I’m not surprised that the media is on the defensive and has become irritated and extremely sensitive about the criticism it is receiving. Members of the media is quick to point out that they were only doing their job, covering the presidential election. But further analysis of the coverage shows that Trump received a significant advantage over Secretary Clinton when it came to the kind of coverage presidential candidates often receive. Shouldn’t there have been equal access to each candidate? Not necessarily in the traditional sense, but in the spirit of fairness.
There have been several members of the media whining about the criticisms – one member I recall saying that her conscience is clear in terms of the criticisms her particular network is receiving in the wake of the election results. Here goes my one weird analogy: the media is akin to prostitution. It sales itself to the highest bidder – in this particular instance, that bidder was Trump. The highest bidder Trump came in the form of bigotry, racism, homophobia, etc. The media essentially chose Trump/ratings over real conversations about how to make poor and working people lives better, basically going against the norms of fairness. If we could give truth serum to even the most loyal Trump supporters they would agree that the media, despite Trump’s complaints of media bias, or him playing the system being rigged card near the end of the election, were two major factors in getting his message to his base of supporters and those are the fringe. I want to be clear that I’m no Secretary Clinton apologist, although I voted for her. It wasn’t a question of the lesser of the two evils – I believed and still do, that she is the better candidate. I could provide several reasons why I thought Secretary Clinton should have ran a different campaign from an electoral college standpoint – not populism. In my opinion, she was going to win the popular vote regardless. As we are learning, these two components are vastly different. Many believe that Secretary Clinton did not say or do enough to energize poor and working class voters in rural areas, and especially in the middle of the country. With all due respect to the entertainment world, I don’t believe Jay Z, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen to name a few moved the political needle enough to fancy the media, in my opinion. It is common knowledge that mainstream media cuts its teeth by covering sensationalism. Trump took it to new and dangerous levels. Now, as a result, we have kids walking the hallways of our schools chanting “white power.” Can you imagine if those same white kids were chanting that in the hallway of a Brooklyn school full of African-Americans and Latinos? It would be a tragedy waiting to happen. Now, we are left to explain to our children why swastikas are being left on the properties of Muslim and Jewish Americans and why people are being harassed across the country. Although Trump has an obligation to speak out against this kind of hate – he won’t because he knows his supporters will not allow that. Did anyone catch his comments when he met with President Obama? Remember when he said “I respect?” He could not bring himself to say that he respect President Obama. I used the word “genuinely” because the nation saw and heard him on 60 Minutes Sunday, stating what can best be described as hollow words to those spewing hate. “stop it” was all he could muster. There was nothing compassionate or sincere about those words. It sounded coded for “keep it up.” I believe he is going to learn that the slogan “Make America Great Again” is going to mean something far more different than he will realize.
While some Americans are still trying to make sense of what happened on election day, and what could be learned from it, I think the media could learn some valuable lessons from this election as well (but it won’t), because they too will be reminded of Trump’s temperament. He has already provided a glimpse into the future by his treatment of the media – the very entity that helped him. My prediction is that Trump will be the most non-transparent president we have seen in some time. I’m already finding that the media will not press Trump on much. For example, I’m wondering whether the media will pressure him into admitting that it would be breaking the law if his children were given cabinet positions, or something remotely close to it. Is it possible that nepotism could mean something entirely different than what it means today? Is it possible for Trump to ignore the nepotism? There is no way the media should allow him to get away with that. Securing both the Senate and the House is even more dangerous than the bully pulpit itself. Imagine, at least for the next four years, Trump putting his putting his money into the hands of non-family members to manage. I can’t quite wrap my head around this narcissistic billionaire allowing someone, other than himself or family to manage his fortune. The law is clear that he cannot profit from his previous businesses or be involved in any financial transactions. Remember, he was the “law and order” candidate. But what he didn’t say was whether that slogan would apply to him and his family, or his cronies. I’m betting on the Christie/New Jersey bridge-gate issue validating this point. I’m concerned that media will continue to be fascinated by the reality television aspect of this guy and not press him as hard as it should. Remember, Trump has no more use for the media in the way he once did, now that he has won the election. But the media was Trump’s biggest and most dangerous cheerleader. Please, don’t pity the media. This is the game the media likes to play – a game Donald Trump understood very well.