The major media is spending the final days before the 2018 congressional midterms tsk-tsking President Trump for running a campaign built on “fear.”
After Trump released an ad playing up his administration’s tough stance on illegal immigration and warning that Democrats could let dangerous people in the country, CNN and MSNBC attacked him, deriding the advertisement for “peddling fear.”
Yet many of these same TV talking heads — as the above montage shows — are themselves exploiting people’s fears, in particular in their coverage of Trump.
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said on his eponymous MSNBC show last week that the administration is “engaging in fear mongering,” and “lying” and “racism.”
Sounds bad, right?
But that same Joe Scarborough frequently peddles fear himself.
During Trump’s negotiations with North Korea, Scarborough frequently warned a nuclear holocaust could be nigh. “His erratic behavior could be leading the United States towards World War III, could be leading America towards a nuclear war,” Scarborough warned. “We had the nuclear clock when we were all growing up. It’s probably closer to midnight ... than any time it’s been since the Cuban missile crisis."
CNN’s Brian Stelter focused much of his most recent Sunday show, Reliable Sources, on the Trump campaign’s use of fear. Trump, the Stelter said, is “holding rallies all over the country [and] sinking to new lows with his lies and fear-mongering.”
“His closing arguments have been fear of immigrants, fear of the caravan and hate the media,” Stelter told his panel.
But when he’s not denouncing the use of fear, Stelter exploits it. The CNN host is one of the prominent media personalities who pushes the idea that Trump is mentally incompetent to carry out the duties of the president. During one such segment he said Trump “sounds deeply troubled and unhinged. This is why questions about his fitness for office are so urgent. This is the biggest story that I see happening right now.”
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews likewise spent the majority of a recent show denouncing Trump for utilizing “fear” as a campaign tactic. Matthews approvingly quoted a New York Times piece arguing that, “the president has fully embraced a dark anti-immigrant message in the hope that stoking fear will motive voters to reject Democrats.”
But at other times, Matthews has proven himself a capable fear merchant. During an interview on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show,” Matthews warned that Trump has “the amazing power to destroy this planet” with a single finger. He’s also frequently warned that America could morph into a tyrannical empire run by exclusively by the Trump family. Before 2020, Matthews once said, “we’re gonna have either a junta in the next three years or we’ll have the Romanovs,” referring to the ousted Russian royal family.
CNN’s Jim Acosta has likewise played both sides of the fear coin. During a recent report the Trump gadfly chastised the administration for “trying to drive up fear and rage when it comes to these migrants coming up from Central America towards the U.S. border with Mexico.” This same CNN reporter, however, once likewise warned that Trump’s negotiations with North Korea were leading toward a “doomsday nightmare scenario.”
And this, of course, is just a select sampling. Any TV viewer knows well that the media thrives on fear. If these reporters care about their own credibility, they can’t try to have it both ways.