The Myth of the Press’s Anti-Trump October Surprise

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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146 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    I don’t know if this could have been planned better. My more paranoid instincts are suggesting Trump is a stooge for the HRC campaign. Others are telling me that it’s not the press doing it’s job and reporting but having this recent behavior handed to them by the rest of the Repubs (mainly the Bush team) as payback and to sabotage the campaign, ’cause HRC is “someone they can work with”.

    Oh, the fun! I still cannot understand how anyone could vote for either one of these tool bags. Yall enjoy election day!Report

    • Kim in reply to Damon says:

      HRC gave Trump a price to lose. That was no guarantee that he’d actually take it, mind. He could have decided (when it was apparent that he actually had a chance to win) to go for it and take over a country about to head into a global recession.

      The Bush Team was the Rubio Team (revised) and if they were competent enough to wipe their own asses… (I hear this from my friend the troll who worked the Bush campaign.)

      HRC is being run by the Powers that Be. Who also have quite a bit of swing with the media (Santelli should ring a bell).

      The idea that the “free press” is keeping us together is fucking laughable, by the way.
      The revolution will not be televised … now has a great corollary: Don’t trust the revolution that starts on TV. You’ll recognize two in the past ten years. I can cite two or three “revolutions” (successful or unsuccessful, take your pick) that weren’t televised. They work a little differently… and most importantly, don’t cause “controversy.”Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Damon says:

      My more paranoid instincts are suggesting Trump is a stooge for the HRC campaign.

      This is treated as fact by a large subset of RedState commenters, Probably the same ones who believed that Ben Domenech was framed.Report

  2. Michelle says:

    Bravo Tod! Thank you for this article.Report

  3. Aaron David says:

    So, no mention of how NBC has had the tapes and held on to them?

    NBC doesn’t look good here, and no amount of finessing will make it look any prettier. The NBC News tick-tocks published by the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and CNN portray the network as an overly cautious, lawyer-dominated entity, more interested in protecting its employee Bush—who has recently joined NBC’s Today show—than performing like a hard-charging news outlet. It was, after all and in retrospect, the biggest story of the general election. When a secular organization blames the Jewish holidays for its tardiness, as an unattributed NBC News source does in the Times story, somebody is blowing smoke. When the Washington Post, no libel and invasion-of-privacy mill, can turn around the same story in five hours indicates that NBC’s frets of legal problems were more imagined than real.


    Sure, they were putting up stuff about Trump and his horrible treatment of women, but it was not getting through, best to save this for a rainy day, when they really needed it. I mean, how long have they been the network that has the Apprentice? And they weren’t going over the tapes months ago? Is it their right to do this? Sure. As it is my right to consider them the propaganda wing of the Dems. Right now trust in media is at an all time low and this doesn’t help.

    After Dan Rather, Brian Williams, Stephen Glass, Terry Gross, etc. I have no faith in the media anymore. You can tell me this was all above board, but the media has proven otherwise.Report

    • Mo in reply to Aaron David says:

      There’s a difference between NBC and WaPo. NBC, as the owner of the original footage and show producer, likely has significantly more contractual obligations regarding behind the scenes and found footage. The WaPo, just receiving the information, does not have those restrictions*.

      The Harth accusation, Alicia Machado and a lot of unsavory stuff was published back in May. These aren’t October surprises, they’re a greatest hit boxed set.

      * A good example is the tax stuff the NYT published. The NYT is legally in the clear to publish. But if the accountant or a state tax authority tried to publish it, they’d be up poop’s creek.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Aaron David says:

      I’m not following your logic. NBC sitting on this isn’t NBC being a propaganda arm of the Democrats. It is NBC abandoning journalism entirely, in favor of protecting its commercial properties. Whoever fed the video to the Washington Post was clearly working to promote Clinton, but we don’t know who that was.Report

      • Mo in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        @richard-hershberger Not necessarily. Access Hollywood may have contracts with their guests that don’t allow publishing or distribution of new footage or behind the scenes without consent of the principals, so the lawyers could have been looking for a loophole to avoid losing a lawsuit.Report

      • Aaron David in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        The logic is that too much of our media has been caught with its hand in the cookie jar too many times. And in that, I no longer give them any benefit of the doubt. Could they just be protecting commercial properties? Not in my eyes.Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to Aaron David says:

          But NBC didn’t release the video. Some unknown person fed it to the Post. Or are you suggesting that NBC did this, intentionally giving the Post the scoop to distance itself? This seems convoluted. Or you are suggesting that NBC is in the bag for Trump?Report

          • Aaron David in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

            No, I am saying that NBC was sitting on the video to time it for the most damage. But the Post was able to pick it up.Report

            • Richard Hershberger in reply to Aaron David says:

              This assertion (the first part, about NBC) seems awfully fact-free. Sure, you can spin it that way. We can also spin it that NBC was burying the video entirely.

              Out of curiosity, what timing do you think would have been more damaging to the Trump campaign? Keep in mind that early voting has already started in part of the country.Report

            • switters in reply to Aaron David says:

              Seems like a heads you win, tails NBC news loses.

              When they are putting out unfair disproportionate and unobjective articles about Trump, they are just being their usual liberal leaning mainstream media showing their bias against the right wing candidate.

              And when they do the exact opposite, they’re apparently doing the same thing, just 12 dimensionally.

              I don’t buy it.

              A news organization sitting on a scoop for months, at risk of losing the scoop the entire time, in an attempt to control it and then release it at a time maximally adverse to the candidate is tin hat territory.

              Who can say now, but is this information of a different kind than all the rest of the stuff Trump has done? If I could go back in a time machine, I would have thought Trumps statements to the Khan family, or about John McCain being a loser for getting caught, or PTSD sufferers not being tough, or the 1000 examples of exasperating lies he tells. or paying DA’s off with his foundation, or paying his personal legal judgements through his foundation, all would have been worse than this, or at least as bad. Point being, is this SOOO bad, that NBC news could comfortably know THIS piece of information will finally be the piece that brings him down. Especially after so many other normally disqualifying events couldn’t?Report

            • nevermoor in reply to Aaron David says:

              I’ll ask the more important question: so what?

              Lets assume, for a second, that NBC wanted to hold the video until it could most harm Trump (but WaPo got it out sooner). What possible significance could that have on how people should react to the true facts it disclosed? Should undecideds vote for Trump because of NBC’s tactics? Why?Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to nevermoor says:

                @aaron-david is wrong in all of his assumptions, but in this case his instincts about being wary of NBC turn out to be justifiably well founded.

                NBC wasn’t “sitting” on this tape. TV networks are distributors of their syndicated shows, not executive producers. They don’t have possession of show property that does not make it to air. (Though they may contractually have an ownership piece to it). In this case, we know that the tape was leaked to NBC News and the Washington Post around the same time, a week prior to when the story broke. It wasn’t released by anyone immediately, because both NBC News and WaPo have editorial standards that require an attempt to have sources verified, and to have the parties involved provide context as part of the story. (e.g.: Yes, the tape is real, but it’s been substantially edited to make the recorded person appear to say something they did not.) So to that extent, we know that aaron is mistaken in his specific assumptions.

                However, it appears he’s right bout mistrusting NBC here. It now appears that the reason WaPo beat them to the punch is that NBC was unaware another news organization had been given the tape, and they (NBC) were contemplating editing out the comments made by Billy Bush, an anchor on their morning flagship show.

                That’s pretty terrible, and NBC absolutely deserves to be judged harshly for this and to have their future decisions help up to deep scrutiny. But there ethical error was on the business/profit side, not the partisan side.

                On the other hand, the accusation being made/implied here against David Fahrenthold is pretty scurrilous.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Fahrenthold, by all accounts, basically just trying to verify something Trump said DURING the primaries.

                The veteran’s fundraiser thing. He kept trying to find out first who got the money, then whether anyone got the money, then whether Donald donated any money at all. And as he pulled that string, it led to “Wait, has Donald always donated what he said” which led into the Trump foundation.

                In fact, in an interview, he mentioned he accidentally sat on a story for months because he didn’t realize what he had. He didn’t know what self-dealing was, didn’t realize it was illegal for a charity like Trump’s foundation, and it wasn’t until he was buried in the weeds of the law and the Trump Foundation that he realized information he’d gotten months back was a blatant violation of the law.

                Which led into a much deeper look at the history of the Foundation, and the discovery that it was being used for tax avoidance, to pay off lawsuits, all sorts of blatantly illegal stuff. (Culminating in finding out it was never even properly registered with the State and couldn’t legally solicit more than 25k a year in donations).

                He reads like an actual reporter who set out to answer a simple question back during the primaries (“During Trump’s charity stunt when he skipped a debate, how much was raised and who got it”) and just kept doggedly pursuing it, mostly because everything connected to it seemed to connect to something else weird.

                And it all started because a regular reported just wanted to know how much had been raised and who it went to.

                He literally reported what he found as he found it, complete with verification.

                Which is what reporters are, you know, ideally supposed to do.Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                1. That doesn’t answer the “so what” question about the Trump story.

                2. I generally find it hard to be outraged about people considering stupid ideas unless they also, you know, do them. Do we know NBC would have done that?Report

              • Switters in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I’ve got no issue with needing to be wary of NBC. Not defending their behavior at all.

                Just stating that the idea they sat on it in order to increase the damage the story would do to Trump, rather than to protect an asset of theirs (b bush) is in tin foil hat territory.Report

    • trizzlor in reply to Aaron David says:

      If the press was really sitting on the video they would have dropped it the next day during the first joint appearance between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump.Report

  4. Kolohe says:

    I with you, but darn if it doesn’t seem there was at least of little rope-a-dope going on (esp, as Aaron says above, the NBC media collective)Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Kolohe says:


      I with you, but darn if it doesn’t seem there was at least of little rope-a-dope going on (esp, as Aaron says above, the NBC media collective)

      I do think it’s true that there’s been a shift in coverage, but it’s not due to held cards. Quoting myself from the comments section over at Will’s joint:

      Here’s how/why I think the coverage has changed, for lesser to greater:

      1. To a lesser extent, some of these stories are being re-reported in a general election to a general mainstream audience. And much of how we armchair-measure news coverage is based on the reactions we observe with those consuming the news. For Trump, things that no one cared much about in the GOP base were genuinely horrifying to a larger audience. (He’s kind of the mirror-image of Romney in that way.) So some of the coverage has changed because, for example, sexual harassment is more of a story worth covering to one universe than it is to the other.

      2. To a greater extent, coverage changed because GOPers started jumping ship. THAT was what really drove the tapes coverage into high gear. And as Jason K has pointed out, the GOPers that were jumping ship were doing so for their own political skins; it had less to do with the tape content than it did we’d had two debates and Trump was going in the wrong direction fast in the polls.

      3. But the biggest reason coverage has changed is because a burning, sinking Carnival Cruise ship is more interesting than one that is slowly sailing into to port as expected. That’s true in any election, but it’s more so with this year’s. Trump has a self-destructive tendency to lose perspective, lash out at anyone and anything, and just generally lose control whenever there’s a bump in the road — and the more bumps he creates by this behavior, the more of a train wreck he becomes.

      Jon Ronson’s theory in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is that, for good or bad, the public tends to forgive (and sometimes even root for) a person it’s trying to shame if that person seems unfazed by said shaming. When they smell blood, however, they feel a need to push and punish harder. That certainly seems true of the way the public (and the TV and radio press) reacted the smug, smirking primary Donald Trump vs. the yelling, defensive, lashing-out general election Donald Trump.


  5. Richard Hershberger says:

    In 1968, Walter Cronkite went to Vietnam. When he came back, he reported what he saw: the war was a stalemate. He editorially suggested that the US should negotiate on that basis, rather than in the belief of imminent victory.

    The right had three available reality-based responses to this. It could argue that Cronkite was wrong about the situation in Vietnam and that victory was in fact imminent–a hard argument to make, given the reality on the ground. It could concede that yes, the war was a stalemate and agree with Cronkite’s recommendation about negotiations. Or it could concede that yes, the war was a stalemate and offer some constructive ideas about breaking the stalemate. Note that this was past the point where more boots and the ground and blowing more stuff up really qualified as a constructive idea. That was the strategy that got us into the stalemate in the first place.

    Instead, the right blamed the messenger. They never forgave Conkrite in particular or the media in general. I came of politically aware age in the late 1970s. It was standard dogma from the right that we could have won the war by staying the course, but for the demoralization on the home front caused by the media.

    The media’s role, in this worldview, is not to present to the best of its ability objective reality, such that a free people in a democracy have the best information possible to make decisions. Rather, it serves as a propaganda arm. The only question is whose. The mainstream media, by telling us that the war was not going well, proved itself the propaganda arm of the other side. That it was telling the truth simply did not enter into the discussion.

    Fast forward some years and we get Fox News as the product of this worldview. It might be possible to make a reality-based argument that the existing media, exemplified by CNN, was indeed biased, and that Fox News served to present an unbiased perspective. This was the natural interpretation of the “fair and balanced” slogan, but what they really meant was that they believed that the mainstream media was the liberal propaganda arm, and so Fox News balanced this by being the conservative propaganda arm. Whether their reporting was objectively true was irrelevant, just was it was irrelevant that Cronkite was right about the situation in Vietnam.

    Trumpism is the logical outcome of this choose-your-reality approach to the world. But it isn’t just the Trumpists. The “liberal media” trope is an article of faith even among the oh-so-reasonable conservative intellectuals. Trumpism is merely the most extreme manifestation.

    As for why the Access Hollywood video broke through the bubble when prior reporting did not, this is not that difficult a question. A video with an easily digestible sound bite makes a stronger impression than more abstract written reporting. The timing of whoever fed it to the Washington Post is clearly strategic, but the Washington Post didn’t decide when it would receive the video.Report

    • I think there is a lot to this notion. Witness:

      1. The notion that it is the media itself, not the stories it reports, doing “harm” to the Trump campaign. “You’re making us lose enthusiasm so we will lose” is not why the press reports things.
      2. The rosary-like repetition of mantras like “corrupt Clinton Foundation,” “Benghazi,” “Hillary enables Bill’s rape habit,” “Democrats are the real racists,” and “e-mail.” Not that there might not be points there, but they’re devoid of meaning at this point through repetition and reduction, itself reinforcing another reductive mantra: “Hillary would be worse.” Worse than what, you ask? Application of hypotheticals may well yield the answer “Worse than anyone calling themselves a Republican, no matter how awful that person actually is.”
      3. All of us know people who will only get information about current events from FOX News or other similar conservative media. Everything else is lying propaganda written by lying propagandists.
      4. Climate change denialism, with its close cousin historical revisionism. Revisionism reached a summit of sorts yesterday when Rudy! Giuliani tweeted that he didn’t remember Hillary Clinton being in NYC on 9/11 over a picture of himself walking down the street right next to her.
      5. Remember Karl Rove flipping out at the 2012 Presidential returns because his “unskewed” poll numbers told him it was going to be a Romney landslide? Remember how, apparently, Team Romney believed those numbers too? There’s some “unskewing” going on this time around, too.

      “Choose-your-own-reality” is not limited to conservatives, of course, it’s not even BSDI, it’s human nature to seek and observe and interpret information so as to affirm oneself. Rather, it’s a matter of degree. There seems to be an increasing trend of CYOR in that corner, and there’s some sort of positive feedback loop making it continue to increase.

      Whatever is causing that positive feedback to happen is the root of the problem Our Tod hints at towards the end of the OP, and is probably also the taproot of his IMO eminently plausible “Sailing Away To Irrelevance” hypothesis (that the conservative movement has been taken over by for-profit media, to its own long-term intellectual and political disadvantage).Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Revisionism reached a summit of sorts yesterday when Rudy! Giuliani tweeted that he didn’t remember Hillary Clinton being in NYC on 9/11 over a picture of himself walking down the street right next to her.

        Conspiracy! See how in the photo Clinton was slightly behind Giuliani? She stayed behind him the whole time, running in circles to stay out of his field of view whenever he turned around. There are probably photos (suppressed by the lying liberal media!) where she does bunny ears behind his head.Report

      • Guy in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Revisionism reached a summit of sorts yesterday when Rudy! Giuliani tweeted that he didn’t remember Hillary Clinton being in NYC on 9/11 over a picture of himself walking down the street right next to her.

        I don’t have the context here, but it sounds like he was just being sarcastic. I mean, that’s how I’d interpret any statement of that form.Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      If memory serves, that Cronkite trip was instrumental in producing LBJ’s, “I will not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party…” And Nixon’s “secret plan to win” won the day in 1968.

      So yeah, CBS definitely had it in for Republicans.Report

    • nevermoor in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      … and it was about generic white women. Hence the reactions of so many empathy-free republicans who suddenly saw Trump coming after their daughters, but couldn’t see the same problem when it was directed at Rosie, Machado, specific beauty queens, or whatever else.Report

  6. Autolukos says:

    A minor note: Jill Harth’s allegations were reported in February by the Guardian, though they left her anonymous at that time.Report

  7. Saul Degraw says:

    Again, I am on Richard’s side here. Trump is the logical conclusion of the increasing right ward drift. Maybe it started with Talk Radio in the 1980s and then amplified with Fox News and blogs. But the GOP has spent most of my life sneering against the MSM. They have spent most of my life thinking that the Democratic Party and its supporters were at best inconvenient but most likely illegitimate. This includes places that sound reasonable like the Buckley Club.

    You are right that this is probably going to get worse. Trump never received more than a plurality of the GOP but I think that plurality likes the racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, Xenophobic,homophobic, etc. This loud ugliness is not going away and is growing bolder.Report

    • Michelle in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I totally agree. The outcome of this election is going to be ugly no matter which candidate wins. As Josh Marshall argues convincly over at TPM, Trump has normalized a new level of racism, misogyny, and anti-semitism in American political discourse. What regular Republicans once winked at in the Limbaugh wing of the party, Trump says aloud. Now that he’s gone full Brietbart, there’s no putting the ugly back in the bottle.

      I fear what’s to come.Report

      • Mo in reply to Michelle says:

        He only normalizes it if he wins. If he struggles to get the 40% that would vote for Dead Fish (R) against Hillary Fishin’ Clinton, then those views become poison. And if they lose the House (or get within 5 seats of losing it), they become doubly poison.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Mo says:

          Not if it’s profitable to the people driving the party. And by all indications, it is.Report

          • Mo in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Profitable to whom? Bannon and Trump? They’re done after November. The donors that run the show are a lot wealthier and have more riding on this. If there’s a risk that this becomes normal and folks like the Kochs decide it’s bad for business, they will make sure to smother it, by dumping money in primaries instead of merely sitting on the sidelines.

            The Trump name has become so toxic, that they’ve started to brand some of their properties Scion.Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to Mo says:

              @mo & @saul-degraw You’re both wrong here. Trump is going to be ratings gold for a long time after this election, because of this election. He now has 20-30% of the Republican Party willing to listen to his every word. He’s going to do what his people have been saying all along — he’s going to have a conservative media network to compete with Fox, which by the look soft things is preparing to be less Fox like, which will create a vacuum just waiting for Trump.Report

              • Is Roger Ailes available to head it, or does his non-compete apply? I’ve read both.Report

              • RTod in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Most likely a both/neither.

                Unlikely he doesn’t have one, but at this level it usually means lawyers haggling and coming up with a buy out price.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to RTod says:

                Yeah, he wouldn’t get the really stringent one like sandwich makers have.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Well that’s depressing….Report

              • Doctor Jay in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I agree with Tod. I think that Bannon, in particular, is salivating over all the money he’s going to make. Though I also think that the last week has burned up a bunch of money on other projects, and his children (who are in charge of those projects) have been saying as much.

                To answer Mike Schilling – In CA, I am told by those who should know, a non-compete for more than 6 months is unenforceable. In NYState, it might go out to a year, tops. They can shade this, though, with “consulting” contracts, etc. But honestly, I expect Bannon to try to decapitate Ailes so he can be The Guy.Report

              • Mo in reply to Doctor Jay says:

                @doctor-jay That typically only applies for ordinary employees. For officers, which would include FNC’s CEO, you can get much stricter non-competes.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Mo says:

                IANAL, but I’d guess it’s an entirely different story if they’re compensated, the way a C-level employee’s is, or uncompensated, like a sandwich technician’s.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                What sort of numbers does One America Network get regularly? I know they got a spike when Trump was regularly there early in the campaign (it was I think the highest ratings Sarah Palin ever got in her run there), but do they have enough viewers of the right sort to make it more than just another wingnut welfare joint (lIke e.g. Washington Times)?Report

              • Mo in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                If he loses by 8% to Hillary, he’ll be a laughingstock. His brand is “winning” and he lost, embarrassingly, to a girl. He will be a joke everywhere else. He may get good ratings, by cable news standards*, but he won’t have influence. Also, the upcoming Trump U and Trump Foundation suits will have an effect.

                * Which is NBA summer league levelsReport

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Mo says:

                Maybe. But he’s already laying the groundwork so that the base thinks he’s been stabbed in the back by the party.

                And the WNBA might have better ratings than Fox News, but when Ailes left it had revues of over $2 billion a year. Assuming Ailes is part of the network (and I do), I think you’ll see a lot of investors put up a lot of capital.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                But he’s already laying the groundwork so that the base thinks he’s been stabbed in the back by the party.

                And the liberal media, and the election process, and government generally … This is one of the more nerve-wracking aspects of his message both now and going forward.

                Adding: it’s noteworthy to me that Trump keeps saign Dems (and the media, etc) are trying to influence or even “rig” the election when the mounting stream of reports connecting Trump to Russian-government hackers and Wikileaks leaks indicates he’s actually engaging in the exact thing he’s accusing, without evidence, his perceved enemies of.Report

              • Mo in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                But how much of that success was finding an uinserved market and serving it, with little to no competition. Trump Nuze would a) need to peel off FNC viewers and b) need to get picked up by cable networks. Fox News had the advantage of being attached to a company with properties that cable companies wanted, so they could be bundled together. What will Ailes, Bannon and Trump offer cable companies?Report

              • Dakarian in reply to Mo says:

                If I may step in, I think they have succeeded in A already. In the circles that still adore Trump, Fox news is being lumped with the normal GOP as part of the Liberal front. The declaration is that they’ve changed from being ‘just barely neutral’ and have now shifted wholly to the left. They’ve felt that way of the GOP for some time and held strong the label that the Republicans and Democrats were just the same party. When Trump, a real republican came out, Fox showed their true colors.

                Thus the numbers that kept Hannity and Rush high on the hog are following Trump wherever he goes. A good few are now thinking he’ll lose but see it less as Trump failing and more of this country failing to accept him.

                They are more than primed to give up on Fox and any other news outlet that doesn’t follow the Trump banner.

                As for B, I take note that my TV is off and my computer is on this website. Trends are seeing that this is an increasingly regular event. And Trump has shown himself capable of handling the internet. The group will find their home here somehow and the audience will follow him.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Dakarian says:

                I agree. In my view, Trumpism grew out of conservative’s intense and total rejectionism of All Things Dem (governance, politics, media, etc). It was only a matter of time before that same hyper-paranoid rejectionist inclination was directed at the GOP and conservatism itself.

                For those folks, conservatism wasn’t failed, it was failing.Report

              • Mo in reply to Dakarian says:

                @dakarian The problem with your take on B is that the median Fox News viewer (68) is older than the age which one maximizes their social security payout (67). There are cord cutters and there are Fox News viewers, but that Venn diagram has about 3 people in the overlap.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            I doubt this. Big donors are fleeing the GOP. Trump’s properties are losing lots of business because of the toxicity of the campaign.Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              Big donors are fleeing the GOP.

              Citation needed.

              AFAIK, big donors are expressing skepticism about Trump, and shifting focus downticket so as to not absolutely waste their money on a doomed campaign. But I don’t think they’re withdrawing from politics and I don’t think they’re becoming Democrats.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:



                On Thursday, several such GOP donors informed the Republican National Committee that Trump had finally gone too far. This coalition of temporarily embarrassed billionaires called on the RNC to disavow Trump now that the mogul’s apparent affinity for sexual assault was threatening “to inflict lasting damage on the party’s image,” the New York Times reports.

                “At some point, you have to look in the mirror and recognize that you cannot possibly justify support for Trump to your children — especially your daughters,” David Humphreys, a Missouri business executive who’d provided $2.5 million to Republican candidates in recent years, told the paper.Report

  8. Pillsy says:

    Not really directly relevant to the discussion here, but there’s a non-trivial overlap between people who “question the timing” of the tape’s release and people who think the stolen Podesta emails are super-important. The whole objection seems particularly strange from Trump supporters: “Our candidate is an irredeemable shitbird, and it’s your fault for pointing it out at an inconvenient time.”

    Even if it’s true, so what?

    I have a good deal more sympathy for frustrated #NeverTrump folks. Nonetheless, I think at least part of why even many of them didn’t pay sufficient attention to the fact that we knew Trump was a pig all along is that they routinely share the belief, prevalent on the center-right, that “political correctness” is a dangerous scourge [1]. In my experience, people who believe that often underestimate or downplay the importance of even openly bigoted or misogynist remarks.

    [1] “Trump is really a reaction to out-of-control SJWs,” has real currency among #NeverTrump people.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Pillsy says:

      Not really directly relevant to the discussion here, but there’s a non-trivial overlap between people who “question the timing” of the tape’s release and people who think the stolen Podesta emails are super-important. The whole objection seems particularly strange from Trump supporters: “Our candidate is an irredeemable shitbird, and it’s your fault for pointing it out at an inconvenient time.”

      I think it’s more along the lines of showing that the Clinton campaign, like the GOP, is part of a secret cabal of power brokers who determine outcomes via demonstrably (OBVIOUSLY!) undemocratic mechanisms. Everything’s “rigged”, from the timing of the HotMic! video to Podesta’s emails to Hillary’s not being in jail over Benghazi to Obama’s being the first Kenyan Muslim President to Ryan’s refusal to be nice to Trump. It’s all rigged, part of a Grand Conspiracy.

      It’s not that they think their candidate is a shit-bird. That’s actually besides the point. It’s that their candidate is exposing all the corruption in the political process they’ve been nurtured on over the last … oh… Put it this way: the paranoid style in American politics runs deep.Report

  9. Morat20 says:

    As another note: The GOP candidates did very little opposition research on Trump. They didn’t take him seriously as a candidate, thinking he’d flame out early like all the other vanity candidates.

    Even once that seemed unlikely, they were hamstrung by time, by tactical considerations (they needed Trump’s voters, which limited attack avenues. If 20% of the primary voters like authoritarian figures, you can’t really attack hard on how authoritarian he is. You might damage him, but you’ve cut yourself off from that 20%), bu the number of candidates needing oppo research, and by coordination problems (nobody wanted to take the hit for the team). Again, the sheer number of candidates and the fractured GOP base hurt. A line of attack might cost Trump more than you, but might actually help a third candidate.

    Clinton did not face those problems. She had months where her oppo team knew Trump was more than a vanity candidate, and they had already done their jobs on both Sanders and Clinton herself. (More on that in a second). She also had fewer problems with ‘friendly fire’ — the GOP base was never going to vote for her, so she was more unconstrained with attack lines as she didn’t have to worry about turning off GOP base voters. Clinton is still constrained, but not nearly as badly as the GOP primary politicians were. She had more information, more lines of attack, and frankly more resources.

    Lastly, and probably the most damaging — unlike every other SERIOUS candidate (Clinton included), Trump refused to have oppo research done on himself. It left him uniquely vulnerable, unable to anticipate attacks or surprises, much less have pre-planned responses.

    It’s not the media or a conspiracy or 11D chess. It’s a combination of a highly amateur campaign, a very undisciplined candidate, and a base that approves of some things far more voters dislike.Report

    • nevermoor in reply to Morat20 says:

      I actually like Ezra Klein’s take best.

      This was a bad few weeks for Donald Trump, and it’s because of Donald Trump. It’s not the media, it’s not Hillary Clinton, it’s not the Republicans, it’s not the Democrats, it’s not international bankers. It’s him, and who he is, and what he does and how he reacts.


  10. Stillwater says:

    Good post Tod.

    A fourth (or is it fifth?) possible account for why conservatives and GOPers in particular turned a blind eye to all the reporting on Trump’s character over this cycle: they’ve internalized Cleek’s Law as the fundamental operating principle defining national level GOPism today. IOW, opposing Democrats has been elevated to an end in itself, and Trump, being a not-Dem, served that purpose just as well as any other candidate.Report

    • Pillsy in reply to Stillwater says:

      Better, even, because his revolting behavior does a great job upsetting liberals. He’s a much easier person to truly loathe than Kasich or Jeb.

      (This might also explain why Cruz basically came in second.)Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Stillwater says:

      Fred Clark at Slacktivist has an interesting piece on Trump supporters in general, and Evangelicals in particular. He divides them into two groups: Team Because and Team Despite. Team Because supports Trump because they are enthusiastic about all his behavioral traits. Team Despite supports him despite these traits, because they habitually vote for whoever has the “(R)” after their name. The interesting question is whether, or to what degree, Trump’s behavior will keep Team Despite from voting for him, and the effect on the down ticket.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:


        If Nate Silver is correct, Trump is going down in flames because women are abandoning him droves. This means Republican women especially. There was some tweetstorm about an alleged conservative activist who is leaving the GOP because she is tired of defending their record on women and this week blew it up in her face.

        So the despites seem torn. The ones that stay seem to be older Evangelicals who abhor Trump’s vulgarity but mainly care about social issues and the know that HRC is not likely to appoint any judges or Justices who agree with them.Report

  11. j r says:

    The media conspired to suppress damning evidence against the weak Republican nominee throughout the primaries, only to release their Kraken as an “October surprise.”

    I know that I’m not the median voter, but I could care less if this were true or not. Part of the president’s job is to deal with a media that is often antagonistic, although more often not antagonistic enough. Part of the president’s job is to lead his or her own party and manage the relationship with the other party. Part of the president’s job is to negotiate foreign policy in a world of actors who are openly hostile to American interests. If you can’t do that, then you’re not right for the job. It doesn’t matter to me at all if you can’t do it because you’re incompetent or you can’t do it because the whole world is out to get you. Those two things are the same as far as I am concerned.

    Which reminds me how I thought it was so odd a few weeks back when Hillary was having her rough couple of weeks and her supporters were lamenting about the supposedly unfair treatment she was getting because the press dared to ask her questions. Why would Hillary being a victim of the media make me want to vote for her more? That’s about how I feel about Trump now. Why would I vote for a victim? Again, I’m probably not the median voter.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to j r says:


      A candidate that can not handle a hostile media is ill suited for the job.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to j r says:


      Assuming members of the media actually conspired against Trump*, I think there are two big questions to ask…

      1.) What does this tell us about the media?
      2.) What does this tell us about Trump as a candidate?

      The answer to 1.) is a conversation worth having.
      The answer to 2.) is, as you point out, not particularly meaningful.

      So why is this narrative being floated?

      Two reasons, I suspect:
      1.) If the media is willing to conspire with the timing, maybe they are conspiring on the news itself. These reports can’t be trusted!
      2.) Certain folks can’t differentiate between media outlets they perceive as being biased and those they perceive as the outlet being biased towards or against. So if the media is bad and bad in favor of Clinton, than Clinton is bad, too. And they can’t vote for the bad person!

      * And I think Tod perfectly lays out the case for why that isn’t true.Report

  12. Doctor Jay says:

    Well, I have to say that there’s a difference between reporting of a bad behavior and a tape or video of it. The latter is much, much more powerful, and works much better on broadcast media outlets.

    Nevertheless, they could have seen this coming. The reason they didn’t is that the primary voters who voted for Trump were voting for someone who transgresses. The fact that he transgressed in the past does not make him undesirable, it makes him more desirable. His trasngressive nature is what they wanted – they wanted someone to burn the system down, and he’s doing exactly that. Although not in the way that they thought, but quite possibly in the way they need.

    You see, I happen to think that a fair fraction of Trump supporters are people who are suffering, and feel forgotten and left out of the political system. And to some extent they are. The austerity caucus and the opposition to anything that might make their lives better has come from the Republican leadership, but it’s been blamed on Democrats. The system has failed them, both in the sense of care, and in the sense of truth.

    They understand this and want to wreck things. And wreckage is what they are getting. It might even, in the long run, make some things better for them.

    The other factor is that Republican poltics these days is run by media figures – Roger Ailes, Steve Bannon, Sean Hannity, et al, who maybe care more about ratings or click throughs than they care about winning the presidency.Report

  13. Chip Daniels says:

    Even setting aside the new stuff about Trump, a lot of what is damning is stuff he said publicly, to millions of radio listeners.

    Its weird, like, aren’t there millions of people who remember hearing the Howard Stern show?
    And didn’t New York based media like Spy Magazine make a cottage industry out of documenting his boorish braying? I’m an out of touch LA native, and even I heard about his ugliness long ago.

    Yet somehow its being treated like some sooper sekrit DaVinci Code.Report

  14. Kazzy says:

    I’ve seen a more cynical interpretation of this being the camel-breaking straw with two slightly different bends…

    1.) Women have been saying Trump is a serial sexual assaulter for years and we only believed it when a man (Trump himself!) said so.

    2.) We tolerated first hand evidence of Trump’s attacks on more marginalized groups (e.g., Mexicans, Blacks, people with disabilities) but would not tolerate first hand evidence of his attacks on a less marginalized, more media-sympathetic group (i.e., white women).

    I think there is actually a blend of the two that needs to be considered: video evidence is always going to land differently than other forms of accusations. But, yes, many of us were surprisingly okay with much of his ugliness when it was directed at groups we are less connected with.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

      Don’t worry. It turns out a lot of the people who were okay with it, then suddenly NOT okay with it, became okay with it again as polls indicated remaining “not okay” would anger their voters.

      We can just ignore that unfortunate blip and assume they were okay with it all along. Members of LDS excepted, as they seem to have been pretty unhappy to begin with and have moved onto “furious” with not a lot of movement back.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

      Kazzy: 2.) We tolerated first hand evidence of Trump’s attacks on more marginalized groups (e.g., Mexicans, Blacks, people with disabilities) but would not tolerate first hand evidence of his attacks on a less marginalized, more media-sympathetic group (i.e., white women).

      The counter to this hypothesis was Megyn Kelly. (which, to be honest, I thought *was* going to be the end of Trump, because you can go after immigrants and minorities with impunity but not photogenic white women *that are on your side*)Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Kolohe says:

        Sadly, we all overestimated the GOP base’s views on putting uppity women in their place.

        It’s worth noting that Trump is hemorrhaging women over this, not men. It’s been awhile since the primary for me to recall for sure, but I think he won the primary election with a male-heavy vote, at least prior to the bandwagon effect kicking in.

        As I’ve said before, the cleft that GOP politicians are stuck in is that while this offends lots of people, a rather shocking amount of GOP core voters actually approve of it.

        Ditch Trump and offend at least 1/3 of your voters (who like Trump) and another 1/3 who are Team Red For Life or at least Team Anyone But Hillary. Stick with Trump, and offend the 1/3 of your base that’s standing there slack-jawed that the GOP is sticking with a guy who bragged about sexual assault.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kolohe says:

        The hyper cynical response is that the right ultimately saw her as a woman (and dismissed her) and the left saw her as a white conservative (and dismissed her).

        Note: I’m not necessarily advancing these theories as much as reporting on them. They’ve been present on my (largely liberal) FB feed lately.Report

        • Mo in reply to Kazzy says:

          It’s less this and more the fact that GOP women abandoned him in the primary, but they had insufficient numbers to prevail and liberal women also have insufficient numbers to affect a Republican primary.Report

      • nevermoor in reply to Kolohe says:

        Repeating my own comment above, but I think it’s more:

        1. GOP does not engage in empathy when contrary to white male interests. So the reaction was: sucks for Megyn, but I’m going to keep my head down.

        2. Liberals were too busy with the popcorn to interject themselves into a circular firing squad (which I’m not saying is objectively admirable).Report

  15. Saul Degraw says:

    I think the issue is how does Trump handle the election when he loses (which looks like an increasing certainity). The answer seems to be like he is not going to handle it well and the norms of democracy depend on gracious losers:

  16. Saul Degraw says:

    In Adrian’s thread on guns, I discussed how open carry can often be an implied threat to those that you dislike for other policy reasons. Seems to be the case and with Trump’s rhetoric encouraging this sort of behavior.

    I expect people to handwave this way in 3 … 2….Report

    • Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      While I’ll not handwave this away, this appears to be a pretty rural area of VA. I hardly think carry is rare there. Maybe the guy should not have stared at them all day?Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Damon says:

        I’m a little unclear what the protest actually was about.

        If they were protesting, I dunno, Ditmar’s voting record on abortion and they happened to be open carrying, that’s certainly likely a non-issue.

        From what I can tell from the interviews of each of them, however, they don’t seem to be protesting anything. They just showed up saying they supported Donald Trump and stood in front of a window with guns and stared at the people inside. Not enough data here yet to draw definitive conclusions, but that feels more like a threat than a protest.Report

  17. Saul Degraw says:

    @tod-kelly and others

    Some questions that might or might not be related:

    Last week when Republicans were distancing themselves from Trump because of the Hollywood Access sexual assault remarks, a lot of them were talking about how they were repudiating Trump because of their wives and daughters. On the Democratic to Left-side, I saw a lot of tweets along the lines of “I wish a GOP politician could repudiate Trump’s comments without needing a daughter” or “Wouldn’t it be great to hear a Republican say he is withdrawing an endorsement for Trump to impart values to his sons?”

    What do you think accounts for the differences in the Democratic and Republican POVs? Do you think it says anything about future difficulties in communication and get-along (but still disagree) spirit that democracy seems to require? Are Democrats and Republicans just on different planets for this issue?Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      My guess is tradition. To many conservatives, protecting your wife and daughters from harm is an important part of what a man is supposed to do. It really isn’t about the violation of a woman’s autonomy and body for it’s own sake. Its an attempt to demonstrate chivalry.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

        There’s certainly a cultural aspect to the precise wording people use. But the thing I notice is that liberals are attacking conservatives who’ve abandoned Trump for not expressing the right reasons for doing so. It reminds of a Dan Savage quote I read a while back. He was asked about HIllary’s opposition to SSM back in the 80s and if he thought that ought to be disqualifying. And rather than go into purity tests and consistency and long-held grievances, his answer was that she holds the right view now, so there’s nothing more to talk about.

        Liberals often have a very special way of missing the point, seems to me.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I think it’s all politics.

      I think the Rs need to communicate to the base why the tape makes them want to pull away. I think the response from the Ds has more to do with blocking off a line of defense. God knows I’ve heard a lot of male Dem pols and pundits use the “wives/daughters/etc.” Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a broader point that might have merit, but that’s not why you see Dems doing it. They’re trying to box all of the Rs in with Trump.Report

    • Mo in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Is it that different than Obama saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin.” Personalizing things is human.Report

      • Autolukos in reply to Mo says:

        That’s the comparison I came up with as well.

        Of course, the umbrage is going the other way this time.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Mo says:

        @mo @autolukos

        I think it is in terms of the debates on sexual assault that are going on.

        Obviously no decent human wants his or her daughter to be the victim of sexual assault and to be “grabbed by the pussy” to use Trump’s words. This includes GOP politicians.

        However, I think that in terms of the broader conversation, a GOP politician saying “I can’t stand by Trump because of his comment because I want to set a good lesson for my sons’ would get someone kudos on the left because it showed he or she (especially he) “got it.” They got that sexual assault starts and end with men and how men encourage each other in the ways we talk about women. It would say “This is an unacceptable way for men to talk and act.”Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:


          Here is where a little empiricism needs to come into play. You can’t solve a problem unless you know what the problem is. We all agree that sexual assault is bad. The average liberal perspective on sexual assault is that the ratio between perpetrators and victims is roughly one to one. If that is the case, than the liberal critiques of what causes sexual assault, rape culture, is correct and liberal solutions would probably solve the problem.

          I believe that there is recent research that suggests that the perpetrator:victim ratio is not one to one. Rather, you have many women that are sexually assaulted but a much smaller number of perpetrators with many victims. This means that the idea of rape culture is at least partially invalid because most men know not to sexually assault women despite media’s presentation of women. This means that the problem is entirely different and you are dealing with a small number of men that basically feel free to do anything to want for whatever justification they can muster. This means that simply arresting them, putting them on trial, and punishing them appropriately if convicted is the best way to reduce sexual assault because it will send a message that you got caught.

          Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, Dov Charney, and Jimmy Savile got away with sexual assault for decades because of their power and status. They committed grave acts of sexual assault because of they believed their status gave them that right and their ability to get away with it reinforced that belief. If this is the normal rationalization behind sexual assault than simply punishing perpetrators more frequently through the criminal justice system is a better way to lower the amount of sexual assault than deep talks about rape culture or toxic masculinity.Report

          • Maria in reply to LeeEsq says:

            My reading of what rape culture describes is not so much that all the men are out doing horrible things to women. It is that a few men are doing horrible things AND that too many otherwise decent men are either standing by and doing/saying nothing or they diminish the seriousness of the situation in a misguided effort to help a friend or something. Hearing men that are as offended by comments such as Trump’s or by too weak punishments by the CJ system (a la Brock Turner) goes a long way towards making women feel like men are finally understanding what too many women have experienced in their lives. And having men acknowledge that how boys are raised matters as much as how girls are raised in helping to reduce harassment and violence against women is important. For every Trump you have many Billy Bushes.Report

          • notme in reply to LeeEsq says:

            How did Bill Clinton get away with it?Report

        • Autolukos in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I’m quite confident that the internet left’s response to a GOP politician’s comment along those lines would have been, “why do they always make things about men?”. The phrasing could well indicate some dubious ideas, but it is also obviously a rhetorical device used to emphasize concrete connections to and empathy for women, many of whom have personally been victims (whether or not the speaker is aware). I find the determinedly uncharitable reading of it deplorable and corrosive.

          Plenty of GOPers have actually said outrageous things; there is no need to go fishing for offense in boilerplate.Report

  18. Kolohe says:

    We live in a media world where the Secretary of Defense is on a late night comedy show in the same week that the US Navy is weapons hot, while some dude who appeared on TV in a red sweater is being scrutinized by the New York Times.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

      If he wanted to publicly communicate that he hadn’t yet decided to vote against Trump, he deserved everything coming to him.Report

      • Mo in reply to Jaybird says:

        I just read the NY Times article on him and it was quite sympathetic. It seemed more like it was chastising Gizmodo and their ilk.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Mo says:

          Things I learned from the article chastising Gizmodo and their ilk:

          Ken Bone had a vasectomy.
          He commented on the stolen nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence.
          He commented on the deliberately posted pictures on the Bodyperfection and RealGirls subreddits.
          He had a take on the Trayvon Martin shooting that was !woke.
          He works at a coal plant.
          He forged insurance documents in his teens.

          None of this is shit that I should freaking know about the guy who asked a question at the second debate.

          It all freaking started with pictures of Ken Bone and captions with stuff like “How will you protect my job as a card in Guess Who?” and “This (12letterword) looks like a guy who wiggles his fingers and says ‘Don’t mind if I dooooooo…’ as he takes a donut”.

          It’s freaking Joe the freaking Plumber all over again and it’s communicating to Joe Freaking Average that he has no freaking place questioning his freaking betters.Report

  19. greginak says:

    Haven’t read most of the comments since i’ve been flying all day. However re: October surpirse.

    There is definitely one going on right now as we speak. The instigators have admitted it and want to knee cap a prez candidate. Of course this is Assange and wikileaks and very much maybe the Russians. Assanage said he wants Clinton to lose and all those hacked emails are coming out right now trying to sink her. And it’s October. So you wants and October Surprise you gots one. Stolen emails from a variety of D’s coming out since the D convention. Of course the emails don’t add up to squat but thats the sad fact for R’s and Assange.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to greginak says:

      If Wikileaks was actually doing what it claimed, it’d have simply released ALL the emails the moment they were vetted and scrubbed of personal information (which they have gotten increasingly bad at doing), rather than dribble them out a few at a time trying to manipulate public perception.

      The purpose of Wikileaks is, ostensibly, not to shape public opinion or news — but to give out the facts and information that are hidden from the public but might be relevant to making decisions.

      Of course, Assange has a Kim-sized hate-on for HRC and is clearly happy to be spoon fed by Russia. And by god, the saddest part is — this is the most damaging Russian intelligence and Assange can put together.

      A giant, fat, nothingburger.

      I think the Clinton’s carry a curse with them, one that inspires in their enemies hope — solely that the Clintons can crush it by being ordinary politicians doing ordinary stuff. All that smoke, never a fire.

      Hey, there’s an irony. The most Bond Villian thing about the Clintons is that they’re not Bond Villians, and that’s deeply upsetting to their political enemies.Report

  20. trizzlor says:

    >>I hate to say this, but I fear it’s all about to get worse.

    What positive indicators are you looking for?

    I’d like to see the party do two things:

    (1) Kill your darlings. Actually acknowledge that Marco Rubio – the standard bearer the party had chosen for the next generation – distinguished himself by arguing that Obama was willfully (rather than misguidedly) trying to destroy the country. That Ted Cruz’s entire presidential career was calculated around praising and denouncing Trump whenever it was politically useful. That Mitt Romney – the man on hundreds of #NeverTrump “Miss Me Yet” memes – was the very person who launched Trump into political respectability simply to please the base (the same base he then returned to criticize after Trump decided to skip the middleman). That 83% of the party voted for Trump or people that actively endorsed Trump. And that this will not be undone by simply editing Trump out of the GOP historical photos.

    (2) Point to alternative media institutions. The problem with conspiracy theories about the mainstream media is that there is not a single example of conservative media that can be held up as a model. FOX straight news is indistinguishable from the rest of network media (see also: Major Garrett). The Daily Caller, Free Beacon, etc. are just repackaging AP wire stories with punditry mixed in (which is wrong often enough to discredit their contribution). NRO + Weekly Standard have ditched the wire entirely and just run the punditry. And I’m not even getting into Rush, Levin, and Hannity. If James O’Keefe can get millions for an investigative compound (and still not know how to operate a phone) then there is plenty of opportunity for a conservative @Fahrenthold. There’s just no interest.Report