Last April Donald Trump fired himself as the Coronavirus Task Force spokesmodel. It was a termination necessitated by the obvious harm he was doing to his already floundering reelection campaign and the campaigns of his fellow Republicans. No one lamented his three month absence considering the fact that, due to his ignorance and ego, he had nothing of value to contribute anyway.
Trump himself complained that the briefings served no purpose and were a waste of time. “The American people are getting nothing but Fake News,” he whined about an event where he was the dominant speaker. That’s quite a confession.
So it was with some surprise that Trump renewed his canceled broadcasts last month. The new version of the Trump Virus Show was recast with only the eponymous star. The supporting cast of doctors, epidemiologists, and other experts were sacked, presumably because their knowledge and ability to communicate upstaged Diva Donald.
So now we are, once again, witnessing the absurdity of the President of the United States being reduced to the daily recitation of dry statistics that could be easily read by an intern or an elementary schooler, either of whom would do a better job. Trump’s stodgy, emotionless oratory couldn’t possibly be more annoying.
This ought not to be dismissed as just another peculiarity of the Trump Era. There is, of course, a deadly pandemic ravaging the nation and the world. The economy is in shambles with a record number of people unemployed, high rates of evictions and foreclosures, business bankruptcies increasing, and more Americans seeking assistance from welfare agencies and food banks.
Yet somehow Trump finds the time to stand before the press – who he repeatedly maligns in Stalinist terms as the “enemy of the people,” – and performs his reality TV shtick. He disseminates provable lies, yells at and insults reporters, shamelessly lavishes undue praise on himself, and viciously attacks Democrats – and even Republicans – that he perceives as adversarial or disloyal.
Most of the time consumed in Trump’s “briefing” is wasted on matters having nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. He regales in the performance of the stock market, which his policies are artificially propping up for the benefit of the wealthy and is a poor indicator of the economy that is currently in recession. He weaves fictions about his alleged legislative achievements. And he desperately invents electoral news that casts him as the victor in contest that exists only in his demented mind.
These charades are actually poorly disguised alternatives for the campaign rallies and other blatant politicking that he can’t pull together. Trump is reported to be despondent after weeks of not getting his ego stroked by worshipful disciples. So he demands attention by pretending to stage news conferences that are devoid of any actual news.
For that reason, the media should show some integrity and decline to service Trump’s pathetic and narcissistic neediness. He has proven repeatedly that he has nothing newsworthy to convey. So by showing up, the press is acting as his campaign’s communications staff. They are giving him free airtime and allowing him to spread his propaganda, lies, and hate speech.
If Trump wants to rant about Democrats and pay tribute to himself, he can pay for ads like any other candidate. In the meantime, the press can send junior reporters with cameras to document Trump’s meltdowns and then air whatever turns out to have some substantive news value, if anything. Short of that, the media needs to step back and stop helping to further Trump’s electoral aspirations.
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