Apr 14 2020

Cold Open

Fake News

Not News But True

As an aside, he’s suing one of the TV Stations that aired it but not Priorities USA.

Trump Campaign Sues Small Wisconsin TV Station Over Critical Super PAC Ad
By Matt Shuham, Talking Points Memo
April 13, 2020

The owner of a northern Wisconsin television station is stumped as to why the President’s reelection campaign is suing over a critical super PAC ad it ran.

“Why they selected my little station in Northern Wisconsin, I have no idea,” Rockfleet Broadcasting President R. Joseph Fuchs told TPM on the phone Monday. Rockfleet owns three stations including WJFW-TV, the NBC affiliate in Rhinelander, Wisconsin targeted by the campaign.

Trump’s slim victory in Wisconsin in 2016 was key for his ultimate edge in the Electoral College against Hillary Clinton.

Now, his campaign is suing the TV station there over an ad that’s gone viral in recent weeks, from the Democratic-aligned super PAC Priorities USA. Last month, the campaign said it’d sent “cease-and-desist” letters to stations in several key swing states over the ad.

Dave Heller, deputy director of the Media Law Resource Center, told TPM it seemed likely that the Trump campaign was sending a “shot across the bow to other local television stations” by suing WJFW rather than the super PAC that paid to air the ad.

“It’s really a very risky area to go into, to be asking courts to subject every statement back-and-forth between candidates to the standards of a defamation suit,” Heller said.

Splicing two separate bits of audio together, the ad quotes Trump as saying at a campaign rally, “The coronavirus … this is their new hoax.”

Trump contends he was referring to Democrats’ effort to criticize his handling of the pandemic as a “hoax” — not the virus itself.

“Absent the deceitful alteration of the audio, it is clear that ‘this’ does not refer to the coronavirus and instead refers directly to the Democrats’ politicization of the pandemic,” the suit alleges.

Heller, of the Media Law Resource Center, said it may prove difficult for the campaign to make its case if the suit ever goes to trial.

“Obviously, broadcasters and news publishers try as best they can to point out when the candidates are not being truthful or are saying false statements,” Heller said. “But that’s a far different proposition from saying, ‘Oh, well, you broadcast something that may be false, therefore you’re responsible for defamation damages.’”

Rather than targeting the super PAC behind the ad, the Trump campaign said in a press release on its cease-and-desist letter last month that it was targeting “local television stations” in the key swing states where it was running: “Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.”

In a statement Monday, Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil said Trump “doesn’t want voters to hear the truth and he’s trying to bully TV stations into submission.”

“We will never stop airing the facts and holding the president accountable for his actions,” Cecil said.

So there was that, and also the piece in The New York Times I alluded to Sunday.

“Any way you cut it, this is going to be bad,” a senior medical adviser at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Carter Mecher, wrote on the night of Jan. 28, in an email to a group of public health experts scattered around the government and universities. “The projected size of the outbreak already seems hard to believe.”

I like to do my Doom early, gets it out of the way.

It was, I understand, a horror show from start to finish.

Wounded by media scrutiny, Trump turned a briefing into a presidential tantrum
by David Smith, The Guardian
Tue 14 Apr 2020

Donald Trump, starved of campaign rallies, Mar-a-Lago weekends and golf, and goaded by a bombshell newspaper report, couldn’t take it any more. Years of accreted grievance and resentment towards the media came gushing out in a torrent. He ranted, he raved, he melted down and he blew up the internet with one of the most jaw-dropping performances of his presidency.

This was, as he likes to put it, “a 10”.

Trump’s Easter had evidently been ruined by a damning 5,500-word New York Times investigation showing that Trump squandered precious time in January and February as numerous government figures were sounding the alarm about the coronavirus.

With more than 23,000 American lives lost in such circumstances, some presidents might now be considering resignation. Not Trump. He arrived in the west wing briefing room determined to tell the world, or at least his base, that he was not to blame. Instead it was a new and bloody phase of his war against the “enemy of the people”: the media. Families grieving loved ones lost to the virus were in for cold comfort here.

A CNN chyron is a worth a thousand words: “Trump refuses to acknowledge any mistakes”; “Trump uses task force briefing to try and rewrite history on coronavirus response”; “Trump melts down in angry response to reports he ignored virus warnings”; “Angry Trump turns briefing into propaganda session”.

The thin-skinned president lashed out at reporters, swiped at Democrat Joe Biden and refused to accept that he had put a foot wrong. “So the story in the New York Times is a total fake, it’s a fake newspaper and they write fake stories. And someday, hopefully in five years when I’m not here, those papers are all going out of business because nobody’s going to read them,” Trump said.

With a dramatic flourish, the president ordered the briefing room lights dimmed. In a James Bond film, it would be the moment that poisoned gas is piped into the room. What happened wasn’t far off: a campaign-style montage of video clips, shown on screens set up behind the podium. There was footage of doctors saying in January that the coronavirus did not pose an imminent threat, Trump declaring a national emergency, and Democratic governors praising him for providing federal assistance.

Veteran White House reporters said they could never remember such a film being played in that room. It had been put together in a couple of hours by Dan Scavino, the director of social media at the White House, and a team in less than two hours, Trump explained. “We could give you hundreds of clips like that.”

Jon Karl of ABC News asked in consternation: “Why did you feel the need to do that?”

Trump replied: “Because we’re getting fake news and I like to have it corrected … Everything we did was right.”

Over and over, Trump highlighted his decision to ban some flights from China in late January before there were any virus-related deaths confirmed in the US – even though nearly 400,000 people travelled to the US from China before the restrictions were in place and 40,000 people have arrived there since.

The CBS News correspondent Paula Reid was having none of it and cut to the chase. “The argument is that you bought yourself some time,” she said “You didn’t use it to prepare hospitals. You didn’t use it to ramp up testing. Right now, nearly 20m people are unemployed. Tens of thousands of Americans are dead.”

Trump talked over her: “You’re so disgraceful. It’s so disgraceful the way you say that.”

Reid demanded: “How is this newsreel or this rant supposed to make people feel confident in an unprecedented crisis?”

Trump reverted to his China travel restrictions but Reid continued to push him on his inaction in February. Trump was unable to muster a reasonable response. It was a case study in how, when he loses an argument, his instinct is to attack the accuser. He trotted out his frayed, timeworn insult: “You know you’re a fake, your whole network the way you cover it is fake … That’s why you have a lower approval rating than probably you’ve ever had before times three.”

Democrats can only hope Biden was watching Reid for tips on how to debate the president.

The briefing went on for well over two hours. Even Fox News gave up before the end. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House intelligence committee, spoke for many when he tweeted: “Why do reputable news organizations carry these daily Trump press conferences live?

“They are filled with misinformation and propaganda. From the president himself, no less. The country would be far better served and informed if they used highlights later. Enough is enough.”

Oh, enough is never enough.

Trump claims ‘total authority’ and attacks media in chaotic coronavirus briefing
by Tom McCarthy, The Guardian
Tue 14 Apr 2020

Donald Trump has declared in a White House briefing that his “authority is total” when it comes to lockdown rules during the coronavirus pandemic, and he denied that he was weighing firing Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s foremost infectious diseases expert who sits on the coronavirus task force.

After a weekend reprieve from presidential briefings that have been likened to Trump rallies for their uninterrupted flow of Trumpian id, the president returned to the lectern on Monday to deliver one of his most bizarre performances yet.

He played a campaign video produced by White House staff, in a possible violation of elections laws, that he said highlighted the media’s downplaying of the coronavirus crisis in the early stages of the pandemic.

He jousted with journalists who questioned a tweet he had sent earlier in the day, in which he claimed to have fiat power to override orders by state governors to close nonessential businesses and public spaces and encourage residents to shelter at home.

And Trump bristled at the suggestion that his power was restricted by the American federalist construct, which grants autonomy to the 50 states, and which he has repeatedly during the coronavirus crisis attempted to disrupt.

“When somebody is the President of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said, referring to matters of public health and police powers inside the states. The assertion was dogpiled by legal analysts as a gross and wild misreading of the Constitution.

But Trump not just challenged on the airwaves and on Twitter – he was challenged in the room, including by Paula Reid of CBS News, who asked him what his administration did in the month of February, when the health department declared an emergency, to fight the virus.

In response he attacked the media’s “approval rating”.

Then Trump was confronted by CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, who asked him about his “authority is total” line.

“That is not true,” Collins said.

Trump spluttered in reply: “You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to write up papers on this. It’s not going to be necessary. Because the governors need us one way or the other. Because ultimately it comes with the federal government. That being said we’re getting along very well with the governors, and I feel very certain that there won’t be a problem.”

Has any governor agreed that you have the authority? Collins asked.

“I haven’t asked anybody. You know why? Because I don’t have to,” Trump said.

Who told you that the president has a total authority? Collins asked.

“Enough. Please,” said Trump.


The whole spectacular meltdown

It’s not generally our policy to embed Pressers like this, but it’s right up there with Lester Holt in ‘Greatest Hits’.