Journalists try and fail: In our view, a fascinatingly weak discussion took place on Wednesday's Diane Rehm Show.
Three major journalists tried to discuss the challenges of covering Donald J. Trump. in various ways, we thought they did a poor job.
How well did this discussion go? How skillfully has it been critiqued? One exchange with Trump spokesperson Scottie Nell Hughes has produced a fair amount of reaction. We thought Rehm and her journalist guests handled it poorly, and that subsequent discussion has often been inept.
First, a note about Hughes. She is one of the many Trump spokespersons who have served as "minders" on CNN programs this year. That said, she is one of the less articulate major Trump spokespersons.
Kayleigh McEnany, who's straight out of Harvard Law School, is a very articulate spokesperson. Simply put, Hughes is not. This fact is relevant to the exchange on Rehm's show, and to the subsequent commentary.
Let's start with what Hughes said. Rehm's journalist guests had been discussing some of Trump's "lies." When Hughes was finally brought on the air, Rehm invited her to respond.
Below, you see the initial exchange. As always, Hughes is quite inarticulate.
Her presentation is so jumbled, it's hard to know what to highlight. We'll do the best we can. For tape and transcript, click here:
REHM (11/30/16): Now I know you've been listening since the top of the program, and I'm sure you've heard James Fallows talk about "lies" that Donald Trump has put out there in tweets, in things he's said. What do you make of that?At this point, Rehm broke in. She threw to Politico's Glenn Thrush, who said he had to get his jaw off the floor.
HUGHES: Well, I think it's also an idea of an opinion. And that's—
On one hand, I hear half the media saying that these are lies. But on the other half, there are many people that go, "No, it's true." And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they're not really facts. Everybody has a way—it's kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true.
There's no such thing, unfortunately, any more of [sic] facts. And so Mr. Trump's tweet amongst a certain crowd, a large—a large ma—a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some fa—he, in his, amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there's no facts to back it up. So—
"There are no objective facts? I mean, that is, that is an absolutely outrageous assertion," Thrush thundered, responding to what he apparently thought he had heard.
Is that what Hughes was saying in that (rather typically) jumbled oration? Was she trying to say "there are no objective facts?"
We don't get that impression. Like many people in cable news, Hughes is routinely unclear, bordering on incoherent. But it seems to us she was probably saying something like this:
Many people assert that certain "facts" contradict the things Trump says, but their alleged "facts" are often less than fully clear or less than fully dispositive. Unfortunately, everyone has a way of interpreting facts to suit their own purposes. When Trump's followers agree with his claims, they believe that they have facts which support his claims.
When she appears on CNN, Hughes is routinely jumbled. That said, she's no high theorist. In this case, we don't think she was making some sort of postmodern claim about the nature of truth. We don't think she was saying that there's no such thing as an objective fact.
We think she was saying that many critics of Trump overstate the case for their own basket of alleged "facts." And, without any doubt, that does sometimes happen.
This didn't settle the objective question to which Hughes referred. When Trump said that "millions of people illegally voted," was he making an accurate statement?
More precisely, was he making a statement whose accuracy he could demonstrate? Could he point to actual facts which demonstrate the accuracy of his statement?
Rehm and her journalist guests never established that point. Instead, they wandered the countryside, quickly moving on to a different question.
At one point, Hughes did offer "evidence" in support of Trump's claim about illegal voting, citing a study by four Old Dominion professors. This study has been widely discussed, as Rehm's guest should have known. Its relevance to Trump's claim has been widely challenged, including by at least one of its authors.
That said, Thrush didn't seem to have heard of the widely-cited study, and no one else jumped in. As is typical in pundit discussions, another journalist changed the subject before this matter could be further resolved.
Hughes' presentation was barely coherent. On the other hand, Rehm and her journalist guests were rather undisciplined too. They jumped about from point to point, failing to demonstrate any point. To our ear, Rehm's guests were unprepared on the subject matter, under-skilled to boot.
For these reasons, Hughes' jumbled oration faded into the mist. Until Kevin Drum presented an edited version of what she had said-a version we'd consider describing as "doctored" had it come from anyone else.
Below, we'll show the full text of what Hughes said. Then, we'll show you the version of her remarks presented to Drum's readers. We'll include Drum's highlights:
FULL STATEMENT BY HUGHES: On one hand, I hear half the media saying that these are lies. But on the other half, there are many people that go, "No, it's true." And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they're not really facts. Everybody has a way, it's kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true.To us, that's a shaky editing job. It did let Drum ridicule Hughes for having made the ridiculous claim that there's no such thing as facts.
There's no such thing, unfortunately, any more of [sic] facts. And so Mr. Trump's tweet amongst a certain crowd, a large—a large ma, a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some fa—he, in his, amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there's no facts to back it up.
EDITED VERSION BY DRUM: People that say facts are facts, they're not really facts....There's no such thing, unfortunately anymore, as facts. And so Mr. Trump's tweet, amongst a certain crowd, a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some facts amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and there's no facts to back it up. [emphases, ellipses by Drum]
We liberals love being fed this gruel. As is true in the other tribe, many pundits are willing to be our suppliers.
As for our major journalists, they stage scattershot discussions all the time, even on the Rehm Show. Skill levels are remarkably slight atop our mainstream press corps.
People like Trump exploit this fact. Our tribe enjoys kicking down at the folk who get conned in the process.
As an aside, did Trump claim that 3 million illegal immigrants voted, or did he claim that that 3 million people voted illegally? The former claim is ridiculous on its face. The latter claim is unsourced and IMHO very unlikely. But, it's less ridiculous than the former claim, since there are many millions of non-citizens who are legally residing in the US.ReplyDelete
I don't think it's ridiculous, especially when there are 10s of millions of illegals in CA and there is no voter ID requirement there. It would be much more ridiculous to assert that no illegals voted. Of course we don't know the exact number, but that isn't conservatives' fault - that's on those who have rejected the aggressive enforcement of federal immigration law and the implementation of voter ID requirements.Delete
Maj, moron. Illegals can't vote. Got it, dim bulb?Delete
Maj (your profile name reminds me of this clip for some reason:Delete
there are not even "10s of millions of illegals" in the whole country. Illegal immigrants in the US peaked in 2007 at 12 million, dropped to 11 million in 2011 and have been on a downward trend since then. California has about 2.5 million. It is not ridiculous to assert that there are essentially no illegal immigrant voters; at worst there may be a handful out of the 10s of millions of voters, either way it is of no significance to election outcomes.
Btw Maj, California is a liberal and solid blue state electorally-speaking (and culturally as well). It is the most populous and important state in the country. California is the 8th largest economy in the world and likely to move to up to 6th or even 5th soon. Additionally California has an increasingly vibrant ballot measure system that pulls the state more liberal every election. Trump has no sway in California; however, I do worry about the rest of the country.
CA GSP is $2.5 trillion, here is the world gdp chart:
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Thinking liberals don't take MSNBC very seriously, or CNN.ReplyDelete
Most know that the coverage is superficial at best, misleading at the worst.
Agree about the quality of coverage, I saw an interview with Vincente Fox on MSNBC today, Fox was making good points, the interviewer was terrible. She basically ignored his points, playing the role essentially of a Trump supporter, and then cut him off to go to some nonsense live report.Delete
Hi everyone, I'm so excited.ReplyDelete
My ex-boyfriend is back after a breakup,I’m extremely happy that will are living together again.
My name is Mary Wilkie from England.
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"...routinely unclear, bordering on incoherent."ReplyDelete
A beautiful phrase. I'm going to write Congress and demand that it be made the new national motto.
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Excited my life is back My husband and I have been together for almost 11 years in October. The way we met wasn’t the best way since we both had relationships. We ended our relationships to be together (or so I thought we BOTH did). As soon as I ended up pregnant with our first baby, I find out he was cheating with his EX! My world went upside down. It was very hard for me since I was pregnant and hurt. Over the years I just kept forgiving him over and over again of not only multiple affairs, but of his accusations of me being unfaithful and disrespecting me. We now have 3 kids and I just completely felt neglected and felt low of myself. I had my own affair… It has not been easy for BOTH of us to overcome. Somehow over the last few weeks we have been working together to move on. We are now moving out of state. I love my husband and I am positive he loves me. I am going to try and show him this approach. Somehow we were already doing it! We have a better communication than we’ve had in years! We are learning how to speak calmly out feelings and concerns. It hasn’t been peachy, but I can see that we both are starting to respect eachother. We care for each other’s feelings. We have US a main priority. We aren’t taking counseling, but somehow we see that little by little we seem more comfortable with eachother. Sometimes we may notice how good it is going and may step back, but helping eachother out by holding and saying it’s ok to be happy again. I love my family. and my husband and i need to keep my marriage save with him from other women so i have to seek for a love spell to keep our marriage stronger so i contacted Dr happy who help me to keep my marriage save and secure from other women am very happy today coz my husband love me more and more like ever before, we are living as one big family again bless Dr happy for what he did to me and my husband if you need help contact him too he is real and 100% guarantee ok so email him at : email@example.com call +2348133873774 about his service and web site: http://happyspelltemple.webs.com/ReplyDelete
Wait a second, did you claim Kayleigh MacInany is articulate? Now I am having second thoughts about your judgementReplyDelete
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