TUESDAY, MAY 9, 2023
Initially, no one said so: It happened at 5:10 Eastern, last Friday afternoon, on the popular "cable news" TV show, Deadline: White House.
Earlier that day, videotaped excerpts from the deposition of Donald J. Trump had become publicly available. At 5:09 Eastern, Nicolle Wallace played a tightly edited excerpt from the 48 minutes of videotape.
Below, you see the excerpt Wallace played at that time, in its entirety. Trump was speaking with Roberta Kaplan, an attorney representing E. Jean Carroll:
TRUMP: She faked it with great emotion. She actually indicated that she loved it, OK? She loved it, until commercial break. In fact, I think she said that it was sexy, didn't she? She said it was very sexy to be raped. Didn't she say that?
KAPLAN: The question I'm asking is, Did she say in that interview that she loved being sexually assaulted by you?
TRUMP: Well, she said something to that effect. You'll have to take a look at that interview yourself. I believe she said rape was sexy.
Sadly, that was the full excerpt.
As Wallace had indicated, Trump was speaking about an interview Carroll had given to CNN's Anderson Cooper back in 2019. As he spoke, Trump misdescribed what Carroll had actually said, but he at least was willing to say that he was working from memory.
Jumping in, Wallace called Trump "delusional" and quoted some of what Carroll had actually said to Cooper. She then proceeded to misrepresent what Donald J. Trump had said!
WALLACE (5/5/23): I wonder, Maya [Wiley]. Again, this jury is going to hear him say that today, he thinks he's a star and can carry out the act of grabbing women between the legs. He's saying, "She loved what I did to her." I mean, it is really anything but a denial of the physical conduct that she alleges.
Speaking of delusional comments, Wallace now seemed to say that Trump had confessed to Carroll's allegations in that short, tightly edited piece of videotape.
In Wallace's account, Trump had said this: She loved what I did to her. It was anything but a denial. the popular TV star said.
This statement by Wallace was so insane that a very rare moment followed. As Wallace threw to Maya Wiley, Wiley didn't voice agreement with what the host had just said.
It's one of the rarest possible moments in modern-day, segregated-by-viewpoint, partisan "cable news."
Under current agreements, cable guests never fail to affirm whatever the host just said. Dearest darlings, it isn't done—but this is what Wiley now said:
WILEY (continuing directly): It is a denial of the physical conduct and a misrepresentation of what rape actually is...
It's possible that Wiley didn't hear what Wallace had actually said. Whatever the reason, you see there one of the rarest moments in modern partisan cable.
Good lord! Wallace said that Trump's remarks were anything but a denial of the physical conduct Carroll has alleged. In her reply, Wiley said his statement was a denial, then continued along from there.
(To see the tape of this exchange, you can just click here.)
Did Wiley hear what Wallace had said? We can't answer that question. At any rate, she flatly contradicted Wallace's statement, then proceeded from there.
Having said that, let us say this:
Disagreement with the host is not permitted in partisan cable. That said, Wallace may have gone so far off the rails at this point that Wiley chose to contradict what she had just said.
Did Wallace's account of what Trump said actually make any sense? Had Donald J. Trump actually said something like, She loved what I did to her. thereby implying that the alleged assault really happened?
We're truly sorry, but no. In that moment, Wallace had moved from her normal propaganda-adjacent stance to a stance which was virtually insane.
All through the 48 minutes of video excerpts, Trump denies—again and again and again and again—the claim that he ever encountered Carroll at all, let alone that he assaulted her.
In that tightly edited video clip, Trump was discussing what Carroll had said to Anderson Cooper. Forthrightly or otherwise, he was describing his recollection of the account she gave to Cooper that night.
That's what Trump was discussing in that tightly edited clip. At 5:10 on Friday afternoon, Wallace's claim that he was confessing to an assault moved over into the realm of the nearly insane.
That may be why Wiley did what she did—why she broke every rule in the cable playbook. It may be that Wallace had finally made a claim so baldly absurd that even one of her favorite friends wasn't willing to go along with what had now been said.
As we noted yesterday, this 5 o'clock segment from last Friday's show consumed a full 22 minutes. At no point did anyone, Wallace included, ever return to the ludicrous claim Wallace made at 5:10 P.M.
Instead, the segment was dominated by an earlier claim—a claim Wallace had made right at the start of the segment. As we noted yesterday, she had played a video clip in which Kaplan and Trump discussed Trump's infamous statements from 2005 on the Access Hollywood tape.
After playing that video clip, Wallace started the segment with this:
WALLACE (5/5/23): Hi, everyone. It is 5 o'clock in New York. This is the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president, who thinks, as of today, that he is a star and that stars can do that.
It's part of the newly released deposition of the disgraced, twice-impeached, once-indicted ex-president, doubling down, under oath, and now in front of the entire country and world, on comments he first made, as far as we know, on the Access Hollywood tape about where you can grab women.
According to Wallace, Trump had said that he still thinks that, because he's a star, it would be OK for him to "grab women" in the way he described on the Access Hollywood tape.
Did Trump really make some such statement that during his deposition? If Trump had made such a remarkable claim, it would certainly qualify as major news.
Having said that, how strange!
During the course of Friday's segment, all four of Wallace's guests agreed with her characterization of what Trump had said. Indeed, they didn't simply agree with her claim—they effusively agreed, removing any possible doubt as to what was being alleged.
By the end of the segment, any hint of imprecision was gone from Wallace's initial claim. According to Deadline's Gang of 5, Donald J. Trump had said this in his deposition:
Because he's a star, it would be still be OK from him to grab women in the (criminal) manner he had described on the Access Hollywood tape.
Supposedly, that's what Trump had said in his deposition. Having said that, how strange!
Excerpts from the deposition were released last Friday. The excerpt in question had been played in court the day before.
Having said that, how strange! The Washington Post didn't report that Trump had made any such declaration. Neither did the New York Times or the Associated Press.
The BBC reported no such statement. Neither did NBC News in its online news reports.
No such report was made on the major network evening news programs at the end of last week. Anderson Cooper said no such thing on his Thursday and Friday broadcasts.
On last Friday's Deadline: White House, all four of Wallace's guests effusively agreed with her interpretation of what Trump had said. But how strange:
It's hard to find a major news org which reported any such statement by Trump!
Let it be said that, as of today, a familiar process is underway. By the process known as "paraphrase drift," this initial claim from last Friday's program is now being widely repeated across the ranks of "cable news"—rather, across the ranks of blue cable.
Had Trump really "doubled down" on his Access Hollywood statement? Had he really said that, "as of today," he still believes that he has the right to behave in that (criminal) manner?
Wallace made the claim last Friday. Last night, Anderson Cooper repeated the claim, pretty much word for word. Neither he nor his guests had made any such claim last Thursday or Friday night.
Cooper recited the claim last night; so did Joe Scarborough this very morning. At least in cable's steamy blue bayous, the claim which nobody made in real time is becoming standard script.
We've discussed "paraphrase drift" in the past, without ever using that term. Long ago, we also discussed this very important point:
The power to paraphrase is the power to spin.
It's hard to say that a paraphrase is wrong. For people in thrall to Storyline, that is a source of great power.
Did Donald J. Trump really make the startling statement which has now entered widespread drift?
We'd call that a "song sung blue." We'd call it a giant stretch.
Tomorrow, we'll discuss the merits of the claim which lies at the heart of this ballad. For now, we'll remind you of this:
We're offering pure anthropology here. Nothing will interfere with the pleasure derived from listening to our corporate stars as they hand us this latest song sung blue.
Tomorrow: Could anyone be more clueless?