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Whom Should We Fear? Donald Trump or the Media

April 13, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

Part One

During this most unusual political season, we have seen the rise of a new political office seeker by the name of Mr. Donald Trump. He is a billionaire with holdings in various parts of the world. He has dominated the political scene, and his image has become a fixture in our daily lives. The media can’t get enough of him. By the way he is portrayed in the media, you either love him or hate him. From the media’s standpoint, the preponderance comes on the side of hate.

What should be a profound concern is how the media treats him, for it may be you or me tomorrow. First, I feel compelled to say that I do not know Mr. Trump. I’ve never met him. I did have an encounter with him through the media during the Central Park Jogger Case (1989).

He took a full-page ad in the New York Times, vilifying the young men who were alleged to have raped the woman. Years later, they were exonerated. I criticized Mr. Trump. I can’t recall what I said or the language I used. He responded. (It should be noted that it is his habit to give an immediate response to anyone who criticizes him.) He pointed out that I had made a mistake.

He was right in correcting me. I replied to the television station, apologizing and admitting my error. He expressed appreciation for my apology. He also said he’d pay the hospital bill of another rape victim that had been thrown off the roof after the assault. I was offering support to this victim, highlighting the prejudicial way that she was treated. She being Black was completely ignored. The Central Park victim, who was white, got all of the attention. The hospital bill was about $50,000, which he paid. I never related to or interacted with him in any way since that experience.

My concern is more with the media than with Mr. Trump. It’s not my purpose to support or defend Mr. Trump, or to say that he’s right or wrong. I am more concerned with how he is being treated by the media.

Whatever we think of Mr. Trump – demagogue, racist, troublemaker, change agent, great leader, etc. – he will be gone from the scene relatively soon, but the media is here to stay – that is, as long as America stands. I think that Mr. Trump has been treated unfairly. Oftentimes, his words have been taken out of context, twisted, and distorted, and his image, distorted. He has been called derogatory names. In fact, even his followers, which are numbered in the millions. He leads his nearest opponent by over 2 million, who are belittled or considered ignorant, backward, racist, etc.

The rallies of Mr. Trump have been disrupted. It was interesting how the media portrayed these events. Some of the protestors came to the rallies for the purpose of disruption. Some of media obliquely praised them or justified them. One commentator went so far as to say, “People had a right to disrupt peaceful rallies.”

One disruptor tried to storm the podium where Mr. Trump was speaking. The disruptor was given special interviews and was almost made a hero. These events were played over and over, especially on Cable TV. All day and all night, and in many instances, there were the same images.

Thousands of Mr. Trump’s followers jammed arenas and meeting halls. The cameras focused on a few protestors. Practically, all of the people interviewed were Mr. Trump’s critics. They would use the event as the point of departure to discuss many alleged negatives of Mr. Trump.

At the risk of being repetitious, let me emphasize that my concern is not “Who’s at fault: Mr. Trump or the protestors?” My concern is, and I say this with all of the emphasis I can command, the MEDIA. Yes, there is the Freedom of Speech or the Freedom of the Press. I am an ardent supporter of both, but Freedom of the Press doesn’t mean or shouldn’t mean “the freedom to misrepresent another person.” Surely, there is a place for the press to have opinions, but even there, decency, fairness, and accuracy ought to be vigorously observed. For example, even Mr. David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a known racist organization, should not be the object of sustained lies and misrepresentation.

In some sense, for the media to engage in lies, misrepresentations, or distortions is to insult the intelligence of the public. It says, “You’re too dumb or stupid to discern the real motives or character of a person.” You need our twists and distortions.

It is appropriate for the media to have an opinion, but it is wrong for the opinion to be based on inaccuracies or falsehood, and peddle to the public as truth and facts. Primarily, my concern is rooted in two experiences I’ve had with the media. The concerted, sustained attacks and vilification, when studied, force the impartial observer to the conclusion that the media practices conspiracies to achieve its objective.

During his Presidential Campaign in 1984, Rev. Jesse Jackson was accused of using the phrase, “Hymie Town,” in reference to the Jews owning, controlling, or dominating NYC. It became the recurring question of the media. Finally, Jesse decided to admit it and apologize in a synagogue in Manchester, NH.

We had finished a long day of campaigning. That night, Jesse went before a standing- room-only crowd, made his apology, and received a standing ovation. Afterwards, the Rabbi and his family expressed appreciation and asked for Jesse’s autograph. We rode up to Berlin, the tip of New Hampshire. The plan was to campaign across the state. We wanted to do well in New Hampshire in preparation for Super Tuesday. Early the next morning, as was his custom, Jesse was up very early, making phone calls. It had been a long time since I saw him as buoyant and energized as he was that morning.

The first order of business was a press conference. Thinking that everything was behind him, Jesse eagerly went before the press. The first question asked was: “Are you ready to resign, now that you have admitted to saying, ‘Hymie Town’?”

Throughout the day, the questions were exclusively related to Hymie Town and any other negative thing about Jesse that they could raise. The media never let him forget. Certain reporters came to me and said that they were forced by their editors to ask these same questions. They expressed frustration with the process.

Finally, we put the press on the defensive. Jesse began to challenge the media as to its responsibility to provide as much information as possible to the public. For them to stay on this one issue was irresponsible. Then, we used the Biblical story of a woman being brought to Jesus and accused of adultery. Jesus said to the woman’s accusers, “Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone.” No stones were thrown. Jesse said, “If any one of you had never said a wrong word, you can continue to criticize me. I charge you with the responsibility to provide accurate, truthful information on the many issues which affect the lives of the people.”

… to be continued.