WASHINGTON – Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the latest Donald Trump controversy was the near absence of condemnation, both from the mainstream media and political elites.
Having the leading Hispanic television journalist kicked out of his news conference was the kind of thing one might expect to prompt howls of outrage against the leading Republican presidential candidate.
The clash was widely covered, but, notably, there was little indignation.
The media, and many of Trump’s fellow Republican presidential contenders, did howl with indignation and declared it was the end of his campaign when Trump said illegal immigrants crossing the southern border included drug dealers and rapists.
The reaction was the same when Trump said U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was no war hero, then immediately retracted it four times (which prompted investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson to accuse the Washington Post of not reporting the facts.)
This time was conspicuously different.
Even commentators on MSNBC suggested Univision anchor Jorge Ramos appeared to be in the wrong, after violating standard journalistic protocol by not waiting to be called upon before confronting Trump.
Left-leaning Mika Brzezinski said, “For pretending he was bullied and pretending he was thrown out of a room … He made himself the story.”
Shortly after Trump began a news conference in Dubuque, Iowa, on Wednesday evening, the GOP candidate called upon a reporter to ask a question. But Ramos stood up and interrupted, saying, “Mr. Trump, I have a question.”
“Excuse me,” said Trump. “Sit down. You weren’t called. Sit down.”
Ramos refused to wait his turn and insisted, “I’m a reporter, an immigrant, a senior citizen,” he said. “I have the right to ask a question.”
“Go back to Univision,” Trump quipped.
When Ramos persisted, a member of Trump’s security detail escorted Ramos from the room. The reporter later returned, Trump called upon him and they had a spirited but civil exchange.
Despite the televised expulsion of what many call America’s leading Hispanic journalist from a Trump press conference, reaction in the mainstream media was conspicuously muted.
The White House did chime in Wednesday, as Press Secretary Josh Earnest took aim at Trump and said, “I’m not sure that it’s a successful media strategy to physically remove reporters who are asking tough questions.”
And Trump opponent Jeb Bush told reporters, “I think people with the press ought to be treated with a little more respect and dignity.”
CNN political reporter Maeve Reston tweeted: “@JebBush says he thought press would say to Trump ‘Whoa, whoa, time out, wait a second’ re: Ramos ejection ‘Thought you guys would unite.'” Mediate interpreted that as, “Essentially, he wanted to know why other reporters weren’t more outraged by that attack on a colleague.”
But the only blistering condemnations of Trump came from two sources, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, or NAHJ, and an op-ed by CNN guest columnist Rudy Ruiz.
The NAHJ published an article that read, “The National Association of Hispanic Journalists condemns presidential candidate Donald Trump for allowing Univision journalist Jorge Ramos to be ejected from a news conference for simply asking questions.”
Ruiz wrote in CNN, “That is an example of Trump’s brazen bullying and fear mongering, personality traits that make him unfit to govern a nation whose ideals include human rights and decency, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.”
He added, “Trump’s latest antics expose who he really is: a bullying bigot. Ramos should not have been ejected from that event. But Trump should be thrown out of the presidential race.”
Reaction by a CNN panel immediately after the confrontation appeared to favor Trump, saying it probably helped him and hurt Ramos.
CNN anchor Don Lemon said it immediately reminded him of the time in 1980 when then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan shut down an accuser by declaring, “I paid for this microphone!”
“Reagan said he believed this incident is what helped take him to the White House,” said Lemon. “What is this going do for Donald Trump?”
Historian Douglas Brinkley replied, “I immediately thought of that too, Don. I heard you mention it earlier. It rang that Reagan bell. I think it helps Trump.”
On “The Rush Limbaugh Show” Wednesday, America’s top talk-radio host marveled at the lack of outrage over the incident.
“Well, somebody just said to me it’s an amazing thing this wasn’t blamed on Trump. Don’t think for a moment there wasn’t gonna be an effort. So don’t for a minute think they weren’t trying to find a way to lump this on Trump.”
Of Ramos, he said, “The guy’s not a journalist; he’s an activist. And the media know full well. Trump handled that well last night and kicked butt, and everybody knows it whether they want to admit it or not.”
Limbaugh suggested the media’s hesitance to go after Trump may have been a recognition they are at least as unpopular with voters as politicians.
“[T]he first fear they had was open season on journalists. And if you look at polling data, not new here, journalism is among the least respected industries or professions in the country today. I think it ranks even below where Congress is, and that’s at the bottom. And they all know it. They’re very much aware of it.”
On “The O’Reilly Factor” Wednesday evening, host Bill O’Reilly said Ramos was not being an impartial journalist and went to the presser to ambush Trump. O’Reilly said Ramos wants open borders and is a “fraud” if he pretends to be objective.
As is her style, conservative commentator Ann Coulter was concise and caustic in her summary of the incident, posting on Facebook: “At least Jorge Ramos is consistent. Whether a press conference or a nation, he thinks Mexicans can barge in and demand rights that aren’t theirs.”
Washington Times journalist Byron York tweeted, “Ramos seemed more like a protester than a journalist in his first go-round. And then more like an activist than a journalist in the second.”
See the video of Ramos confronting Trump:
Here is a roundup of the almost universally muted reactions to the incident from across the mainstream media.
“Joy Wang of MSNBC wrote that Trump had “nettled immigration advocates” and that the clash with Ramos led to the “journalist’s temporary removal from the event” after he “tried to ask a question that the candidate saw as being out of turn.”
Jane C. Timm of MSNBC accurately reported what the video confirmed: “Univision anchor Jorge Ramos attempted to ask a question without being called on at Trump’s press conference after an Iowa rally, but the business mogul told him to ‘sit down’ and ‘go back to Univison,’ before having him escorted out by security.”
But then she opined, “Trump’s handling of Ramos is nothing new: The billionaire real estate mogul, now the front-runner in the GOP primary race, routinely berates and abuses the media.” As evidence, she cited Trump’s feud with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.
CNN’s straight news coverage said Ramos “extensively squabbled” with Trump, “though he had not been called upon, standing and lobbing concerns about Trump’s plan at the candidate.”
The news outlet even implied the reporter was the aggressor, noting “Ramos did return, but the ensuing exchange was far from polite.”
CNN’s Brian Stelter mused, “Perhaps both men benefited – Ramos by getting to challenge Trump in front of millions of viewers, Trump by getting to appear gracious by letting the reporter back in, then tough by responding to the rapid-fire questions.”
Stelter also contended, “Yes, it was a stunt – but it was also a substantive moment of journalism. Ramos is simultaneously an anchorman for Hispanic America and an advocate for Hispanic America. Ramos’s point-of-view style of journalism is certainly polarizing – hailed by some, criticized by others.”
On “Good Morning America” Wednesday morning, anchor George Stephanopoulos did not appear particularly supportive of Ramos, asking him, “How do you respond to critics who say you’re more advocate than a journalist?”
Ramos replied, “As a journalist, you have to take a stand. I think the best journalism happens when you take a stand. And when it comes to racism, discrimination, corruption, public life, dictatorship or human rights, as journalists, we are not only required but we are forced to take a stand. And clearly when Mr. Trump is talking about immigration in an extreme way, we have to confront him, and I think that’s what I did yesterday.”
New York Times
The New York Times cited lack of objectivity by many Hispanic media outlets.
The Times’ coverage conceded, “[F]or the Spanish-language press, which has grown in size and influence in politics, the tense exchange was a highly public flexing of muscle against a candidate who many outlets no longer pretend to cover objectively: They are offended by Mr. Trump’s words and tactics – and they are showing it.”
The paper cited a Ramos attack on Trump earlier in the month in which he called the GOP front-runner “the loudest voice of intolerance, hatred and division in the United States.”
The Times also quoted Los Angeles Spanish-language talk show host Ricardo Sánchez as saying on the air, “A president like Trump would be like giving a loaded gun to a monkey. But a gun that fires atomic bullets.”
The Washington Post was more critical of Trump than most major news organizations, but it came far short of earlier pronouncements that this latest controversy would doom his campaign.
Political correspondent Philip Rucker wrote: “Two minutes into Donald Trump’s news conference here Tuesday night came the question he tried to silence.”
He added, “Trump’s dismissal of a major television news anchor lit up social media,” but did not note there were no ringing denunciations from major news organizations or political figures.
The Post’s Janell Ross, whom the paper describes as a reporter, not a columnist, bluntly stated, “Donald Trump, derider of Mexican illegal immigrants, insulter of POWs and GOP front-runner, kicked journalist Jorge Ramos out of a press conference Tuesday evening.”
She reported it was “an evening filled with comments unlikely to endear Latino voters – or other Americans aware that Trump’s comments about Ramos’ emotions amount to an almost-direct reference to an oft-repeated Latino stereotype.”
But she conceded, “It is, of course, unlikely that Trump’s response to Ramos will ding the Republican front-runner’s standing with voters who have praised his plain-spoken, often confrontational public persona. That’s precisely what some of them like about him.”
The Post’s Jennifer Rubin, an establishment Republican whose column is called “Right Turn,” appeared more willing than anyone in the establishment media to attack Trump for the incident.
She wrote, “When confronted with someone threatening to upstage him, Trump had to resort to physical force to remove him.”
Even though Ramos instigated the clash, she blamed Trump.
“Trump could have ignored Ramos. He could have treated him like a heckler. He could have answered a question and then moved on. But Trump lacks verbal acuity and finesse. He incites and bullies, but he does not engage or disarm.”
Rubin also appeared to call for more disruptions at Trump news conferences.
“You can disagree with his style, but Ramos was on to something. If you are going to treat Trump with kid gloves (e.g. letting him interview via phone unlike every other candidate), the media will be a prop. If the media want to engage someone who refuses to abide by basic rules of civility, they will need to take a more aggressive and confrontational approach.”
She added, “His opponents would be wise to press Trump, too. In the next debate, candidates should feel free to challenge, mock and even bait Trump.”
CBS News appeared reluctant to blame Trump.
The network reported, “Asked if he was in Iowa to pick a fight with the immigration hawk, Ramos said that, ‘No, I was there to ask questions – that’s our job as journalists.'”
Ramos gave CBS an account of the encounter that appeared to contradict the what happened on the video, saying, “I waited for my turn. I asked the question. He didn’t like the question, and he was clearly in control of that press room.”
The far-left website Slate also refrained from criticizing Trump.
The website reported, “Ramos tries to ask a question without being called on, to which Trump responds: ‘Excuse me, sit down. You weren’t called.’ Ramos responds: ‘I have a right to ask a question.’ ‘No, you don’t,’ Trump says. Trump gives a look to his left, says ‘go ahead,’ and a security guard steps in and escorts Ramos out of the room.”
Slate added, “Ramos was later able to return and Trump called on him to ask a question. ‘Good to have you back,’ Trump said before Ramos began series of questions about immigration.”
BBC coverage also played it down the middle, reporting Ramos was ejected because, “Trump insisted that he had not been invited to submit a question.”
The top British media outlet also reported Ramos had accused Trump on CNN Monday of “disseminating hate by calling for mass deportations of families in the U.S. who do not have the right documentation.”
The Associated Press headline of “Trump starts new media feud with Univision anchor Ramos” implied the candidate had picked a fight with the reporter.
Unlike any other media outlet, the story even suggested Trump had called upon Ramos, reporting, “After Trump had answered two or three questions from other reporters, Ramos, seated in the front row, rose and stood silently for a moment. Trump turned toward Ramos, acknowledging him without speaking.”
AP wrote, after Ramos began to speak, “Trump quickly interrupted him, saying he hadn’t called on Ramos.”
Los Angeles Times
As with every other major media outlet except AP, the Los Angeles Times reported, “Ramos stood without being called on and began asking questions about Trump’s immigration proposals.”
The paper added, “The candidate continued to tell the anchor to sit down, until security escorted Ramos out of the room.”
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