Debunking the ‘Trump Is a Racist’ Charge.
If you hate Donald Trump, it’s really quite understandable. The print, electronic, and broadcast media have worked with relentless passion and purpose to remind you, as frequently as possible, of the many objectionable statements and damnable positions that allegedly are part-and-parcel of Mr. Trump’s political track record.
When the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analyzed how The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and the newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC had covered President Trump during his first 100 days in office, it found that their coverage was 80% negative and 20% positive. The corresponding figures for the first 100 days of the three previous presidencies were in a completely different universe: Barack Obama, 41% negative vs. 59% positive; George W. Bush, 57% negative vs. 43% positive; and Bill Clinton, 60% negative vs. 40% positive.
For data collected over longer time periods, we can turn to the Virginia-based Media Research Center (MRC), which has conducted numerous comprehensive analyses of exactly how the press has covered Trump from the time of his 2016 presidential campaign to the present day. Most notably, MRC has examined how often the three major television networks—ABC, NBC, and CBS—have aired stories portraying Trump and/or his policies in either a positive or negative light. These MRC studies tally “evaluative statements which impar[t] a clear positive or negative tone to the story, such as statements from experts presented as non-partisan, voters, or opinionated statements from the networks’ own reporters.” Neutral statements are not factored into the equation; nor are soundbites from openly partisan political operatives or spokespeople who merely parrot a predictable party line. As a result of MRC’s research, we know precisely the ratio of negative-to-positive news reports that have been devoted to President Trump.
During the three-plus months between late July 2016 and Election Day in early November of that year, the ABC, NBC, and CBS evening newscasts included 726 negative statements about Trump, vs. 95 positive statements—a ratio of 88% negative to 12% positive. And Trump hadn’t even been elected yet.
Things really heated up during Trump’s first calendar year in office—from his January 20, 2017 inauguration through December 31, 2017—when the three network evening newscasts devoted an astounding total of 99 hours and 3 minutes of airtime to 3,430 stories focusing either on President Trump or his administration. Most of these were stories designed to shred the president and his reputation. As MRC reported: “Our analysts catalogued 5,883 evaluative statements about the President or his administration from either reporters, anchors or non-partisan sources such as experts or voters. Only about 10% of those comments (617) were positive, compared with 5,266 (90%) which were negative — an unparalleled level of media hostility for a President in his first year in office.”
2018 brought more of the same, as the three network evening newscasts devoted almost 87 hours of coverage to the Trump presidency. The tone of that coverage, said MRC, remained “incessantly hostile: 90% negative, vs. just 10% positive.”
And 2019 has been no different. As Brent Bozell of MRC wrote this past June: “Month after month going back to the start of his campaign, without interruption, [Trump’s] coverage on evening newscasts has hovered around 90% negative.” During the seven-week period from the September 24th launch of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry through November 12th, the coverage of Trump was even more hostile than normal: Out of 684 evaluative comments that were made on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts, reports NewsBusters.org, 96% were negative and 4% were positive. In other words, the average American viewer virtually never heard even a single positive whisper about President Trump or his policies. Never.
Remember When Trump Mocked the Disabled New York Times Reporter?
One of the earliest flurries of condemnation that media outlets nationwide aimed at Donald Trump occurred in November of 2015—a full year prior to the 2016 presidential election—when myriad headlines and news stories reported that then-candidate Trump, during a political rally in South Carolina, had callously mocked the disability of a physically handicapped New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski. You can probably recall hearing about how Trump, in front of a large crowd of supporters, had waved his arms and hands spasmodically to mimic the herky-jerky movements of the reporter, while also adopting a vocal cadence that suggested incoherence and abnormality.
The Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and Politico all ran headlines stating, “Trump Mocks Disabled Reporter.” A Chicago Tribune caption blared: “Trump Mocks New York Times Reporter with Disability.” And a New York Times headline called it “Mockery, Plain and Simple.” Similar headlines were splashed across the front pages of countless other publications from coast to coast.
Not surprisingly, a large number of congressional Democrats joined the news media in eviscerating Trump for his bad manners and childish intemperance. Some examples:
*At the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Bill Clinton proudly noted that his wife “never made fun of people with disabilities,” but instead “tried to empower them based on their ability.”
*Former Democrat Senator Tom Harkin righteously pronounced that “Democrats believe in working together and bringing people with disabilities in to develop policy,” while Trump was little more than an obnoxious “throwback” to the unenlightened mores of “half a century ago.”
*During the third presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton, Mrs. Clinton scolded her opponent for having so crudely “mocked and mimicked” a “disabled reporter” on “national television.”
*And Rep. Maxine Waters, marking the 27th anniversary of the signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act, said in July 2017: “Our president indicated to us what he thinks about people with disabilities long before he was elected, when he mocked a disabled reporter. Mocking the disabled is rude and insensitive and it sends a terrible message to our children.”
Hollywood, too, was filled with people outraged by Trump’s indelicacies.
* During remarks she delivered at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony in January 2017, actress Meryl Streep shed tears as she recalled how “stunned” she had felt “when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter.” “[T]his instinct to humiliate,” she elaborated, “when it’s modeled … by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.”
* Some time later, actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and is well acquainted with the distress associated with involuntary body convulsions, said: “One thing that angered me is when [Trump] mocked that reporter. That was a stab to the guts. Not just for me, but for people I know and work with, who try so hard to overcome other people’s atavistic aversion to anybody that moves differently. So I thought, Do I say something in response? Then I thought, people already know Trump is an [expletive].”
The Clintons, Harkin, Waters, Streep, and Fox had plenty of company in the revulsion they felt regarding Trump’s insensitive antics. In a Bloomberg News poll taken just a few weeks before the 2016 election, likely voters who were asked to identify what bothered them most about Mr. Trump, cited his mockery of the disabled reporter more often than anything else.
There’s just one stubborn little fact, however, which probably merits at least a passing mention at this point: Not a single word regarding Trump’s mockery of a reporter’s physical disability, was true. Not a syllable. Not a breath. The entire story was a carefully and maliciously fabricated lie. Not an exaggeration. Not a distortion. A Lie, with a capital “L.”
You see, Serge Kovaleski, the disabled reporter in question, does not suffer from Parkinson’s Disease or anything even remotely resembling it. He suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that limits the movement of his joints and has caused his right hand to be permanently frozen in place, sharply angled at the wrist. He does not wave either of his arms around involuntarily when he talks. Quite the opposite: his right arm is actually rigid and motionless. Moreover, he speaks with a perfectly normal cadence, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to Trump’s presentation.
Trump was not mocking Kovaleski for his disability. He was mocking Kovaleski for appearing to back away, for fear of public criticism, from something which he had reported some years earlier. The gestures and cadence that Trump’s critics objected to, are simply Trump’s way of mimicking anyone who seems to be flustered or fearful when confronted with certain discomfiting facts. Indeed, with just a little bit of research, anyone who actually had an interest in knowing the truth could have learned that Trump, on a number of other occasions, had used those same gestures and affectations to mock people who were not physically handicapped in any way. Those targets included, among others, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Democrat consultant Donna Brazile, Obama-era military generals, and certain American bank executives. In fact, there is even video footage of Trump mocking himself in a similar, self-deprecating manner.
Trump the “Racist”
The certitude with which Trump’s critics have falsely and slanderously condemned the president for making fun of Kovaleski’s handicap, calls to mind a trenchant observation that the late Ronald Reagan once made: “The trouble with our Liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” And this, of course, begs an important question: Might some other articles of faith regarding Trump’s alleged character flaws be untrue as well?
It is almost impossible to watch a major television network news broadcast, or read a major newspaper, or even view a late-night comedy program on TV, without hearing or seeing something about what a crooked, incompetent, scheming, deranged, misogynistic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, sociopathic, fascistic, ignorant racist Mr. Trump is. These media portrayals of Trump are very much in line with how Hillary Clinton famously described Trump’s backers in a speech at a September 2016 political fundraiser in New York City, where she said: “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he [Trump] has lifted them up.”
It would not be possible, of course, to unpack and evaluate all of the countless thousands of charges accusing Trump of various moral deficiencies like those enumerated by Mrs. Clinton. Thus, let us restrict our focus, for now, to the most noteworthy charges of “racism” that have been leveled at the president. What we learn about the veracity—or inveracity—of those particular charges, will teach us a great deal about how much, or how little, credence we should give to the other accusations. Below are just a few examples of Trump’s critics characterizing him as a racist:
NAACP president Derrick Johnson claims that “President Trump’s racism” has “divided the nation and polluted policy.”
Actor Robert De Niro describes Trump as “a flat-out blatant racist.”
Film producer Joss Whedon laments that “we have a racist, fascist president” in the White House.
Former New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston says: “Donald Trump … isn’t just a white supremacist – he’s a flat-out, full racist.”
Political analyst Anand Giridharadas contends that “we have a man child who is deranged and racist in this [presidential] office.”
Actor/film director Rob Reiner once tweeted: “Every day between now and Election Day in Nov. of 2020, you have only to keep reminding yourself that the President of the United States is a Racist, a Liar, a Sexual Predator and a Criminal.”
Hollywood director Judd Apatow has denounced the president’s “racist views” and declared: “Trump is a Nazi. The debate is over.”
When asked if President Trump is a white nationalist, New York Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “He is. And all you have to do is listen to his words to make that decision…. He has used racist language and racist dog whistles on behalf of the presidency. He [says] Mexicans are rapists.”
Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders flatly states: “We have a president who is, in fact, a racist and a bigot.”
Democrat congressman Filemon Vela once told Trump in an open letter: “Mr. Trump, you’re a racist and you can take your border wall and shove it up your ass.”
Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson said on ABC’s The View: “We got a guy [Donald Trump] who gets up every morning and excretes the feces of his moral depravity into a nation he has turned into a psychic commode. That’s what he’s done. And he’s a bigot-in-chief and a racist in residence…. Look at this mendacious, relentlessly lying, bigoted, ill-informed person that we have. He has the fleshly thesaurus of white supremacy reduced to one body.”