In the final six weeks before Election Day, we’re launching a special project to watch the watchers. Nearly 24 million Americans tune in to network evening news. It still helps shape voters’ perceptions in a powerful way and continues to set a standard of sorts for the rest of the media. So our media critics are watching, too. When we find an outrage or omission, or an act of professional courage or class that deserves to be called out, we’ll make sure you know about it.
Trump’s trumped town hall
Wednesday night, Donald Trump taped a “town hall” for Sean Hannity’s nightly Fox News blast of Alpha-Male Bombast designed to bring cardiac arrest to bleeding hearts everywhere. Hannity’s show was pre-empted for real-life if-it-bleeds-it-leads coverage of the street action in Charlotte, but the story got out anyway. Trump called for a national extension of the policy known as “stop-and-frisk” — that is, stop and frisk anybody whose looks the police don’t like, in particular people of color under suspicion for walking down the street in their own neighborhoods.
The “town hall” is now supposed to air in toto Thursday night, or later.
Hannity’s not just in the tank for Trump, of course, he’s in the commercial for the tank (see video below), and got called out for it by Fox News management, which, as we all know, holds its on-air talent to exalted standards.
“I think stop-and-frisk, in New York City — it was so incredible the way it worked,” Trump said, in a preview video aired on FoxNews.com. “And we had a very good mayor,” he added, referring to one of his chief cheerleaders, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. “But New York City was incredible the way that worked. So I think that would be one step you could do….You really help people sort of change their mind automatically. You understand,” he added in patronizing mode to the black man who had questioned him.
After a 2013 federal court decision banned New York City’s stop-and-frisk as indirect racial profiling, Mayor Bill De Blasio and NYPD banned the practice, with no harm done to the crime rate. As NYU Law School’s Brennan Center has observed, “Statistically, no relationship between stop-and-frisk and crime seems apparent. New York remains safer than it was five, 10 or 25 years ago.” The value of stop-and-frisk for crime-stopping: incredible, as Trump likes to say.
But never mind. The remarkable thing is that Trump not only wants the bulliest of all pulpits, he aspires to be the master bully of all pulpits. So much for local government control of the police. Trump may not be calling for martial law, but his casual cheerleading for stop-and-frisk is of a piece with his Putinesque delight in all manner of authoritarian commands.
It’s in anticipation of a would-be executive takeover on a President Trump’s part that foreign service and military officers are already talking about plans to retire if he is catapulted into the White House. So I’m informed by a reliable acquaintance who works at the State Department.
— Todd Gitlin
The PBS NewsHour deserves a shout-out for a segment titled “Trump, Inc.” that ran on its Wednesday show. It featured an interview with reporter Kurt Eichenwald, formerly of The New York Times, discussing a long feature he wrote for Newsweek that documents Trump’s international financial entanglements and the ways in which they might pose serious security questions for the country were the Republican presidential nominee to be elected.
The trail of those business interests, Eichenwald said, “basically traces into every major non-European nation of the world,” including Azerbaijan, where one of Trump’s business partners is the son of a money launderer for Iran. Almost in passing, Eichenwald mentioned something else on the NewsHour that is potentially consequential: Noting that the GOP nominee has publicly squabbled with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Eichenwald reported that the Turkish president has said (presumably privately) that the United States would not be able to continue to use its airbase in Turkey if Trump is elected. Interestingly, Trump has more recently been blowing kisses at the Turkish strongman, since Erdogan successfully put down a coup.
Eichenwald’s story is an important one, as are many of the stories he has been reporting throughout the campaign. He is invaluable. The NewsHour’s contribution: providing that story a larger forum than Newsweek, though it is unlikely to get any traction either in our bigger papers or on cable where the focus remains squarely on the trivial.
— Neal Gabler
Watch the Video
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