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Bias Backlash: How The Media Propelled Donald Trump to the White House

| November 17, 2016

trump media nancy smith

Don’t believe everything you read. (Marc Nozell)

By Nancy Smith

Voters delivered a humiliating rebuke to America’s political establishment and to the hangers-on — the pollsters, the pundits, the celebrities who surrounded Hillary Clinton, even as Donald Trump stood alone — and especially the biggest hanger-on of all, the media elite. What an Election Day.

I’m convinced the media created the Donald Trump we will inaugurate in January.

And by the way, though I’m hardly an “elite,”  I’m not excluding myself as part of the problem. At times I behaved as badly as the others.

It was the media’s wall-to-wall coverage of Trump’s every word for more than a year that powered his victory.

The press didn’t even pretend to treat him like a normal candidate: CNN’s chyrons fact-checked him (but not Hillary Clinton) in real time; the Washington Post reacted to being banned from Trump with a shrug; BuzzFeed News published a memo telling reporters it was fine to call him “a mendacious racist” on social media; the New York Times published a viral video in which it simply quoted the most vile statements it heard from Trump’s supporters.

“When I see Donald Trump, I think he wakes up every day knowing that 20 of the best investigative reporters in the country working for The Washington Post are assigned to find dirt on him,” Geraldo Rivera said during a TV interview last month. “Every day the best investigative reporters at The New York Times are assigned to find dirt on Donald Trump,” Rivera said. “He wakes up to that every day. We talk in general terms about the mainstream media and bias but (until now) I have never in my half century of doing this seen actual proof.”

The bias through the campaign was like a dissonant crescendo. The media felt increasingly free to cover Trump as an alien, dangerous, and dishonest phenomenon. CNN, for example, never made an attempt at its usual faux-evenhandedness.

Is it any wonder pollsters are now admitting Trump supporters, when contacted during a survey, were lying to them, unwilling to admit they favored the “bigot” Trump? When the worst revelations of the campaign came out about Hillary Clinton, CNN commentators would jump in to defend her, even before her surrogates did. Their tone was always, always respectful. When Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway challenged a CNN attack on her boss, commentators quickly ended the discussion, interrupting her. “We have to go to break now,” they would say. This happened over and over.

And even when Clinton came out with her “basket of deplorables” remark, did a single network make an effort to bring in the ordinary Americans who committed so early to Trump, who showed up at his rallies carrying signs and wearing hats? Not that I saw. Not even once.

I saw news-show guest appearances by Hispanics, Muslims, African-Americans, LGBTs, disabled people, anti-Trump veterans, aggrieved women of every description — tokens from any group Trump had allegedly wronged. But never were the “deplorables” invited in. Never were viewers given the chance to understand them, hear their pain, share their aired grievances. 

All the while, America was watching. Taking it in and reacting.

Meghan McCain, John McCain’s daughter, got it right on Fox News when she said the media need to take a cold, hard look at themselves.

“How can you talk about this election when you don’t know a single Trump supporter?” she asked a Fox commentator. “I know many, many” she said. “Going forward, we can’t have (as reporters) just these elites, people who make millions of dollars, people who never leave Manhattan, people who never leave the Beltway …”

We now can see that over the last full year of nothing else on news channels but round-the-clock Trumpbusters, the true independents viewing at home were quietly making up their minds, working up from annoyance to a slow seethe.

This is why I say the media created Trump’s victory. The backlash against irresponsible “journalism” in presidential campaign coverage began long before Voting Day. 

In line at the polls, I struck up a conversation with the woman ahead of me. “My husband and I didn’t decide who we were going to vote for until two weeks ago,” she told me. “We figured, yes, we do need change and the deck is stacked against the one candidate who wants to bring it to us. So we decided for Trump.”

How painful it must have been for Hillary Election night. She had expected to win. For months — day after day — the media, not just the pollsters, were telling her she would.

nancy smith sunshine state news columnistNancy Smith is the editor of Sunshine State News. She started her career at the Daily Mirror and The Observer in London before spending 28 years at The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News as managing editor and associate editor. She was president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in the mid-1990s. Reach her by email here, or follow her on twitter at @NancyLBSmith.

30 Responses for “Bias Backlash: How The Media Propelled Donald Trump to the White House”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The media (both Left and right) and Trump were tailor made for each other. They exploit sensationalismand care more about ego ratings and money than anything else.

  2. Russell Bryant says:

    I am a firm believer in free markets. Thus the best way to get you local and national news agencies to improve their reporting and to delivery fair and actual reporting is to watch those other agencies that do. Once the ratings hit their pocketbooks, they will be forced to go back to “reporting” the news factually and not creating the news. The old guard news reporters must be turning over in their graves……..end the “talk” show hosts and go back to being news reporters!

  3. Steve Robinson says:

    The cable news networks failed the American electorate by their total absence of reporting on Trump. Instead they filled the air with “panels of experts” whose views were predictably partisan and usually uninformed. The country’s two major dailies, the NY Times and the Washington Post, reported aggressively and appropriately on a man whose career up to this point included scams, cons and willful deceptions, even when being deposed in his endless lawsuits.
    The Times’ reporting on Trump University should have been enough by itself to disqualify this man from holding the nation’s highest office. Unfortunately, Trump’s constituency doesn’t read the Times or the Post or believes that anything they print is “liberal lies.” Given that Trump was running for office for the first time, and his opponent Hillary Clinton had been picked apart for 30 years, the scrutiny of Trump’s business dealings and his history with women was totally warranted. The Times and the Post presented their reporting as an earnest attempt to inform the public about this man. When the cable news networks acknowledged this serious reporting at all, they treated it simply as another opportunity to lob questions at their “panel of experts.”
    Trump’s rise began with incessant, ratings-driven coverage of his demagogic rallies and speeches, in which, like demagogues before him, he appealed to people’s fears and prejudices while giving license to people to openly express odious views. Cable news failed its audience by giving Trump an unchallenged forum and, once he got the nomination, by putting his baseless, fact-challenged assertions on an equal platform with more thoughtful, factual dissents.
    The Times and the Post failed miserably to assess the enormity of Trump’s appeal, but they did their best to inform the American people about who this man really is. If people weren’t paying attention or didn’t believe it, that is hardly the fault of the messenger. Trump is a con man who has pulled off the ultimate con–he got himself elected President of the United States. My sense is that even he is aghast at what he has done.

  4. Veteran says:

    It’s funny how the press, who tried desperately to sabatoge Trump, got him elected instead. Maybe they should start just reporting the news without bias.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Way to speak for yourself

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is true, but Hillary’s campaign team was behind all that mess, Team Hillary was incompetent and that’s why she lost. Remember Trump had less votes than Romney and McCain, Hillary was not acceptable to Liberals.

  7. NS says:

    Hello, Trump had path because no one was speaking to 70% of the country. I am happy and thankful is here to speak for us.

  8. what a joke says:

    Media did ALL IT COULD to NOT get Donald Trump elected.

  9. Brian says:

    This article nails it right on the head – maybe the left-wing loon that runs this site could learn something here….

  10. Martin Luther on the Road says:

    Nancy is on target here. The real question, regarding the media, is whether or not they will actually TRY to drop their bias against basic Americana or if they will keep trying to ridicule and shame those whose views are not in lockstep with their own? I wish I COULD depend upon CBS, or NBC or CNN to give you straight, fairly reported news. A long time ago, I realized their world view and my world views were not in alignment. Apparently, in 2016, a large swath of America made it clear that I am not alone. The AMAZING fact is that, even with the media running stories at about 9 to 1 AGAINST Trump, he WON rather handily. Lacking the overwhelming support of the media, which is not even disputed at this point, Clinton was apparently not really a viable candidate. Unfortunately for all of us, this media support for the left is NOT new, it is just news to some. There was almost this much bias in favor of Barrack Obama in 2008 and 2012. One can only hope that the media will never exercise that much influence again. I hope they will one day have enough respect for their craft and societal function that they will not WANT to influence elections..just report the facts about ALL candidates fairly. I am not holding my breath.

  11. The Ghost of America says:

    No, the media didn’t propel trump into office. The democratic party did, by: 1) assuming they’d get the minority vote and women’s vote without actually outreaching to them, 2) disregarding the rural white vote because who needs them, and 3) being too cheap to actually spend any money on campaigning in states that they really need. Both parties are trainwrecks and are so bad that people voted trump because they were stupid enough to buy into his rhetoric, or out of protest over the DNC’s treatment of sanders, or because they’re FYGM boomers that hated clinton more than they love america.

    So no, it’s not the media’s fault you shriveled up shill of a human being.

  12. Sherry says:

    While I think Nancy has a point, I am even more cynical about the media and their motives. I strongly believe the press, TV and internet news outlets are directly and primarily responsible for the election of Trump:

    1. ALL publicity is GOOD publicity! In this new world that is stupidly “celebrity” driven, the face and voice that appears MOST on any media mechanism WINS. It doesn’t matter WHY that person is blasted across the headlines. . . they are the brightest star in the groupie firmament.

    2. FACTS don’t matter anymore. Millions upon millions of our citizens have been deeply indoctrinated in the FEAR filled “conspiracy theories” peddled by those self promoting “anti-fact” talking heads that are replacing true journalists. Those citizens make decisions based on the visceral FEAR that has been sown into the core of their beings. They live in a paranoid world of emotion, and their intellect has been thrown out the window.

    3. “Professional” journalists and true investigative reporting is very expensive. The “maximizing profit” motive has caused main stream media outlets such as CNN to lay off journalists. Meanwhile, Trump’s narcissistic desire to see himself on TV 24/7 motivated his outrageous “public” rhetoric and “very cheaply” fed the media hunger for tabloid headlines. The money men at the top were delighted!

    The “Perfect Storm” that has created a Trump presidency. . . which may well serve to be the END of a GREAT AMERICA!

  13. Edith Campins says:

    With all due respect you are wrong. The “deplorables” have been venting their prejudices and racism for years on Faux, Breibart, Infowars and OAN.

    And no, she didn’t lose, she got the popular vote.

  14. Pogo says:

    Sunshine State News – really – news?

    “…When Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway challenged a CNN attack on her boss, commentators quickly ended the discussion, interrupting her. “We have to go to break now,” they would say. This happened over and over…”

    Can’t wait for Smith’s spin on Trump being compelled to testify about Trump University by Conway’s husband:

    Hey Nancy – how about five thousand words about Trump’s son-in-law Kushner:

    I can hear Kushner giving Christie the news:

  15. James Joy says:

    This lady is telling some truth here. Pierre, like your blog when it comes to local issues, but , frankly, I’m surprised, given your own political bias, that you let this in your world. Good for you.

  16. DRedder says:

    How ironic it is when you step away from those safe spaces and begin to understand that Hillary’s Campaign and the corrupted DNC bamboozled Bernie, and in her greedy lust for power drove Trump to where he is. As far as the media well if anyone is a biased racist bully they need to look no further then the mirrors in thier office bathrooms. Just look at thier coverage on Steve Bannon. Who FYI, as of yesterday the ADL reports is not an Anti-Semite. Maybe the media would better serve the people by focusing more on the President we have now. Who for he last 3 months has been AWOL from his job either campaign for the DNC or on vacation in Europe lecturing thier people how it’s wrong to be a Patriot , all while he does nothing to quell the Anarchist George Soros’ is paying to disrupt those Patriots. Today President Obama acts more like Nero watching Rome burn, than trying to help unite Americans and comfort the snowflakes.

  17. DaveT says:

    The author totally missed it.. The media did not propel Trump into the Whitehouse, they in fact from about ever TV show including the news channels and publications I saw and read did their best to prevent Trump from going INTO the Whitehouse,. Lets also not forget about the “BIG Celebrity push telling the news they are not voting or Trump but for Hillary. and lets not forget his own Republican Good Old Boys Congressional mix and past Presidents, and some past candidates ( Romney) most voted against Trump and made it known that they were not in fact voting for Trump. So the media did their best to prevent Trump from getting into the Whitehouse. So how did it do, not to good. The voters saw through the media BS and voted..

  18. Fredrick says:

    The media was biased?? What a shock!! Wouldn’t it have been interesting if the Media (including Flagler Live) would have covered the HRC corruption and lying that the wikileaks mails exposed and not just focused on Trump and calling all his supports homophobic misogynists? Would the outcome have been different? I like to think not. My vote for Trump was a vote against the political corruption that goes on both sides of the aisle and a vote against HRC who’s corruption and lying was laid out in front of everyone and ignored by those who supported here and covered her in the media.

  19. USA Lover says:

    Trump’s dumb like a fox. He knew when he destroyed all those candidates in those debates he would receive media attention and he did. The people were tired of the lying,senile,conniving,Clinton machine and the White house for sale. A vote for him wasn’t necessarily people voting for him,but them voting AGAINST The Clinton and Obama machine and I think the country is better off for it. The Clintons are finished.

  20. Fredrick says:


    She lost… please refer to the constitution and how YOUR government works. ….

  21. Anonymous says:

    The media is all ratings, ego and the personal and political agendas of its ownership and boards.. At one time, the major outlets cared about responsible journalism. Alas, this does not appear to be the case anymore.

  22. DaveT says:

    People need to get over it, your candidate lost ,big freaking deal, in 4 more years your can do it all over again. The media will pick their little darling and celebrities will pick whomever allows them to make loads of money and live in the upper 1-5% along with their life time congressional friends.

  23. Geezer says:

    The real tragedy occured months before, during the primaries.
    As such, we we’re guaranteed a lousy new president.

    What was produced were the worst candidates possible.
    So, we’re getting the worst president possible.

    Oh well, I’m sure that the gun shops realize that the gravy train has
    pulled out of the station because the fear of confiscation is gone.
    Ammo prices will plummet, hoarding will stop.
    The streets will no longer be lined with gold come January.

    “May you live in interesting times.”
    –Chinese curse

    It has come to pass.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Maybe Susan Sarandon and the “Progressives” can now begin their long-awaited and eagerly anticipated REVOLUTION and save us all (as soon as they put down their video games and come down off their post election “Hell, no. I won’t vote!” high. Waiting for it….

  25. Chris says:

    Trump won because he was the best candidate. Sorry, at the end of the day is was Hilary people didn’t trust or want. She has herself and the Democrat party to blame. Looking for the boogeyman just further diminishes the party’s credibility.

  26. B says:

    Take California out of the equation and she does not win. They want to be out anyway.

  27. D says:

    I think it’s pointless even publishing this editorial considering what has been happening since the inauguration. I don’t care how he managed to get elected, it’s obvious he isn’t qualified for the position. God lip us!

  28. Pogo says:

    Ask yourself who holds Smith’s leash. Who did Smith support?

    Ask why the same Republicans who described Trump as a cancer: carnival barker, conman, corrupt, deadbeat, dishonest, ego maniac, liar, mentally ill, ill tempered, insane, etc, etc are happy to feed on Trump’s scraps and make excuses for his blatant cruelty, dishonesty, and bizarre and tasteless behavior.

    Ask why the Christian Taliban and its version of sharia law can blindly support Trump and claim to fear God too.

  29. greatjob says:

    Cut the cord and all subscriptions. Only pay for REAL NEWS, you will never see that on the TV

  30. Chris says:

    Yes, cut the cord and take down the satellite dish. We dad and our life is much more peaceful!

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