February 28, 2016

Matt Taibbi discusses his recent article at Rolling Stone on how Donald Trump has made a mockery of the media and our presidential election and turned it into a really badly acted reality television show on this Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN:

STELTER: You say America has made Trump unstoppable. Do you feel the media has played a part in making him --

TAIBBI: Of course.

STELTER: -- basically at this point, the presumptive nominee?

TAIBBI: Absolutely. Of course, we have. I mean, just look at the statistics. I mean, we cited one in our article where he had had 233 times the amount of television network coverage that his next biggest opponent on the GOP side, Cruz, had had, and he's had twice as much coverage as Hillary.

STELTER: And I might just say that's because he's more unpredictable, because he's more interesting, he's more compelling --

TAIBBI: Of course.

STELTER: -- and he's more popular.

TAIBBI: Of course, and he gets better ratings. And we all know that whenever anybody covers Trump, that it's going to increase our readership and our ratings and --

STELTER: Well, this is partly chicken or egg, right? We have been having this chicken or egg conversation in some ways for eight months.

TAIBBI: Right, right, we have. But I mean I think this is what I was trying to say about Trump in the article is that he sort of found the flaw in our system, which is that normally when we have candidates who fall outside the pale and whom political reporters consider unsuitable candidates, people like Pat Buchanan or Howard Dean or Ron Paul --


TAIBBI: -- normally, we criticize them and they go away. Trump figured out if he just makes the whole thing a circus, we just can't resist covering it.

STELTER: Well, let me read actually from our article about that. You say, "Trump isn't the first rich guy to run for office, but he's the first to realize the weakness in the system, which is the watchdogs in the political media can't resist a car wreck. The more you insult the press, the more they cover him."

And then you go into the statistics about how he's been pulling more coverage than his rivals and as well as Hillary Clinton.

TAIBBI: Right.

STELTER: Are you saying that maybe it's good television but it's not good journalism to be covered him as much as he gets covered?

TAIBBI: Right. Well, it's definitely good television. This is another point we were trying to make in the article, which is that the election campaign, it's just a television show, and I think this is what Trump is -- his key insight into this whole process.

He's a reality TV star. He knows how to do this and he's good at this. And he's turned this -- what is essentially a television show into a show where he is the star and we can't live without it.

Taibbi also took Trump's new BFFs, Morning Blow's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski to task for their cozy relationship with Trump:

STELTER: Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski have come under criticism for being too close to Trump. They say they're not. They say this is just rivals trying to take cheap shots at them.

But we see this town hall that happened a couple weeks ago as an example of a close relationship between the two sides.

From your perspective, is that a fair critique, that there is a cozy relationship here?

TAIBBI: Absolutely. What happens in journalism, the same way there's a race to the bottom with wages, there's a race to the bottom with journalism, too. When politicians find out there's a platform out there where they can go and deliver their message without being asked tough questions, they're going to go there every single time as opposed to going to the place where they're going to be asked difficult questions.

STELTER: Now, I would say Scarborough had asked difficult questions and Trump doesn't answer those questions.

TAIBBI: Right. But generally the treatment there is very, very favorable and very, very cozy on that show, and it's gotten cozier over time.

STELTER: Do you think so?

TAIBBI: I think so. And that's another thing that happens with journalists, is they -- the more time they spent with a politician, the closer they become intellectually and socially with that person and they start to have a simpatico with that person, and that's something we're starting to see with the show I think and some other shows as well he's been on.

There's a race to the bottom alright, but sadly, I'd say we're already there when it comes to the state of what passes for "news" on network and cable television.

You can read Taibbi's article at Rolling Stone here is you haven't already: How America Made Donald Trump Unstoppable

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