Eight years later, Trump is still driving the media nuts


If you’ve been watching cable news lately, you probably noticed the extraordinary amount of air time that’s being devoted to the hush money trial involving a porn star and Donald Trump.

CNN is running ads promoting what it calls its “gavel-to-gavel-coverage” — which explains why we’re getting such “riveting” information such as how at one point Donald Trump crossed his arms in front of his chest, about how he smirked at another point, about how he glanced at a witness entering the courtroom.

Jake Tapper, the CNN anchor, cut off an interview with a guest to say, “I’m sorry to interrupt. We’re just showing the first image of Donald Trump from inside the courtroom. It’s a still photograph that we’re showing there. Just want to make sure our viewers know what they’re looking at.”

It was too much even for a liberal like Jon Stewart, who said on “The Daily Show,” “Yes, for our viewers who are just waking up from a 30-year coma, this is what Donald Trump has looked like every day for the past 30 years.”

After a few days of watching what MSNBC is calling “the trial of the century” I came away with the impression that if somehow a nuclear bomb went off in, say, Cleveland, a reporter would immediately be dispatched to the scene — to find out what the victims who had just been nuked thought about the hush money trial in New York.

Yes, he’s the first former president to stand trial on criminal charges, and yes, that’s newsworthy. But all-day-long TV coverage? With reporters and partisans talking about the most insignificant details? And on liberal channels, hardly a word from anybody suggesting that maybe Donald Trump really is the victim of a political witch hunt.

Trump’s alleged crime is that after paying off a porn star to keep quiet about a fling they supposedly had — an allegation he denies — he listed the expense as legal fees when, in fact, the prosecution claims, it was an illegal campaign contribution — aimed at making sure voters didn’t know about any of it before the 2016 presidential election. 

Tell me when to stop yawning. If it happened at all, it happened eight long years ago, for heaven’s sake. And tell me why it’s a crime when Donald Trump allegedly does something like that, but it’s no big deal when Hillary Clinton does the same thing.

This is from Kimberly Strassel’s Wall Street Journal column: “The Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 paid an opposition-research firm to produce a bogus dossier that accused Mr. Trump of collusion with Russia. They fed it to the FBI and leaked it to the public prior to the 2016 election. The DNC and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign reported the expenditures to the Federal Election Commission but concealed their true nature by describing the payments as ‘legal’ services, as Mr. Trump did with his NDA. The FEC fined them for the deception, but under Mr. Bragg’s theory it should count as criminal election interference.”

We also heard about the publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid paying off a Playboy model for her story about a supposed sexual liaison with Trump — which he also denies — and then killing the story in order to make sure Trump wasn’t harmed by it. This is important, we’re told, because it could have helped Trump beat Hillary Clinton in what was a close race back in 2016.

But if we’re supposed to see the suppression of a news story during a presidential campaign as a threat to democracy, let’s not forget that liberals in the media did their best to shut down news about Hunter Biden’s business dealings during the 2020 presidential election — a story many on the left thought would hurt Hunter’s father and help Trump.

“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions,” is how NPR’s then-managing editor for news explained it.

As Uri Berliner, the NPR editor who spoke out about liberal bias at his news organization (before he was suspended and then quit) wrote in a piece for The Free Press: “As in many newsrooms, [Trump’s] election in 2016 was greeted at NPR with a mixture of disbelief, anger, and despair. … But what began as tough, straightforward coverage of a belligerent, truth-impaired president veered toward efforts to damage or topple Trump’s presidency.”

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For the record, I’m no fan of Donald Trump. I think he’s often reckless and brings a lot of problems on himself. But you don’t have to be paranoid to believe he may be onto something when he says he’s the victim of a progressive district attorney pursuing a flimsy case and hoping for a guilty verdict that would hurt him and help Joe Biden.

In a country where free speech is a bedrock of our democracy, politicians are allowed to lie about their opponents to help them win elections. The press is allowed to take sides while they insist that they’re playing fair. Sorry, but I’m starting to think the real threat to democracy just might be democracy itself. 

Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Substack page. Follow him @BernardGoldberg.

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