After first pronouncing Donald Trump a joke, then a flash in the pan, then phenom, then a danger, a threat and a KKK talking point, TV news operations might be moving into a new self-flagellation phase.
The morning, for instance, CNN — after feasting on Don Lemon’s extensive interview with the candidate about his plan to ban Muslims from entering the country until political leaders can “figure out what the hell is going on” — gave low-polling GOP candidate/Ohio Gov. John Kasich a rare spot of interview time. But only to ask Kasich if he would break the pledge of allegiance to the GOP party he signed, should Trump become the party’s nominee.
Kasich has acknowledged that he had signed the pledge and said it illustrates why you have to be careful what pledges you sign. He also has insisted it’s a moot point because there is no way Trump is going to be the party’s candidate, much less POTUS.
‘Will you break the pledge?” Brianna Keilar asked him breathlessly as Kasich’s rare airtime on CNN began.
Kasich, understanding his role here, said Keilar was getting ahead of things and noted that he’s been critical of Trump’s “vision, whether it’s attacks on Hispanics or women or Muslims or a disabled reporter.” The polls that show Trump with a commanding lead among GOP voters only “poll about 400 people out of 325 million,” Kasich added.
Then he answered the question he wanted to answer: “And he’s on the air constantly. You put me on the air as much as Donald’s on the air, and I would be leading,” Kasich scolded Keilar — and, by extension, TV news.
“So you think it’s the coverage that is solely responsible for Donald leading?” Keilar asked, seeing if she could boil down Kasich’s argument to a headline.
Trump taps into the anger of 50-year-olds who have lost their jobs, people whose kids can’t find a job, etc., Kasich responded. “But you can’t deny that when somebody’s on television all the time, in a celebrity culture, that they’re not going to rise in the polls. Come on, we all know what the truth is on that!
“I have no doubt if I got the kind of attention of Donald Trump, I wouldn’t be low in the polls,” Kasich insisted. “But I don’t get that attention. I’m not complaining, but sometimes I’m not that great of a soundbite. I’m not out to stir everybody up and get a lot of eyeballs.”
Keilar, losing interest, returned to the question of whether Kasich intended to break the GOP pledge he signed.
“You’re trying – you can’t put words in my mouth,” the also-ran candidate shot back. “I have not said I wouldn’t be for the [GOP] nominee. … One of the things I am most concerned about is Hillary Clinton being elected president. And I think that if we have a candidate that’s out there dividing people, I think it’s very hard for them to win Ohio. I’m the governor of Ohio, and no Republican has gotten to the White House without winning Ohio. And I am not convinced that a platform of division and attacks will allow us to win.”
But Keilar would not be pried from her pledge question.
“I appreciate your persistence, Brianna. I was in television, and I appreciate how it works,” Kasich finally snarked with a smile.
CNN’s political commentator Carl Bernstein took up Kasich’s TV-news-shaming in a later segment, saying “something dangerous is happening in America” and that it’s being “driven by a celebrity crypto-fascist.”
“This is about the people in the country and their grievances. … It’s about people who want something outside the established order and they’re moving increasingly toward authoritarian ideas and solutions that are proposed by a celebrity, who we in the media are enabling,” he said. “We are not given anything like equal time to the other candidates. We have promoted the circus. We have provided three rings. And it’s a very self-destructive circus, and it’s time we started talking about ideas.”
Show host Brooke Baldwin said, “I’m listening to you very closely, Carl.” CNN’s political director David Chalian? Not so much.
“I’m not sure it’s just the media here, Carl — I don’t think it is,” Chalian insisted, saying Bernstein’s point “misses voters” like the dozen-ish rabid Trump fans CNN producers had handpicked to appear on its air, including New Day this morning.