Horowitz: Trump’s Refusal to Criticize Duke & KKK Part of a Disturbing Pattern

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

 

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Rob Horowitz

Journalists and pundits, some of whom seemed to be bending over backwards this weekend, to view Donald Trump’s refusal to criticize David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan(KKK) in a Sunday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper as an isolated incident are missing Trump’s broader and consistent pattern of nakedly appealing to racial and religious prejudices, capitalizing on people’s fears and worst instincts.

This is the same candidate who proposed a ban on Muslims entering the nation and backed up his raising of questions about the loyalty and patriotism of our fellow Muslim citizens by making up a story about thousands of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11. This is the same candidate who constantly touts his endorsement by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of racial profiling of Latinos in 2013 and who oversees a law enforcement agency which demonstrated the worst pattern of racial profiling in our nation’s history, according to the Justice Department.  This is the same candidate who began his campaign inaccurately describing undocumented Mexican immigrants, who studies show commit no more crimes than the rest of the American population, as “people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”  This is the same candidate who has recently as this weekend attempted to blame the failure of one of the lawsuits against Trump University to be dismissed on the fact that the Judge in the case is Latino.

Attempting to avoid answering Tapper’s repeated questions on Sunday by falsely claiming ignorance,, Trump said, “Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists."  In a phone interview on the Today Show on Monday, Trump blamed his answers on a faulty ear piece, and pointed out he had disavowed Duke in an interview on Friday.  But tellingly, Trump, who never hesitates to hurl an insult, has yet to harshly criticize Duke or the KKK.  Duke and other White Supremacists are enthusiastically backing Trump's candidacy.

At the beginning of his campaign, when Trump talked about  a new ‘silent majority’—a term used by Richard Nixon. I and some other commentators noted that  the politician of that era he was truly channeling was George Wallace.  Yet, for the most part, the media with CNN and MSNBC as the worst offenders, have given this central aspect of the Trump candidacy short shrift, making it easier to justify airing his rallies live for months, while not doing the same for any other candidate, and over-emphasizing his showmanship and large crowds. Their, all too convenient, all purpose excuse for the disproportionate attention and free ride Trump was given: ‘that he is tapping into something.”
 
The main reason Trump has received more television coverage than the rest of the Republican field combined is that he boosted  ratings.  Especially for CNN and MSNBC, who badly trail FOX News in the ratings, a boost of as little as 100,000 to 200,000 households is a big deal. That has been the main driving force of the Trump-love; it makes the cash register ring.

But judging by the reaction of MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, the host of Morning JOE, whose show up until Monday morning could have been renamed Morning Trump, Donald Trump’s playing footsy with David Duke may finally cause the media to give Trump’s willingness to stoke racial fears the long overdue attention it deserves. In a Washington Post opinion piece published Monday, that is harshly critical of Trump, Scarborough asks, “ Is this how the party of Abraham Lincoln dies?

It is long over-due for the media to subject Donald Trump to the same scrutiny and critical judgment that is usually applied to front-runners. So far, it isn’t too unfair to suggest that most of the television coverage has been like covering George Wallace in 1968 and mentioning that “whole segregation thing” as an after thought. The demagoguery and appeals to racism that are central to Trump's campaign need to be central to the media coverage as well.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

 

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