The Sunday morning network shows have become willing Trump enablers ⁠— here's how

The Sunday morning network shows have become willing Trump enablers ⁠— here's how
Chuck Todd image via MSNBC Screengrab

When it comes to the Sunday morning network talk shows, no other influential media platform has done so little to adjust its approach to our radical, untruthful president. Sticking to their staid, deeply respectful format where Republican government officials are treated as perpetual truth-tellers, the Sunday shows remain proudly and utterly oblivious to the seismic changes Donald Trump and his dishonest cohorts have ushered into the Beltway. That means Trump and the GOP emerge as the big Sunday morning winners—and that also means the shows have become some of Trump’s key enablers.


Hosting wildly imbalanced panel discussions that favor conservative voices, routinely ignoring breaking scandal stories that could damage the White House, and treating Trump and his radical Republican allies as utterly normal, the Sunday morning network shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and NBC consistently present a false picture of American politics during the past few years, and consistently whitewash the dangerous contours of the Trump presidency.

For most Sunday shows, booking the guests now seems to be the paramount act of journalism, and everything after that is just filler. This means Republicans representing Trump appear on the shows to promote his nonstop lies and are met with, at best, timid pushback. Hosts seem to think their job in the Trump era is to provide the president and his top officials a comfortable platform to tell more blatant untruths.

That unfortunate trend was on clear display when Trump himself sat for a lengthy interview on Meet the Press. Hosted by Chuck Todd, who Trump has mercilessly mocked and insulted in the past, the interview appeared to be a textbook example of how not to handle a chronic liar during a one-on-one interview.

"To wit, the Mad King’s interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” was another example of the perpetually nauseating confluence of Trump’s gratuitous lies and a TV news reporter too timid to treat him like the despot he is," wrote Bob Cesca. "Instead, Trump routinely steamrolls interviewers like Todd, knowing that the press will continue to behave as though he were just another generic president, worthy of the same compliant, nonconfrontational attitude we witnessed during previous, comparatively “normal” administrations."

There's nothing normal about a sitting president who lies virtually every time he makes a public pronouncement, the way he did on the NBC program.

"You know, under President Obama you had separation. I was the one that ended it," he falsely told Todd, while Trump resurrected his beloved and invented claim that voter fraud was the reason he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by three million tallies in 2016. Note that Trump’s own voter fraud task force couldn't find evidence that “three million illegal voters" swayed the election.

The Q&A turned out to be a predictable cacophony of lies from Trump—a cacophony that was met with very little resistance. Should that be a surprise, considering the Sunday morning network shows are already a bastion of Republican talking heads? "There were over five times as many right-leaning signature panels on the major Sunday political news shows as left-leaning panels in the first half of 2019," Media Matters recently reported. "Across the Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC, 33% of panels included more conservative than progressive guests, while just 6% of panels tilted left. Of the remaining panels, 61%, were balanced, featuring the same number of left-leaning and right-leaning guests."

And then there are the huge Sunday morning editorial oversights. In June, most of the network morning news shows ignored Trump’s efforts to force a question about citizenship status into the 2020 census, despite a ruling by the Supreme Court that blocked the controversial move.

In May, none of the network morning talks shows covered the dire, newly passed anti-choice law in Georgia that's specifically aimed at making abortion illegal in America. The Georgia bill, along with others pending in Republican-run states such as Alabama, represents a wildly ambitious GOP strategy to make legal choice obsolete in America

And back in March, news that the former owner of a Florida massage parlor recently raided as part of a sex trafficking ring had been selling access to Donald Trump to Chinese business executives wasn't deemed newsworthy enough to be mentioned on the Sunday network news programs the weekend after the story broke.

Notice a trend here? Over and over, the Sunday network shows completely ignore hugely important stories that often cast Trump and Republicans in deeply negative light. And yes, the blackouts matter because the Sunday shows help set policy agendas and shape public debate on important issues. (Note that none of this criticism applies to MSNBC's AM Joy, which airs Saturday and Sunday morning. The program consistently addresses key stories the others gloss over, while also holding the Trump administration to a far tougher standard. And yes, full disclosure, I'm an occasional guest on that show.)

Oh, and then there was the credible rape allegation recently lodged against Trump. According to longtime advice columnist and writer E. Jean Carroll, Trump attacked her inside the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City years ago, when he lunged at her, pushed her up against a fitting room wall, and shoved his hand up her dress. That stunning news story was also ignored by the Sunday network shows. "The inconsistencies in Trump’s response, the sheer number of women accusing him of sexual misconduct, the hypocrisy of Republicans believing Juanita Broaddrick’s rape accusation against President Bill Clinton in 1999 while ignoring Carroll’s now―all were topics that would seem to warrant significant airtime on the Sunday morning talk shows but simply didn’t receive it," HuffPost noted.

And yes, there's a clear double standard for coverage of Democratic and Republicans. Last winter, when some women complained about the way Joe Biden interacted with them, especially with unwelcomed touching in public, the allegations were covered extensively on the Sunday shows, whereas a rape allegation against Trump was ignored:

And let's face it, if the target of a rape allegation had been then-President Bill Clinton, all the Sunday shows would’ve extended their programs to two hours in order to make room for their frenzied coverage.

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