On Sunday morning, he renewed his plaintive whining. He touted a Saturday Night Live skit as evidence of “Media rigging election!” And he complained that coverage of the women who have stepped forward to allege that he inappropriately ogled, touched, groped, or assaulted them is turning women against him. “Election is being rigged by the media,” he tweeted, “in a coordinated effort with the Clinton campaign, by putting stories that never happened into news!”
It’s a charge his key surrogates have amplified. “Eighty to 85 percent of the media is against him,” Rudy Giuliani told Jake Tapper on Sunday. “I think that without the unending one-sided assault of the news media, Trump would be beating Hillary by 15 points,” Newt Gingrich said on ABC's This Week.
Where to begin?
The media made Donald Trump’s business career possible, and The Apprentice made him a fixture on the national stage. Perhaps no candidate in history has so masterfully generated wall-to-wall coverage of his every move. Outside of the Trump campaign, the media is more often blamed for facilitating his rise than for imperiling his chances. The man running his campaign, Steve Bannon, is the executive chairman of Breitbart—a media outlet sometimes accused of functioning as the propaganda arm of a campaign.
I don’t know how many reporters now oppose Trump—and neither does Giuliani. I don’t know how much support recent stories have cost Trump—and neither does Gingrich. What I do know is that Trump is not the passive victim of a vast conspiracy. For one thing, media outlets don’t conspire; they compete vigorously, sometimes viciously.
But even that elides the more central truth: Trump did this to himself. His conduct over decades, and his statements in recent months, generated the stories about which he now complains. He bragged, on video, about doing the very things women have stepped forward to allege he did, and which he now denies having done. He’s said things on the campaign trail that no modern candidate has said—and then complained when the press points this out.
Moreover, he unilaterally disarmed, depriving himself of the mechanisms other Republicans, who have also complained about media bias, often use to respond. He alienated staunchly conservative outlets, feuding with Fox hosts, and leading National Review to call an entire issue, “Against Trump.” He failed to raise the funds that other candidates use to speak directly to voters, bypassing media outlets by using direct mail, phone calls, television advertising, and extensive field operations.
If media coverage is rigged against Donald Trump, it was Donald Trump who rigged it.
There’s a second charge that Trump has often appended to the first, as he did again on Sunday afternoon.
The second charge is equally specious. Trump has been complaining about voter fraud for months, and has doubled-down on those complaints in recent weeks. Last Saturday, in Manheim, Pennsylvania, he issued a dark warning to his supporters:
You’ve got to go out. You’ve got to go out. And you’ve got to get your friends. And you’ve got to get everyone you know. And you got to watch your polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania. Certain areas. I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about.
Here, too, his supporters have amplified the charge. Giuliani told Tapper on Sunday:
There are a few places, and not many in swing states … where they have been notorious for stealing votes. Pennsylvania, Chicago. There have been places where a lot of cheating has gone on over the years … Dead people generally vote for Democrats, rather than Republicans … what they do is, they leave dead people on the rolls, and then they pay people to vote those dead people four, five, six, seven, eight, nine times.
This is, what’s the word? Oh, yes. This is a lie.