How the Media Smeared Trump on Charlottesville

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 August 21, 2017|
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As many have pointed out, since about 4 p.m. on August 12, the media coverage of Charlottesville has been much more about President Trump’s statements than about James Fields, Heather Heyer, an auto ramming, a riot, a white supremacist rally, or a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Talking heads, Capitol Hill pontificators, CEOs, and ordinary folks on Facebook have criticized the president’s Saturday remarks as inadequate at best and an oblique expression of complicity with the Ku Klux Klan at worst. For one erstwhile supporter they necessitated a clean break with the president. Julius Krein explained to Slate that he was forced to revise his views of Trump by “the simple and obvious fact that somebody died, and it was obvious that there was some neo-Nazi psychopath who killed that person. To not state the obvious, to fail to ‘tell it like it is,’ I thought was pathetic.”

It’s easy to see why Krein would think that President Trump was expected to address one simple and obvious fact—that a neo-nazi murdered someone in Charlottesville—because Krein, like virtually everybody, acquired his information about the president’s statement from the media. For example, the report about the events of August 12 on NPR’s website indicates, with respect to Trump’s statement, that the “obvious” facts about Charlottesville were exactly those mentioned by Krein, and it even notes that although President Trump approached the microphone about an hour after the car ramming, his remarks somehow overlooked both the ramming and its victims. Sure sounds like the president flunked a no-brainer, or was up to something odd.

Unfortunately for the president’s critics, what was obvious to them whenever this completed narrative reached them could not have been obvious to President Trump when he began to speak at 3:35 p.m.. Why? Because at that moment it was not obvious to anybody. The hospital where the victims of the car ramming were being treated announced that one person was dead and 19 were wounded at 3:53, more than 10 minutes after the president finished his remarks.

It is true that the mayor of Charlottesville had tweeted information about an unspecified death at 3:16, but the tweet did not link the fatality to the car ramming or to any specific cause.  So when Trump was preparing his statement, and while he gave it, he did not know the “obvious fact” that Krein and so many others now insist he ought to have addressed, that a person had been killed. And he also did not know that her killer was a neo-nazi psychopath, because the driver’s identity was not announced by the police until 9:46 pm.

In fact, when President Trump addressed the cameras on the afternoon of August 12, he was not there to share with the nation his views of a terrorist attack, as many with 20/20 hindsight suppose. He was there to offer reflections on a disturbing riot which had been going on in Charlottesville since about 11:00 a.m., and about which he had already commented in a tweet at 1:19 p.m., when the simple and obvious fact that now summarizes Charlottesville to everybody was as unobvious as it could possibly be, because it hadn’t happened, and nobody imagined that it would (except possibly James Fields). From about 11:30 a.m. to 1:42 p.m. (when the ramming occurred) the obvious fact of Charlottesville was an ongoing  riot, and this continued to be the case at 3:35 p.m. when the car ramming, its effects, and its causes were still subjects of unconfirmed report and speculation.  

The president did not choose the time of his statement because it was opportune with respect to the status of the events in Charlottesville, but because a media appearance about a different matter was already scheduled for that hour. If  his schedule had been free, then within about 20 minutes of 3:35 he likely would have learned part of what is now so crystal clear to Krein and others, and his eventual statement would probably have been very different.  But at 3:35 he could not craft a statement around an event, the facts of which were not yet established and confirmed, much less obvious to everybody.

We have heard a lot of hyperventilating about the president’s “moral leadership” from Monday morning quarterbacks who have never played the game at the president’s level and who in this case didn’t even watch a complete broadcast of it. If the media story on which they rely had been only about Charlottesville itself, it would not have been egregiously misinformative to start reports with the most critical events. A woman was killed by a neo-nazi at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville: that tells the public the most important thing that happened in Charlottesville on August 12.  But in a story about the president’s statement—and that was and remains the actual banner story in the media coverage—it is nothing if not malicious negligence to omit all information about how the facts became available and what was known at the specific time the president made his statement. This fake news smear is a moral disgrace to journalism. Talk about unfitness for a job.

As for the many wise and decent Americans who have consumed this tainted product and condemned President Trump’s comments about Charlottesville as tantamount to racism—no doubt they share the general condemnation of lynching, and deem it a sin with whose perpetrators they have nothing in common. But they should reflect that assembling a lynch mob needed more than race hatred, and sometimes not even that. Hasty and lawless indignation hasn’t disappeared from our midst, and many of the president’s righteous accusers seem even proud to flaunt it.   

 

About the Author:

Bruce Heiden
Bruce Heiden is professor of classics at The Ohio State University.
  • kalendjay

    One irony is that the driver-killer has been charged with second-degree homicide: a charge impossible to reconcile with his membership in and apparent actions in behalf of a conspiratorial, criminally minded organization. Yet it is the DOJ under alt-right Jeff Sessions that has promptly announced a civil rights investigation into the matter. I don’t have to tell you that the purpose of plenary civil rights charges is to put the screws on the locals to maximize punishment.

    So who’s pulling punches here, Trump, or the university town of Charlotteville?

    • Bobbi60

      The charge of 2nd degree murder is consistent with the story that is slowly leaking out: that of a mentally fragile man(diagnosed with schizophrenia in childhood), who found himself surrounded by a mob and panicked. This doesn’t fit into the liberal media narrative, however, so those facts are emerging very slowly.

      • Andrew Flanders

        Slowly leaking? This “story” was wall to wall coverage right after it happened. And the story is fiction.

        • Bobbi60

          Actually, the part about the guy being schizophrenic has gone almost completely unreported, as has the possibility that he was directed into a crowd of counter-demonstrators by police. They don’t fit the narrative the left is promoting, so they get no attention.
          If he was a white supremacist who went to Charlotteville to kill people, why hasn’t he been charged with 1st degree murder? 2nd degree means that the prosecutors don’t believe the crime was premeditated.

  • SaguaroJack49

    What did the president know and when did he know it?

    Thank you, professor.

    • bruceheiden

      Or, what didn’t the president know and when didn’t he know it?

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      • SaguaroJack49

        A Yossarian connoisseur, I see.

        • bruceheiden

          Where’s Joe Heller when you need him?

  • tz1

    Some are blaming the helicopter crash on … I’m not sure what. Maybe Christopher Cantwell, Agustus Invictus, or Richard Spencer are warlocks that can cause helicopter crashes by their mere presence.

  • Neo Conscious

    Battles initially considered losses are often eventually realized as victories. An example is the Battle of the Coral Sea, a tactical victory for the Japanese who sank the aircraft carrier Lexington and seriously damaged the Yorktown and the American ship losses were greater. Both sides disengaged, but the Americans retreated back to Hawaii while the Japanese remained in the South Pacific.
    However, history has shown that it was actually a tactical victory for America, for it was the first Japanese offensive that was successfully stopped, and their damaged carriers were unable to participate in the upcoming Midway attack, while the Yorktown was repaired and able to engage in it. Additionally, the Japanese damages prevented their planned attack on Port Moresby, New Guinea, and thus their entire Pacific offensive was thwarted.
    Trump’s declaration that there was “blame on both sides” was seized upon by the media that he was sympathetic to the white supremacists and thus a major political defeat for him. However, not only was he factually correct, the majority of the American people understand that and in time his statement will be the defining one on Charlottesville.
    So don’t despair when it seems almost everyone in the country believes the MSM narrative being pushed within minutes of some big news event. Time has a way of sorting out truth from spin and common sense overcomes false narratives promoted.

    • Sam McGowan

      Where do you get that? Yes, the Navy retreated to Hawaii but MacArthur’s forces didn’t, and by late 1942, the Japanese were in the process of losing the war – and not because of Midway, which was as much a defeat for the US Navy as the Japanese. It took the Navy almost two years to rebuild. Meanwhile, General George Kenney’s 5th Air Force sank a large Japanese convoy in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea (much to the Navy’s chagrin) then captured Lae, after which the Japanese moved their battle line several hundred miles to the north.

      • Neo Conscious

        Midway as much a defeat for the US Navy as the Japanese?
        That’s a unique interpretation that rivals the spin we get from the media about Trump.

        • Roger Barnett

          Midway not only turned the tide in the Pacific, but in the war. For, without the victory at Midway and the blunting of the Japanese advance in the Pacific, the U.S. could not have followed a “Europe First” strategy: the U.S. populace, rubbed raw by Pearl Harbor, would not have allowed it.

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  • Conservative Supremacy

    Hey, Main Stream Media… The United States of America never had slaves only Americans did. In 1619 Slaves were 1st brought to the Colonies & for a 157 years European control & values gave us Slavery. Once “We” became our own Country in 1776, it took us 89 years to end Slavery! Only 89 years & we get no credit for that? Did we not say in our Founding Documents that all Men were Created Equal? & Free? Tell me how many other Countries at the time had that as Law? It took us 89 years as the United States of America to keep that promise & end Slavery. Democrats & Liberals, who once again, align themselves with European & Totalitarian Values, will tell you it hasn’t ended yet? Really? What Nation took less time to end Slavery than the USA? What about Slavery today in the World? Or are we only interested in the Past?

    • Sam McGowan

      Brazil. Slavery remained legal in Brazil until 1888.

      • William Fankboner

        And is still an accepted practice in some Islamic communities, along with other barbaric customs like genital mutilation.

    • Dannz

      You are wrong, read your history. The US was one of the the last countries to end slavery. Sure they paid lip service to international law but slave trading to the US continued under different flags ie Portugese,French. The UK banned slave trading in 1804 the Americans continued this trade for another 50 years. The Royal Navy(UK) lost over 1000 men patrolling the African coast through diseases and battles. All paid for by the UK tax government of the day. And you want to claim the moral high ground? Plenty of history books to consult.

  • William Westchester

    A leader and the people on one side, the Deep State on the other. Does anyone know about Gaius Gracchus?

    • Sean

      Lead singer of the Rometown Rats?

      • William Fankboner

        This is no time for levity.

  • Sam McGowan

    The problem is that everybody, including Trump, automatically labeled James Fields’ actions as an act of terror and murder. I am not so sure. I used Google Earth to measure the distance from where the car first appears on the video to the intersection as 265 feet. The video shows it took six seconds to cover the distance, This works out to 44.1 feet per second, which is 30 MPH. However, he impacted the crowd at least two car lengths short of the intersection, which brings his speed down to 26 MPH. Now, if he intended to do harm, why didn’t he floor it? Furthermore, the much published photo taken by the Charlottesville Daily Progress photographers shows plainly that his foot was on the brake – four light bulbs are visible in the photo so it’s not a reflection. The claim that he is a Nazi comes from one source, his high school history teacher and is based on his having chosen the German army for the topic of a term paper. Now, I knew a lot of 14-year old boys who were interested in the German army as well as the Russian Spetznatz. The school district rebuked the teacher for his comments and reported that there is nothing in his school records showing that he had Nazi or racist beliefs.

    In short, a lot of people have been jumping to conclusions instead of waiting for the facts to come out. Incidentally, very little has been published about Heather Heyer other than that she was a paralegal and “an activist.” There is one thing for certain – she was marching under the black and red flags of Antifa, an organization that has been declared terrorist by New Jersey.

    • B-Dog The Man

      Excellent points

    • MaxMBJ

      I enjoyed your comment because it was true. Truth is tasty. When this dish of truth is ultimately placed on the public table, not only will the media and Dems run for the tall grass, those pathetic Republicans led by the Bushes and John Kasich will disappear like cockroaches into the woodwork.

  • P F

    You seem to be a participant in the lack of journalism. Watching Trump did not need the media to understand it. His “on both sides” comment was the uproar that I felt personally. Then his Trump Tower rant as a racist protector was not lost on me. You are the one who is missing the point. It isn’t about the media. It’s about a man elected who is ignorant of our history and who is unwilling to see any issue but from his own narcissist viewpoint.