The Atlantic

Why the Media's Defense Against Trump Has Proven So Ineffective

The press may never succeed in eliciting popular sympathy—instead, it needs to convince members of the public that the president’s rhetoric will hurt them, too.
Source: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Donald Trump has a knack for choosing weak adversaries. He recognized the potential in taking advantage of undocumented workers. He used the element of surprise to take out Vince McMahon. Then he cut through a field of supposedly formidable Republicans as though they were Lilliputians, setting himself up for a general-election match-up against Hillary Clinton—who, it turned out, was a notably weak Democratic nominee.

Now it’s the press’s turn. While he’s bashed the news media since early in his campaign, the president has recently elevated his feud, with attacks on Mika Brzezinski and CNN that shocked even benumbed observers. Reporters are, understandably, horrified, but the general reaction from the press seems likely to encourage Trump while failing to rally the public against his behavior.

Trump’s attack on Brzezinski, including bizarre (and seemingly invented) claims about a botched facelift, is fully in keeping with the behavior

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic8 min read
The Power Of Fear In The Thawing Arctic
Living north of the Arctic Circle meant learning fear and its power to motivate in the face of danger—whether from a bear or climate change.
The Atlantic10 min readPolitics
The 2020 Congressional-Retirement Tracker
For the second consecutive election, more Republicans than Democrats are forgoing reelection, a potentially ominous sign for the GOP in 2020.
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
Why Isn’t Trump Helping the Autoworkers?
The president has been happy to stand up for manufacturing employees on the campaign trail, but has done conspicuously little as GM workers go on strike.