Former CBS Nightly News anchor Dan Rather has emerged as a national voice of reason during this year’s carnival of an election. The legendary journalist called out bunk mainstream reporters cowed into submission by Donald Trump’s incessant need to lie and whose every word is meant to deceive Americans into choosing his particular brand of narcissistic fascism:
Enough is enough. It is a reality that every reporter must come to grips with. Trump is not a normal candidate. This is not a normal election. He will set a precedent that other demagogues will study and follow.
Fear, combined with the lure of ratings, views, clicks and profits, have hypnotized too much of the press into inaction and false equivalency for far too long. I am optimistic the trance is being broken. Fear not the Internet trolls. Fear instead the judgement of history.
Earlier this week, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out the other night, American media simply isn’t equipped by its manual for calling candidates liars.
In particular O’Donnell cited the New York Times, who won’t say a candidate lied, writing that Trump “stretched the truth” – which is a euphemistic way of saying that any reasonable person would question his grip on sanity after so many blatant falsehoods. He rightly accused the Gray Old Lady of lying to its readers by softening and legitimizing the barrage of Republican falsehoods. Rather saved his strongest criticism for the New York Times too:
And yet when presented with this challenge, too much of the press has been cowed into inaction. This is a man who can be fact-checked into obscurity by any second grader with an Internet connection.
And yet when he issues a mealy-mouth non-apology about President Obama’s obvious pedigree as an American, here we are with too many in the press not acknowledging his years of lies (check your Twitter feeds about how the New York Times initially covered this event). All of this of course sets the stage for Trump to lie again about somehow birtherism being Clinton’s fault.
It’s not. Dan Rather is absolutely right to crush the Times for a headline that trumpeted the racist candidate Trump as doing well in polls, while incidentally reporting that he wouldn’t personally disavow birtherism yesterday. Even Colin Powell, one of the few remaining Republicans with any level of public respect, called out Trump for racial hate in his non-sensical demands for President Obama’s birth certificate long after one had been produced.
Dan Rather pins the blame squarely onto the members of the media who treat this year’s Presidential election like a horse race, which it absolutely is not. For the first time in over 240 years, an American demagogue has arisen whose calculating manipulation has played the “objectivity” of the corporate news media, the equivocation and most sadly, the overwhelming self-interest triumphing over the quest for truth displayed by outlets like CNN who employs Trump’s former and possibly current campaign staffer Corey Lewandowski.
It’s truly unprecedented for news to be displayed as a talk show, with all of the voices in the room treated equally, including the racists, anti-semites and religious extremists deployed across the television media landscape to “surrogate” the unsubtle Republican brand of xenophobia and victimhood that Donald Trump peddles to his audiences. Rather’s long perspective enabled him to write this passage about the dangerous signs of decay:
For a long while, these thoughts have been coursing through my veins with concern and disbelief, and yet my abiding loyalty to the notion of fair, accurate and unbiased journalism held me in check from saying it out loud – much as I suspect it has muzzled the true feelings of many of my colleagues. But we must remember that Donald Trump knows this and cynically plays the press corps’ deep desire for fairness to his undeserved benefit.
Trump’s relationship with the press is at the heart of so much that is troubling about his candidacy – the secrecy, the lack of transparency on something as normal as tax returns, the flaunting of the very rules by which we elect our leaders, the appeasement of hate groups. And his embrace of Roger Ailes and Breitbart, institutions who have polluted press freedoms, is a further dangerous sign of decay.
The latest, barring the traveling press from covering an event and using them as ridicule in a speech, are but the most recent chapters in a novel full of outrageous acts. And this sentiment apparently extends to members of his own family as witnessed by his daughter Ivanka’s actions in an interview with Cosmo.
Our country needs the wisdom and experience of Dan Rather more than ever today, as our country meets its most dangerous test from within. Hopefully, his message travels so far, that even corporate journalists read this story and understand how crucially important their jobs for the next 50+ days have become to our nation’s future. Because if they don’t, a Trump administration will probably start imprisoning journalists and leave Mr. Rather’s “second graders with an Internet connection” as the only ones left to fact check the rubble of America after Trump destroys our free society with his rotten lies and bigotry.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition