How the Media Normalized Trump

by ARIEL HARSINAY

Donald Trump’s announcement that he was running for president was terrifying for many people. For Hispanics, his comments made many worried that his position as president could tear their families apart. For Muslims, many were worried that they would be profiled because of the actions of extremists. For women, we were all horrified that a man who berates women by constantly objectifying them would set an awful precedent for the country. However, for comedians and the media, Trump’s candidacy was nothing short of a goldmine. When Trump announced his presidency, Larry Wilmore of Comedy Central’s Nightly Show said that this was “Good news for me, horrible news for our writers. Because all of the jokes are officially writing themselves”. Trump’s presidency meant a never ending supply of comedy material .

However, there is a difference between comedians who use humor as a means to educate  (think John Oliver) and those who exploited Trump’s campaign solely for ratings and profit. Trump would be  on your TV saying how he wanted to build a wall, and then an hour later he’d be the guest on Jimmy Fallon or the host of Saturday Night Live. The same man the media would harshly criticize, they would have on their shows. I mean, why wouldn’t they? What else would bring in millions of viewers and, consequently, much more revenue for these networks? On the Tonight Show YouTube page, “Donald Trump Interviews Himself In the Mirror” has over 16 million views. There are over 9 million views for a video of Fallon playfully messing Trump’s hair. It’s so easy to overlook his rhetoric that you so harshly condemn when it means getting the ratings you need. By having him on a guest, these shows cultivate an appealing image of Trump. We can all overlook his rhetoric because he’ll let Jimmy Fallon tousle his hair, and he’ll do a parody of “Hotline Bling” that all the kids can relate to.

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It’s not that these comedians ever supported Trump, but they never actually thought he would win. It’s easy to make fun of Trump and his campaign when you think his entire candidacy is a joke. These entertainment sources simply thought they were taking advantage of a ridiculous circumstance while it lasted.

Celebrities and Hollywood are generally known for being liberal. Jennifer Lawrence said that a Trump presidency would be “the end of the world”. Sarah Silverman compared Trump to Hitler. George Clooney called Trump a “xenophobic fascist”. Kevin Spacey compared Trump to a disease. Kerry Washington stated that a vote for Trump is a vote against America (CBS, 2016). The same man Hollywood constantly criticized for being racist, bigoted, xenophobic, narcissistic, and misogynistic, they featured on their shows and helped cultivate a likable image for.

SNL had Trump on as a host and they were all okay with being in skits with him when the idea of him winning seemed unfathomable, but now they are in mourning. The cold open this Saturday featured Kate McKinnon, who has impersonated Hillary Clinton through this entire election cycle, solemnly singing “Hallelujah” (in honor of the passing of Leonard Cohen), and stating that, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.” How is the same show that helped normalize Trump by having him host now grieving after his victory?

It’s far too general to say that all Americans who voted for Trump are racist and bigoted. Many of them were just more concerned with economic issues over social issues and willing to overlook Trump’s bigotry because it meant shifting away from typical politicians and hope for economic repair. Others who voted for him were likely persuaded by his fear mongering and his perpetual rhetoric that our country used to be great but is now a disaster and he’s the one who can fix it (despite providing no explanation of how he plans on doing so). Trump normalized hate groups, and the media normalized him. And because the media helped cultivate this image that he’s not really a demagogue, but he’s a likable guy who’s so different from the typical politicians that Americans can’t relate to, they helped make it easier for Americans to vote for Trump. But now entertainment will tell us to mourn and pretend they weren’t part of the reason Trump was elected. Times reported that Trump received over $1.9 billion worth of free media coverage, nearly two and a half times of what Clinton received. GOP strategist Rick Wilson perfectly captioned this Times graphic by stating that. “Never forget. There was no movement. The media handed him this on a plate.”

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