I’m no great fan of Donald Trump, as readers of this site know. But I agree with Fox’s Howard Kurtz, who wrote that this story on Trump in The Daily Beast should not have been published — and certainly it should not have been published in this way. Justifying its story based on what Mr. Trump said about Mexicans coming across the southern border being “rapists,” The Daily Beast wrote.
It was an unfortunate turn of phrase for Trump—in more ways than one. Not only does the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination have a history of controversial remarks about sexual assault, but as it turns out, his ex-wife Ivana Trump once used “rape” to describe an incident between them in 1989. She later said she felt “violated” by the experience.
But as Kurtz points out, “we’re talking here about a single allegation, made in the heat of a highly contested divorce, that Ivana [Trump’s first wife] largely walked back then — and dismisses today. And to tie that to Trump’s controversial comment about Mexican illegal immigrants including ‘rapists’ is to use a very thin reed indeed.”
I don’t pretend there are obvious standards regarding when and how to write a story like this. The past, at least parts of the past, are fair game for those running for president. The question here is one of judgment as to whether this story should have been published — and if so, what the proper tone, rhetoric, and placement of the story should have been. If you take everything together, I agree with Kurtz who said it “reads like a hit job calculated to harm Trump.”
That doesn’t excuse, by the way, the thuggish threat made against the reporters by Trump’s counsel, Michael Cohen, and which is quoted in the Kurtz story. It seems to me his words are newsworthy and indicative of something alarming about the ethos of the Trump campaign. It’s the original story, though, that troubles me.
My guess is it doesn’t particularly trouble Mr. Trump. He thrives on this kind of political combat, and this story will be perceived by many on the right as being more reason to support him. The thinking goes something like this: If liberal news outlets attack Trump, he must be doing something right. And: we’re obligated to rally to Trump’s side when he’s being unfairly targeted by the press. In this instance, I think he was.
I have multiple concerns with Donald Trump, but the story that appeared in The Daily Beast is not one of them. Reporters have to try to play it straight, even (and maybe especially) with candidates they like and don’t like. The story on Trump came across to me, at least, as advocacy journalism, as a story that was guided by ideology more than a disinterested analysis of the facts. If that’s true of me, I’m sure it’s true of those who are more favorably disposed to Trump than I.
The Daily Beast may have thought this story would hurt Donald Trump. My bet is it will help him.