To CNN, the President of the United States: Quit While You’re Ahead.
"When the president gets hit, he's going to hit back harder." That’s what President Trump’s deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said Thursday in defense of the President after he launched a twitter attack on MSNBC host Mika Brezinski. The tweet seemed to many, including Republican lawmakers, a step taken too far.
“He’s going to hit back harder,” she said.
Trump made good on that promise again three days later—this time to CNN—when he quite literally “hit back” at the news network he recently renamed to FNN, the “Fraud News Network.” Trump tweeted an old video of him body slamming Vince McMahon at a WWE match, but in this edited version, McMahon had a CNN logo superimposed where his head should be.
We’ve entered a political climate now where depending on what side of the aisle you find yourself, either Trump is right and the media is wrong or Trump is wrong and the media is right. But is it possible that both CNN and the President of the United States missed the mark on this, and did their own respective causes harm? Is it possible that both at one point had the upper hand and then lost it? I believe so. My advice to the feuding parties is the same: quit while you’re ahead.
A slew of recent apparent attacks on the President and the Republican Party had seemed to achieve something hard to come by these days - bipartisan support.
Snoop Dogg made a music video where he shoots a clown resembling Trump with a toy gun. Then, Kathy Griffin did a photo-shoot with a decapitated President Trump’s head. Then, The Public Theater in New York staged a production where a Trump-like Julius Caesar is assassinated. And then there was an actual assassination attempt on Republican lawmakers on a Virginia baseball field.
Some blamed the attack on the buildup of violent rhetoric and some did not. Regardless, the event created a sense of unity among lawmakers and spurred a bipartisan call to put personhood before party.
Republicans took full advantage of this, and whether or not that was fair, it was smart. Substantial news coverage was devoted to Republican figureheads blaming ‘violent Democratic rhetoric’ for the attempted assassination. The Kathy Griffin photo and Snoop Dogg screen grab were resurfaced and touted as the reason Senate Majority Whip Steve Scalise was then, and as of today still is, fighting for his life. Democratic leaders were, at least in part, supporting this call for change, making it clear the Republicans had tapped into something beneficial for their party.
On top of this condemnation of violent rhetoric and finger-pointing to the left, CNN was forced to retract a false story on Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci, following which three CNN journalists resigned.
Unsettling to liberals, moderates, and anti-Trump Republicans, it started to look like Trump had at least some ground to stand on when it came to condemning Democrats and the ‘fake news media.’ At the very least, he had some evidence to reference as he made his assertions.
And then, Trump tweeted. Up until this point liberals and the ‘liberal media’ had lost at least some credibility to those who had yet to write them off fully. And then the President body slammed them. He was suddenly the one inciting violent rhetoric, and it was now his party that was now under bipartisan scrutiny.
Some are frightened by the President’s rhetoric and policy decisions. I am frightened by his logic and inability to anticipate how people will react to his rash decisions.
Trump and the Republicans had to an extent, and the degree of extent is up for debate, made the liberals and so-called ‘liberal media’ look like the villain. And then President Trump made them the heroes.
CNN responded with the following statement:
"It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Clearly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the President had never done so. Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his."
It was a smart, use-your-own-words-against-you, appropriate response. And then CNN wrote an article, titled, “How CNN found the Reddit user behind the Trump wrestling Gif.” It said the following:
“CNN is not publishing "HanA**holeSolo's" name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same. CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
The final sentence was interpreted by many as a threat to blackmail the Reddit user. According to the Washington Times, #CNNBlackmail was the number one trending subject on Twitter Wednesday.
According to the journalist who wrote the article, the line under fire was misinterpreted. He argued in a tweet that it’s only purpose was to express the fact that CNN had made no agreement with the user about his identity.
But many did not care, and asked why the network was bothering with an internet troll in the first place when by the minute offensive memes, videos, and posts flood the internet every day about CNN and every other news network, politician, and celebrity in the world. Why focus on a private citizen who made a video that probably resembles thousands of others, when you can focus on the fact that the President of the United States endorsed it?
Both CNN journalists and supporters as well as Trump and Trump supporters use the intent behind the respective actions as a defense. Trump didn’t mean to be violent, just funny. CNN didn’t mean to threaten the user, it was misinterpreted.
The problem is that practically intent just doesn’t matter. The President of the United States should have anticipated how the American public would react to a video that clearly suggests violence regardless as to whether or not that was its intent, particularly in light of the many discussions surrounding violent rhetoric.
CNN should have anticipated that going after the identity of a private citizen who made an inappropriate video was a mistake, and that writing an article on how they found said identity was a mistake. It was the wrong thing to focus on regardless of how the final sentence was meant to read. There shouldn’t have been an article about the Reddit user in the first place, and instead perhaps another on how the President and his allies endorsed said users’ video.
Pro- or anti-Trump, real or fake news, it’s time that those inclined toward American politics focus a little less on how they feel inside and more on how they are perceived by others around them.
Let the feud between the President and the news network serve as a reminder to us all. Think before you make yourself worse off.