Trump, Trump, Trump — US TV turns to old habits
Call it “Trump Cam.”
Trump, Trump, Trump. And more Trump.
That’s all that news viewers were going to see Monday if they switched on any of the leading US television networks during Donald Trump’s trip from Florida to New York ahead of his criminal arraignment.
The war in Ukraine, the unveiling by NASA of its future Moon crew, a speech by the actual president, Joe Biden, in Minnesota — good luck finding any of that.
“All Trump, all the time,” summarized media watcher Aaron Rupar over a tweeted collage of no less than seven news channels simultaneously featuring some sort of live Trump coverage.
Actually, most of the time the disgraced former president and current leading Republican presidential candidate was not even visible.
Networks showed live footage of the empty gate of his Florida residence and golf club Mar-a-Lago. Then they cut to aerial footage of the motorcade taking him to the airport. Cameras followed as his private airplane was parked on a runway in Palm Beach, then as it took off, then as it landed in New York.
Of the man himself there were only fleeting glimpses.
But to the US media, a long-distance zoom lens shot or a grainy snap taken through a tinted SUV window is still worth broadcasting when it comes to Trump.
Filling hours’ worth of airtime with almost nothing to report beyond the images of Trump’s house, cars and airplane, cable news anchors alternated between speculating and reminding viewers that they should not speculate.
How was Trump feeling? No one knew.
What charges will he face at the arraignment on Tuesday? No one knew.
Would he be handcuffed or paraded in public, would his supporters show up, would there be trouble, or would it all go smoothly? No one knew.
On Monday afternoon’s showing of “Trump Cam,” that didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was to talk about Trump.
“All eyes on President @realDonaldTrump,” tweeted Trump’s advisor Jason Miller over an even bigger collage of news channels obsessively following the Republican — nine in all.
– Trump-media symbiosis –
CNN’s White House correspondent compared the scene of Trump’s motorcade bound for the airport in Florida to the 1994 slow-motion car chase of accused double murderer OJ Simpson in California that was broadcast on live TV.
But there was no need to cast back that far to find parallels of Monday’s television spectacle.
Trump came to power in 2016 in large part due to his masterful hype, his natural salesman’s patter that had seen him first build a career as a developer synonymous with gaudy, golden buildings, skyscrapers and ruthless CEO instincts.
Much of that was fictional, created thanks to his starring role in the staged reality TV series “The Apprentice.”
But when Trump turned to politics, the media lapped up his act.
The more outrageous he became — starting with the false conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in America and ending with watching his supporters storm Congress on January 6, 2021 — the better the show sold.
For four years of Trump’s presidency, every day was effectively that live shot of the Florida motorcade.
Trump insulted and threatened the media. But he also gave unprecedented access.
He was never happier than when facing a wall of cameras.
And the media, which saw rocketing viewership and readership under Trump, shared the enthusiasm.
Now Trump is in New York, media capital of the country.
But ironically, the most explosive picture of him ever taken — a potential mug shot at the time of arrest Tuesday — may be the one that never makes it into the public sphere.