During Sunday’s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace contrasted front-page headlines from The Washington Post the day after Republican Congressman Steve Scalise was shot at an Alexandria, VA baseball field by a Bernie Sanders supporter with The Post's headline following the capture of mail bomb mastermind and Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc. Not surprisingly, The Post made sure to emphasize that Sayoc's political views were mentioned in the headline while the assailant's political leanings were not mentioned in the Scalise shooting headline.
The Sayoc headline read “Bomb Suspect Outspoken Supporter of Trump.” Wallace said that the headline really surprised him as he expected the headline to read “Suspect Arrested.” A closer inspection of the article finds that it does not even mention that Sayoc was the bombing suspect until the fourth paragraph.
Rather, the first three paragraphs read like a psychological profile of Sayoc, talking about his support for President Trump and all of the stickers on his van plus a quote from one of his former employers; who described him as “crazed.”
On the other hand, the headline after the Scalise shooting read “Congressman Shot in Va,” which clearly didn't mention shooter James Hodgkinson's supporter for Bernie Sanders. The front page article did not mention his support for Sanders but footnoted that his social media posts were “highly critical of President Trump and other Republican leaders.”
Even an article from The Guardian written on the day of the Scalise shooting was able to point out Hodgkinson’s political leanings. The Guardian article read: “Virginia Shooting: gunman was leftwing activist with record of domestic violence.” Yet, The Post, which brands itself as a nonpartisan guardian of democracy, could not bear to mention at least that much in its headline.
Back to Fox News Sunday, The Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley remarked: “If you want to know why Trump won’t give up Twitter and social media, that is why. That headline is why.”
With just over a week to go until the midterm elections, it looks like the media have decided to join the Democrats in blaming President Trump for the wave of mail bombs targeting some of his strongest critics and highlighting the mail bomb suspect’s support for the President. The media do not seem to care if they get exposed as hypocrites in the process. The headlines speak for themselves.
A transcript for the relevant portion of October 28's Fox News Sunday is below. Click “expand” to read more.
Fox News Sunday
CHRIS WALLACE: It’s time now for our Sunday group. Former Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Mo Elleithee of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service. Liz Marlantes, Politics Editor of The Christian Science Monitor and Jason Riley from The Wall Street Journal. Well Congressman Chaffetz, clearly President Trump is not responsible for the mail bombs being sent to prominent Democrats. The person who created the devices and put them in the mail allegedly, Cesar Sayoc is responsible. But does the President bear any responsibility for the growing ugly political rancor in this country? The discourse?
JASON CHAFFETZ: Well, I’m sure the Democrats would argue that but Presidents probably get too much credit and too much blame for what’s happening in that rancor. I think the American people, we need a vigorous debate. That is what we do in this country. Political dissent is the American way but there’s a point where it crosses the line and becomes too personal when you’re up in the face of somebody who’s getting dinner, somebody like a Sarah Sanders and what not, certainly a shooting and violence. That has no place in the American discourse. I thought the Amer…I thought President Trump was pitch perfect and I think the call from Schumer and Pelosi should have matched what the President did, but unfortunately it did not.
WALLACE: Mo, I want to hold up again this front page from yesterday, The Washington Post, because I’ve got to say I was really shocked by it. I fully expected it to say “Suspect Arrested.” And instead it said “Bomb suspect outspoken supporter of Trump.” That’s the headline on The Washington Post. And I went back and looked at the post from last year after a Bernie Sanders supporter attacked a Republican baseball practice and severely wounded Steve Scalise, no headline there about “outspoken supporter of Sanders.” So I guess the question is is it fair to draw that kind of linkage, front page, “suspect outspoken supporter of Donald Trump?”
MO ELLEITHEE: Yeah I probably would have written a different headline if I worked at The Washington Post, but having said that, look, I do not think it is a stretch to argue that the President’s comments are helping to stir the pot even further. I agree with the Congressman that Presidents get too much credit. And I agree that there are people who overstepped the line. I was outspoken when people interrupted Sarah Sanders’ dinner or Secretary Nielsen’s dinner. I thought that was inappropriate. But when the President of the United States is actually questioning people’s patriotism and calling them enemies of the people and, you know, is saying pitch-perfect words in the wake of a tragedy but then goes into a rally and continues to divide and blame people; I think that is worth examination. I think it is worth exploration. I think we can all do a better job in our own lives at being more civil and being vigorous dissenters and arguing with one another politically, but checking how we do it. I would hope that the President would take some of this to heart as well.
WALLACE: Jason, you know, when Congressman Chaffetz talks about the President was pitch-perfect, my initial reaction was which President? Because it did seem, this week, as if there were two Presidents. First of all, there was Teleprompter Trump, let’s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We must never allow political violence to take root in America. Cannot let it happen and I’m committed to doing everything in my power as President to stop it it. Let’s just stop it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But then there was Twitter Trump. Here he is at 3:14 A.M. Friday morning. “Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs…yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream ‘it’s just not Presidential!’” Do you think it’s fair to say that there were two very different presidential tones here?
JASON RILEY: Oh, absolutely, Chris. But after two years of President Trump, I think this is something people have come to expect. I do want to say, referring to the headline, the newspaper you put up, if you want to know why Trump won’t give up Twitter and social media, that is why. That headline is why. He does not trust the mainstream media to treat him fairly and he is going to continue to use social media so long as the mainstream media treats him in that fashion and his supporters are going to appreciate his use of social media. I think that is exhibit A right there. I think that we would like, the country would like public officials to exercise some restraint, to not jump the gun when we see these tragedies happen. They’d like Hillary Clinton to do it, they’d like Eric Holder to do it and they’d like President Trump to do it and President Obama to do it as well. It would be nice if they did behave that way; the motives seem to vary when these incidents happen. You mention the softball practice shooter. The guy who shot at the Annapolis newspaper had a different motive. They vary and I think we are trying to shoehorn a political agenda into these actions is wrong. What we should be doing is bringing these people to justice and hopefully deterring future acts by bringing them to justice.
WALLACE: But do you think that the President’s rhetoric is separate and apart from... I’m not, I’m in no way…I’ve gotten in some fights on this network about this, I’m no, in no way saying the President is responsible but do you think it’s possible, that it’s useful to say that these events happen in a particular climate?
RILEY: No, I don’t think that’s useful at all. I mean, I don’t…anymore than Bernie Sanders is responsible for the softball practice shooter. I don’t, I don’t think that’s the, that’s the proper way to look at these situations. These events happen because these people are deranged. The person who shot Gabby Giffords for instance. These are deranged people and that is what we need to look at. I don’t see attaching politics to this as helpful at all. In one case we had a Trump supporter carrying it out, in the other case we had a Trump opponent carrying something out. So no.
LIZ MARLANTES: What we have seen though with all of these incidents is an increase in really dangerous and ugly radicalization of disturbed individuals online and I think that is something that we need to look at. The same exact process that ISIS uses to recruit people overseas, we are seeing that here with dangerous homegrown extremists and these types of events are on the rise. And that is something, you know, you can talk about the tone at the top or the general political discourse but there is something really ugly going on on the internet and that is something that I need think we need to pay more attention to.
ELLEITHEE: It’s not limited to the internet, though. I mean, there are…we talked about the media. I mean, there are hosts on cable news who are giving home to right-wing conspiracy theorists and allowing them to move forward with these…unchecked with these conspiracy theories.
CHAFFETZ: No, no, there’s…don’t, don’t…there’s nobody out there advocating that anybody take any violence. No…
ELLEITHEE: That’s different. That’s different. That’s different, that’s not what I’m saying.
CHAFFETZ: That is different. You’re right. But you’re trying to ascribe it to some deaths and some murders and terrorism.
ELLEITHEE: No, I’m talking…we are talking about the…Congressman, we’re talking about the tone of our politics.
CHAFFETZ: No you are…you’re associating, you’re associating those with terrorism and that’s wrong. No one party has cornered the market on crazy. I promise you, you can point on this both ways.
ELLEITHEE: Let’s be clear. See, this exchange is a reflection of the challenge right now. I am making a point about the challenge of our political discourse and the lack of civility and the fact that the extremes…as Liz was saying, the extremes are rising and finding more homes to articulate their vision. That is what is challenging.
CHAFFETZ: I don’t think you can point to a specific television show that’s advocating this or a television show host who is doing it.
ELLEITHEE: It is everywhere. It is online, it is on cable news, it is in a variety of places that I would hope that everyone, whether they are a television host, whether they are an elected official, whether it’s me and my job in academia, that we all do a better job of checking it.