A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Trump’s closing message for the midterms
The key messages in President Trump’s midterms playbook: “Hate the media. Fear the migrant caravan. Save me from Democratic oversight.”
He’s trying to stay on message despite the Pittsburgh massacre and the fallout from the wave of mail bombs. That means he’s bashing the “fake news” while newsrooms are on a heightened state of security alert. That means he’s talking about a migrant “invasion” at the southern border while authorities examine the Pittsburgh shooter’s hatred of “invaders” and Jews.
And he is scheduled to travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, even though the mayor has urged him to postpone the visit… This is likely to be a very big story on Tuesday…
A White House scolding
Sarah Sanders surprised the press corps by scheduling a rare W.H. briefing on Monday — but as Daniel Dale pointed out, it was more of a scolding than a briefing.
“They just want to lash out,” CNN’s Jim Acosta explained afterward. “That might be part of the reason why we were brought into this briefing today. They wanted to get back to their midterms game plan, which is to go after the press and talk about the caravan…”
CNN responds to Sanders
At the briefing, Sanders claimed that CNN rushed to “blame the president” for the pipe bombs.
CNN PR responded: “No @PressSec, CNN did not say @realDonaldTrump was directly responsible for the bomb sent to our office by his ardent and emboldened supporter. We did say that he, and you, should understand your words matter. Every single one of them. But so far, you don’t seem to get that.”
Bloomberg: Trump is “inciting people”
The president “should be unifying and instead he is exciting people, inciting people,” Michael Bloomberg told CNN’s Cristina Alesci in an exclusive interview on Monday.
The media exec and 2020 possibility said Trump is using his position irresponsibly: “You don’t use the bully pulpit as the President of the United States to rile up people and say things as a joke or as a campaign promise. That’s not what the president should be doing. The president’s words matter.”
Colbert speaks for everyone
The start of Stephen Colbert’s monologue on Monday night: “Last week scientists discovered that a hurricane had wiped out a tiny Hawaiian island. Just wiped it right off the face of the earth. And, uhh, I want to move there!” His audience applauded. “Because it has been a rough week on the non-submerged parts of America…”
The shooting suspect echoed this TV talking point
On October 21, the Pittsburgh suspect wrote on Gab, “I have noticed a change in people saying ‘illegals’ that now say ‘invaders’. I like this.”
His social media footprint showed how hatred of Jews merged with a hatred of immigrant “invaders.” We may never know where he heard this hateful language, but right-wing TV and radio has been saturated with “invasion” and “invaders” talk for the last two weeks. Websites and social media feeds have been spreading conspiracy theories about Jews helping with the caravan. So I hope there’s some soul-searching — even belatedly — about this dehumanizing content and coverage.
FIRST KEY POINT: Fox hosts, Fox guests and GOP leaders were all talking about an imminent “invasion,” even though no such thing is happening. On Fox, I counted more than 60 “invasion” references since October 16. “Invading” was brought up more than a dozen times. On Fox Biz, I counted more than 75 “invasion” references, mostly on Lou Dobbs’ show. (This data includes repeats.)
SECOND KEY POINT: In the comment sections on YouTube and other sites, anonymous users frequently went even further than Fox’s TV stars. Here’s my full story…
Now Trump is using the word
The president apparently isn’t second guessing himself. On Monday, he used the word “invasion” for the first time in a tweet to describe the caravan. And he gave an interview to Fox’s Laura Ingraham and talked about immigration at length. “We’re being invaded,” he said at one point. He claimed that “this has nothing to do with elections…”
But many Americans, perhaps most, are looking at Trump’s decision to send 5,200 troops to the border as a stunt, as political theater. He’s “doubling down on one of his favorite base-rallying issues with the midterm elections just days away,” CNN’s Pentagon team says.
On MSNBC’s “All In,” Michelle Goldberg said, “Trump has not only created this big lie about the caravan that has inspired mass murder, but he is now shifting the resources of government to instantiate his lie.” At the same time on Fox, Tucker Carlson reassured his viewers that “the migrant caravan is a real thing…”
What do you do with “invaders?”
Oliver Darcy emails: As I told Brooke Baldwin earlier, I think the natural question to ask is: What do you do with invaders? This rhetoric from Fox is particularly charged because of what it tells the Fox audience. One doesn’t let “invaders” into their home. When faced with invaders, one generally uses everything at their disposal to confront them — including force. That’s the message that Fox is relaying to millions of people…
Shep speaks truth
“There is no invasion. No one is coming to get you,” Shep Smith said on Monday. “There is nothing at all to worry about.” The caravan talk is all about the midterms, he said.
Oliver Darcy adds: It’s remarkable how it has become a regular occurrence for Smith to rebut the rhetoric coming from the channel’s biggest stars (Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, etc). Smith’s show effectively serves as a portal that briefly transports viewers from the Fox universe into reality. For those who have Fox on all day, that world – aka reality – must feel like an alien universe…
Another day, another package sent to CNN
This time, the package was sent to CNN headquarters in Atlanta. It was intercepted at a nearby post office on Monday morning. The package looked identical to the mail bomb suspect’s other creations, and authorities believe it was his. It was addressed to CNN, not to any particular person. Details…
Zucker: “The screening process is working”
As a result of Wednesday’s package at CNN NYC, all mail destined for CNN’s US offices is now being screened first at off-site facilities. So this package in Atlanta “would NOT have come directly to the CNN Center, even if it hadn’t been intercepted first,” Jeff Zucker told staffers. “Our screening process is working and we will keep you updated as we learn more.” Here’s my full story…
Some cheer for CNN
This was quite the sight outside CNN’s NYC offices on Monday: Members of a protest singing group gathered outside to thank CNN staffers and sing carols.”STAY STRONG CNN,” one of their signs said. Frank Pallotta said he walked outside thinking these were protesters, when in fact they were supporters. “Thank you, CNN,” they shouted. The group had a clear liberal bent – some of their signs said “Real news, fake president…”
False alarm at NYT
As NBC NY first reported on Monday, the mail bomb suspect had a list of targets. Law enforcement officials told CNN that it was a “list of more than 100 people.” Some of them have been notified by the FBI. And that’s why the NYPD bomb squad was at the The New York Times building on Monday night.
Read more of Monday’s Reliable Sources newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…
After the all clear was given, here’s what the NYT told staffers: “Earlier today, the FBI notified us that a Times editor was on a list of potential targets of the suspect in last week’s rash of suspicious packages. This evening, a suspicious envelope addressed to that employee was discovered in a newsroom mailbox. NYPD responded and removed the envelope from the premises for further testing. The police have now told us that the package contained only papers and was harmless.” The Times newsroom was not affected or evacuated during the scare…
FOR THE RECORD
– Maggie Haberman on “AC360” Monday night: “It is fine to take issue with coverage” but “it is not fine to talk about ‘enemy of the people.’ That is the language of despots in other countries. And it is dangerous from the president.”
– Alisyn Camerota wrote for CNN.com aabout how she went to Trump Tower in 2016 for a meeting with Trump and “tried to explain the role of the free press to him.” She notes that it “didn’t work…” (CNN)
– Read Erik Wemple on “the untrackable horror of Fox Business and Fox News…” (WaPo)