It really shouldn’t be this way, but the litmus test for whether any given political scandal is going to end up having any real impact is whether the major media outlets are willing to give it the appropriate amount of coverage. For instance, the media gave almost no airtime to Donald Trump’s clear ties to Russia during the 2016 election (that coverage didn’t come until after he was already in office). If the media had done its job, more swing voters would have accurately perceived Trump as a traitor and voted against him. Accordingly, because the media spent months giving huge coverage to an imaginary Hillary Clinton email scandal that deserved virtually no coverage at all, it scared away a number of swing voters who otherwise would have voted for her. That’s all in the past, but the same concept is suddenly becoming relevant again here in 2021.
Even as President Biden and the Democrats continue methodically piecing the country back together, the mainstream media has decided that the best way for it to get ratings is to falsely insist that they’re doing “nothing.” Part of the problem is that, even though the media still loves milking Trump for ratings, his criminal scandals – most of which are in the comparatively quiet grand jury phase – haven’t been of much use to the media lately. Instead the media has been stuck trying to get ratings by pretending Trump is on track to make some kind of comeback in 2024, a narrative that not everyone is falling for. But now the media may have found a more attractive chew toy.
The Democrats have already made it clear that, even as they continue to fix things, they’re also going to use the January 6th insurrection as a major hammer against the Republicans in the midterms. To that end the January 6th Committee is making clear that it’s going to subpoena everyone (including Trump), and send the DOJ after those who don’t fall in line. But the question has been whether the media is going to end up doing its job by amplifying the increasingly ugly January 6th scandal, or whether the media is going to chase ratings by continuing to generically insist that we’re all doomed.
Yesterday we saw the first evidence of which way the media is going to take this. The Washington Post finally decided to take the research that Seth Abramson and some others began months ago, and use its own significant investigative reach to dig deep into what Team Trump was really doing at the Willard Hotel during the insurrection. At least Nixon merely sent burglars to the Watergate. Trump sent his top officials to the Willard to incite a treasonous domestic terrorist plot against the United States.
It’s still the weekend. So we’ll see what the major players on MSNBC and CNN do with this story once Monday rolls around. They could run with it and start building a daily narrative about it, thus rewarding the news outlets that have dug up the story, and motivating them to continue to use their resources to keep digging into the scandal. Or they could ignore the Willard story and continue to insist that the Democrats are doing “nothing” and that Trump’s imaginary comeback has already doomed us all. But given TV media’s propensity for giving oxygen to scandals unearthed by major newspapers and major news sites (even while ignoring scandals that are only being covered by the likes of Abramson or Palmer Report), there’s a strong chance MSNBC and CNN will now run with the Willard Hotel scandal. After all, it’s even properly named after a hotel now – a feat that most of the political scandals of the past fifty years only wish they could pull off.
If the media does indeed keep running with the story of the Trump insurrection command post at the Willard Hotel, it’ll mean that the media will keep unearthing and amplifying the January 6th insurrection conspiracy just as eagerly as the January 6th Committee will. It’ll help drive home the point to the average American voter that Donald Trump and by extension the Republican Party really did carry out a treason plot on January 6th. It’ll also give the DOJ more ammunition for prosecuting the biggest names in Trump world on conspiracy charges – which aren’t easy to make stick without strong evidence. If this keeps up, no one in Trump world is going to be safe now.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report