In the real world, Donald Trump has already been criminally indicted in Manhattan and is set to stand trial in March, and he’s about to be indicted by Jack Smith and Fani Willis as well. He’ll stand criminal trial three times, he’ll be convicted in each, and he’ll be serving three prison sentences before we even get to the heart of the 2024 election.
But in the mainstream media’s alternate universe, things look different. Donald Trump will magically be the 2024 Republican nominee “no matter what,” and the fact that he’s going on criminal trial (and being sentenced to prison) just don’t seem to play into his prospects.
That’s because the media (on both sides) greatly benefits for now by continuing to portray Trump as a relevant political candidate. Right wing audiences want to hear about how Trump will make some big comeback, and liberal audiences are scared into staying tuned in whenever they hear “Trump” and “2024” in the same sentence. So the media just keeps pretending Trump is magically invincible, for the sake of ratings.
But that premise is getting rather silly by now. Donald Trump does not have magic powers. He can’t magically delay his criminal trials, just as he couldn’t delay his E. Jean Carroll civil trial. Nor can he just “decide” not to go to prison after he’s been sentenced to prison. These basic facts are rather obvious. But if you’ve been subjected to the media’s daily gaslighting about how Trump is immortal, you might have a difficult time wrapping your head around the reality of his situation.
In fact it’s becoming so obvious where things are heading, even some of Trump’s own former allies are admitting as much. Bill Barr, who previously tried to minimize Trump’s criminal liability, is now admitting that Trump is in grave danger of going down in his classified documents scandal. Ty Cobb, Trump’s own former White House attorney, recently stated that he expects Trump will go to prison.
It’s not that anyone should be taking people like Barr or Cobb at their word. It’s just that their words are a reminder of how blindingly obvious it is that Trump is looking at inmate status, not candidate status. At this point the only question is when the media is finally going to conclude that it can’t get away with continuing to pretend Trump is magically invincible.
It looks like we may finally be turning that corner – sort of. A news publication called The Messenger, which is run by former journalists from Politico, just ran this headline: “Could Trump Go to Prison? It’s Not Out of the Question.”
Apparently this kind of headline is what’s now considered daring in the mainstream media. We’ve gone from the media unanimously pretending that Trump’s three upcoming criminal trials somehow won’t impact him in any way and that he’s a lock for 2024, to one mainstream-ish media outlet admitting that there might be some small chance he’ll go to prison instead.
But this is what the media does for ratings. It takes an unlikely, unrealistic, or outright fictional scenario – such as Donald Trump’s criminal liabilities somehow not existing in relation to 2024 – and unanimously presents it as having a 99% or 100% chance of happening, so that it can milk that absurd scenario for ratings.
Then once audiences start to figure out the obvious thing that was always likely to happen is indeed likely going to happen (Trump going to prison), the media begins presenting it as if it’s some shocking scenario that no one could have seen coming. It looks like we’re now in the very early stages of the media finally starting to acknowledge that Trump is going to the big house and not the White House. The sad part is the likes of Bill Barr and Ty Cobb had to goad the media into finally starting to admit that truth. When the mainstream media is being even less honest than Bill Barr and Ty Cobb, we’ve got a problem.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report