Do you recall when Donald Trump, at a campaign rally in Iowa in January of 2016, told the crowd, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters”?
The choice of analogy, which was intended to underscore the candidate’s popularity, was unfortunate — and the mainstream media let Trump know it. CBS News plumbed the reaction of caucus-goers at the rally and reported that “some dismissed his turn of phrase” as “just a figure of speech,” leaving open the implication that others took him at his word. NBC News noted that “Trump has previously boasted about the devotion of his fans, but the new comment is the most extreme example of such a remark.”
The Washington Post presented the quote as a hypothetical, opening its story with the question “Donald Trump says his supporters are supremely devoted to him. But would they support him if he shot someone?”
Far and away the most exhaustive reaction to Trump’s remark was proffered by the New York Times’s Richard Cohen, who wrote:
I used to think 2015 was bad but that was before the first few weeks of 2016. It’s still January and Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, has already said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, O.K.?”
The really scary part — without getting into what this line of thinking might presage in terms of Trump’s actions if he ever got to the Oval Office — is he could be right. Teflon Trump: nothing sticks.
The media’s obsession with the offhand comment was a foretaste of the deluge of pointedly negative media coverage that would attend Trump’s first 20 months as president, which — judging by the 350 nearly identical anti-Trump newspaper editorials that ran yesterday — is likely to continue for the duration.
In its tireless pursuit of Trump’s downfall, the media have in a very real sense traded places with him. As evidence, consider an eerily familiar comment that MSNBC commentator John Heilemann made on “Morning Joe,” where he is a frequent guest:
I would like a pollster to ask this question: ‘How many people in the Republican Party think that it would be okay for Donald Trump to dissolve their own grandparents?’
I’m virtually certain if it was a Donald Trump-related question you’d get like 10 percent that would be like, ‘Donald Trump has the power to do whatever he wants, including kill my parents.’ [Emphasis added]
When the other members of the panel stared at Heilemann in disbelief, he reassured them, “I’m being hyperbolic. Don’t everybody look so appalled.” But Trump was being hyperbolic as wellin January of 2016.