Anyone who has read my columns over the past 16 months or so knows what I consider to be one of the most notable stories of the 2016 election-cycle: a significant number of conservative-media personalities transforming into Trump sycophants, early in the process.
While it’s by no means odd for conservative commentators to advocate for a Republican presidential candidate in one form or another, that kind of thing typically doesn’t start until after the primary is over — when the choices are clearly defined. During the primary, they usually give the party hopefuls even treatment.
That wasn’t the case this time, as several of these pundits decided early on that Trump should be the person representing the GOP in the general election. Their favoritism was glaring, and in some cases, breathtakingly hypocritical.
After all, until Trump had entered the race, a lot of these same television and radio pundits had spent years warning the Republican party (and convincing the conservative base) to stay away from people like Trump. They demanded conservative purity within the GOP, branding moderate and pragmatic Republicans as “RINOs” and “squishy conservatives”. They insisted that the formula for winning back the White House was to nominate a principled conservative — someone committed to defending the Constitution, preserving personal liberty, and embracing small government fundamentals.
That wasn’t Trump — not by a long-shot. From the very beginning, Trump was throwing around a lot of big-government ideas and autocratic rhetoric that the conservative pundits had previously deemed unacceptable. Yet, in Trump’s case, they treated him with embarrassing adulation that even surpassed Chris Matthews’ famous thrill-up-the-leg moment with Barack Obama.
National Review writer Jonah Goldberg did a good job of describing the inexplicable exodus of principle in a column back in March, comparing it to the classic Sci-Fi film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It really was that astonishing of a conversion.
In August, The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes (a frequent panel member on Fox News’s Special Report), interestingly tweeted: “The number of publicly pro-Trump pols/commentators who are privately anti-Trump or at least not at all pro-Trump? A really big number.”
Obviously, there were ulterior motives involved. A lot of these people were (and are) personal friends with Trump, and it was pretty clear that cronyism had affected their conduct. A thirst for higher viewership and listenership were also factors, and now, a new book by Fox News’s Megyn Kelly seems to present yet another angle.
In Settle for More (which comes out next week), Kelly describes how, months before he announced his candidacy, Donald Trump tried to curry media-favor with her by sending her flattering notes, and even inviting her and her husband to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s luxurious estate in Palm Beach (she didn’t accept). He also offered to pick up her tab when she and some friends stayed at the Trump SoHo hotel.
“This is actually one of the untold stories of the 2016 campaign,” she wrote in her book. “I was not the only journalist to whom Trump offered gifts clearly meant to shape coverage. Many reporters have told me that Trump worked hard to offer them something fabulous — from hotel rooms to rides on his 757.”
Of course, this alone isn’t definitive proof of collusion with the news-media, but it does offer another glimpse at the extraordinary relationship between President-elect Trump and the people whose job it was to cover his candidacy. A lot of what we saw throughout the primary (and beyond), I believe, was quite reflective of that relationship.
This morning, National Security Analyst (and steadfast Trump supporter) KT McFarland tweeted that Trump will be the first American president since George Washington not to owe anyone any favors. I would reject that notion, of course, and argue that Trump actually owes several people favors, a number of whom speak into a microphone for a living.
Unless, that is, those favors have already been returned.