Have America’s cable news anchors learned nothing?
In an attempt to fill air-time leading up to a misleading press conference from the doctors treating Donald Trump at Walter Reed hospital, MSNBC anchor Alex Witt gave the president credit for his new “tone” post-COVID-19 diagnosis.
“Interestingly as we listen to the president via Twitter last night, is it my imagination, or was there a somewhat gentler tone to this president?” Witt asked, in comments first flagged by The Daily Show senior digital producer Matt Negrin. “Not caustic when he said ‘Thank you to all, love,’ all-caps. There was something rather heartfelt.”
She was referring to the tweet Trump posted late Friday night from the hospital that read in full, “Going welI, I think! Thank you to all. LOVE!!!”
“Have we seen something like this before from this president, Robert?” Witt asked one of her guests, Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, who was quick to shoot down the notion that contracting the coronavirus has suddenly changed Trump.
“That might be the tone on the surface, and I wish President Trump and anyone else dealing with the coronavirus a speedy recovery,” Costa said. “But that is on the surface of this political story inside of the Trump administration.” He added, “That is the president's tweet today, but this is also a president who wants to be on the campaign trail and try to catch up to Vice President Biden, who he is trailing in the polls.”
While the Biden campaign announced after Trump’s diagnosis that they would be taking down their negative ads, the Trump campaign said they had no plans to do the same. “Joe Biden used his speech in Michigan today to attack President Trump,” the campaign’s spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said, adding of Biden, “He’s in no position to say anything.”
Pundits have been pointing to Trump’s “new tone” going back at least to his first address to a joint session of Congress when CNN’s Van Jones declared that he “became president” for the first time.
More recently, The Daily Beast reported in April that the president literally laughs at how easy it is to get media figures to praise him for sounding “presidential.” In July, after Trump finally wore a mask in public for the first time, reporters again commended him for “turning a corner” on the seriousness of the pandemic.
But, during Tuesday’s debate, President Trump directly mocked Joe Biden for wearing masks even though at that moment it’s possible he was likely already spreading the virus to those around him.