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Murrow’s words from 1954 apply to the Trump age: ‘We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty’

Posted at 9:16 PM, Jul 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-16 07:14:17-04

Reading President Trump’s racist tweets and hearing him claim that some Democrats “hate” America and watching him say they can leave if they don’t like it here, Edward R. Murrow comes to mind.

In his famous commentary from March 9, 1954, the CBS newsman said Joseph McCarthy’s primary achievement “has been in confusing the public mind” about communism. Then he said:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”

“This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve,” Murrow continued. “We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.”

Do you remember how Murrow’s commentary ended? This way: He said McCarthy’s actions “have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ Good night and good luck.”

Scroll down for more words of wisdom from Murrow…

“Go back,” day two

One day after Trump tweeted that unnamed Democratic congresswomen should “go back” to their “crime infested” countries, here are the top headlines from four news homepages at 10 p.m. ET Monday:

— Associated Press: “Trump digs in on racist tweets: ‘Many people agree with me'”

— Washington Post: “‘They hate our country’: Trump steps up attacks on Democrats”

— New York Times: “After Trump accuses congresswomen of hating the U.S., they push back”

— Fox News: “Progressive Dems slam WH ‘occupant’ Trump as president hits back with new tweets”

Most news outlets are now calling the tweets “racist”

In yesterday’s newsletter I showed that most of the country’s most popular news outlets were refraining from calling Trump’s tweets “racist” — CNN being the biggest exception.

But on Monday this changed in a big way. Outlets like The AP and ABC and CBS stopped attributing the word “racist” to “critics” and stated it as a fact, in an institutional voice. This evolution was evident throughout the day: The morning show on CBS leaned on “critics,” but the network’s evening newscast said “racist tweets.” Notably, it was on Norah O’Donnell’s debut as the new “Evening News” anchor. Over on NBC, correspondent Hallie Jackson said Trump was “deploying a racist trope meant to marginalize people of color.”

Sullivan: Not directly calling out racism a “dereliction of duty”

Oliver Darcy writes: “Tiptoeing around Trump’s racism is a betrayal of journalistic truth-telling.” That was the headline on Margaret Sullivan’s latest piece for the Washington Post. Sullivan conceded that it “makes good sense for media organizations to be careful and noninflammatory in their news coverage.” But she also noted that “a crucial part of being careful is being accurate, clear and direct.” Sullivan concluded, “When confronted with racism and lying, we can’t run and hide in the name of neutrality and impartiality. To do that is a dereliction of duty.” Amen…

Notes and quotes

“This is who he is” was Anderson Cooper’s lead on CNN’s “AC360” Monday night. “President Trump has shown yet again that he is a demagogue..”

— New White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham waded into this mess on Monday evening and said the “media and Dems” are attacking Trump “for speaking directly to the American people.” That’s definitely not why Trump is being scrutinized right now. “His message is simple,” she said: “the U.S.A. is the greatest nation on Earth, but if people aren’t happy here they don’t have to stay.” Again, that’s not what his Sunday morning tweets said…

— Geraldo Rivera said on Fox, about POTUS, “I feel embarrassed for him and by him…”

— Vox’s Ezra Klein tweeted: “Trump going full racist and unifying House Democrats when their internal divisions were erupting is your latest evidence that there’s no strategy here, only authentically reactionary impulses, blurted out whenever a microphone is nearby…”

— Some GOP lawmakers “are feeling the pressure” and denouncing Trump’s tweets, but “many leaders in the party are so far not weighing in publicly.” CNN has a list of the statements here...

Will Kellyanne Conway be asked about this?

And if not, why not? Her husband George Conway is out with a piercing new op-ed for the Washington Post titled “Trump is a racist president.”

He says Trump’s “go back” tweets were “racist to the core.” And “by virtue of his office, he speaks for the country.” So, Conway says, “what’s at stake now is more important than judges or tax cuts or regulations or any policy issue of the day. What’s at stake are the nation’s ideals, its very soul.”

“Many people agree with me”

Credit to Fox’s John Roberts for asking Trump this question at Monday’s surprise Q&A session: Does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?” The question prompted Trump to say, “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me…”

Trevor Noah: “Imagine if Hitler was…”

On Monday night’s “Daily Show,” Trevor Noah played that clip of Roberts and Trump, then said, “I don’t know where to begin. First of all, just because many people agree with you doesn’t mean you aren’t being racist, okay. Imagine if Hitler was like, ‘I know everybody says I’m bad, but have you seen how many people are waving at me in the streets? Yeah? If I was racist, they would say something, yeah? They would say something, yeah.'”

— More late-night TV lines: Here’s the clip from Stephen Colbert’s monologue about Trump’s tweets — “a new personal best at being the worst…”

Correcting some of Trump’s smears

During Trump’s aforementioned Q&A that was carried live on cable, he falsely accused Ilhan Omar of praising al Qaeda. I wonder if there have been sufficient fact-checks of this smear on the channels where it aired live. As CNN’s Daniel Dale and Sarah Westwood explained here, Trump was “referring to an Omar comment that has circulated this year in conservative media, including Fox News.” Even that short clip “does not include Omar praising Al Qaeda in any way.” Details here…

→ A close-up photo of Trump’s prepared notes showed that the word “Alcaida” was written in black ink at the top. Presumably this is his misspelling of al Qaeda…

Fox’s “The Five” can’t stop laughing

Oliver Darcy writes: On Monday afternoon Fox’s Shepard Smith called Trump’s tweets a “misleading and xenophobic eruption of distraction and division.”

The panelists of “The Five” either weren’t watching or weren’t persuaded. They couldn’t seem to stop themselves from laughing as they discussed Trump’s racist comments. Greg Gutfeld, in particular, appeared to find the whole situation amusing. Gutfeld read Trump’s reprehensible tweets in a jovial fashion, laughing and joking throughout. The segment was especially striking, given the criticism Fox received on Sunday when the network’s “Fox & Friends Weekend” hosts were skewered for laughing off Trump’s comments…

Tucker’s framing

Almost a week ago, Fox’s Tucker Carlson was in the news for demonizing Omar and saying immigrants like her “undermine” America. I see a pretty straight line between his anti-Omar commentaries and Trump’s attacks. But on Monday Carlson didn’t reference his own recent controversy. And he reiterated his view that Trump shouldn’t tweet. The on-screen banner said that “RADICAL DEMS ARE DESTROYING THE PARTY” while he claimed to give advice to the Democrats.

“When Omar is talking,” he said, “Democrats are losing,” and that’s true for all four members of “the squad.” Extremely online Dems don’t know that yet, but “they’ll find out,” Carlson asserted.

He went on to say that “it’s pretty obvious that they are becoming, with the help of CNN and MSNBC, the face of the Democratic Party.” This is a fascinating claim to make, given that Fox never passes up a chance to cover Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and company. Carlson’s guest Richard Goodstein quipped, “this network does a pretty nice job of elevating her.” Carlson conceded the point and called AOC a moron. “It’s not just Fox promoting these people,” Carlson said. “They have a constituency and over time they will define what the Democratic party is in the minds of voters.” Sounds like that’s what he wants…

Read more of Monday’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…

O’Donnell invokes Murrow on her first “Evening” newscast

Norah O’Donnell concluded her debut broadcast by bringing up the storied history of CBS News, and quoted the aforementioned Edward R. Murrow: “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.”

“To Mr. Murrow,” she said, “we will try to use it well — and with integrity. For all of us at CBS Evening News, I’m Norah O’Donnell. Goodnight.”