Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Journal Sentinel Sanitizes Trump Disaster

It offers only Paul Ryan’s positive account of Trump’s ugly tussle with Congress.

By - Jul 8th, 2016 01:38 pm
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Paul Ryan and Donald Trump.

Paul Ryan and Donald Trump.

Today’s lead story in the Journal Sentinel on Donald Trump offers what might be called the world according to Paul Ryan. The headline is “Paul Ryan upbeat after lawmakers meet with Donald Trump.”

“House Speaker Paul Ryan had nothing but praise for his party’s presumptive nominee after a closed-door meeting between Trump and House Republicans,” JS reporter Craig Gilbert reported. “We had a great meeting,” Ryan said at his weekly news conference Thursday. “I thought he did a great job engaging with our members….We clearly have a presumptive nominee who wants to work with us.”

Gilbert does disclose that the meeting “featured a fews testy exchanges between Trump and GOP critics.” But he doesn’t say who those critics were (they happened to be U.S. Senators) or what they had to say. Instead he gives a rundown of the some polite comments pro and con by members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. I went away from the story thinking Trump’s meeting may have helped him, but at least didn’t hurt him.

Contrast this with the New York Times story headlined, “Peacemaking Goes Awry as Donald Trump Lashes Out at G.O.P.”

The lead graph tell us “A peacemaking summit meeting between Republican lawmakers and their renegade presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, descended on Thursday into an extraordinary series of acrid exchanges, punctuated by Mr. Trump’s threatening one Republican senator and deriding another as a ‘loser.’”

The story goes on:

“Mr. Trump arrived in the capital with hopes of courting skeptical House and Senate Republicans and mending his relationship with Senator Ted Cruz, his former rival for the nomination, in a blitz of face-to-face meetings. But the friendly atmosphere turned fraught when Mr. Trump lashed out in the face of direct criticism.

“The tension reflects the lingering fissures in a Republican Party that continues to grapple with Mr. Trump as its standard-bearer, and underscores Mr. Trump’s limitations when it comes to unifying the party and moving beyond political grudges.”

Wow. This is an entirely different story than what the Journal Sentinel has handed its readers. The Times story documents Trump’s nasty exchanges with Republican senators Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Jeff Flake of Arizona and The Donald’s attack on Illinois Republican Senator Mark S. Kirk, who wasn’t there to defend himself, calling Kirk “dishonest” and a “loser.”

Kirk later shot back at Trump, calling him an “Eastern, privileged, wealthy bully.”

And Sasse later was quoted saying “with these two candidates this election remains a Dumpster fire.”

The Times story does include Ryan’s view that the meeting went great but notes the signs of skepticism among House members: Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger said he could sense some hesitation in the room. “I’m not a Never Trump guy, I’m a Republican — I want to support him,” Kinzinger told the Times. “But things like saying the Saddam Hussein comment are not helping me to get there.”

The Washington Post’s account was quite similar to the Times’ with a less dramatic headline: “Trump, seeking GOP unity, has tense meeting with Senate Republicans.” The story also details his spat with the three senators and includes Ryan’s view far down in the story, in the 19th graph.

While it is certainly noteworthy that Ryan was satisfied with the meeting, the arguments Trump had with the U.S. Senators are surely far more newsworthy: the meeting was such a failure it’s entirely possible Trump will never patch up relations with GOP members of Congress. That, in turn, raises questions about Ryan’s judgment: how can he claim all is well when Trump’s meeting erupted into yet more arguments between him and ranking Republicans?

The Journal Sentinel is now part of Gannett and has access to national coverage by that company’s papers, including USA Today and Associated Press. Yet it has offered its readers a story that is so distorted to favor a local politician it barely qualifies as news. What in the world is going on with the newspaper?

6 thoughts on “Back in the News: Journal Sentinel Sanitizes Trump Disaster”

  1. Matt says:

    One would guess that Ryan was not at the Senator meeting, not being a Senator and all. So one would have to lay any allegations of misconduct at the feet of Gilbert or the Journal. Any realistic appraisal of Gilbert’s work would acknowledge an unusual affinity for the politician from the reporter. So its hard to blame Gannett for the fawning nonsense. since Gilbert’s man crush on white Wisconsin Republicans precedes the sale of the paper.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    Yeah I had already read the Times and Post stories about the meeting, and while reading the JS account I kept waiting for him to mention the bonkers meeting with Trump and U.S. Senators, which allegedly involved Trump insulting one who wasn’t there and verbally tussling with one who was there. That is pretty newsworthy. Pretty weak of Gilbert.

  3. Include the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel into this group…

    All the Nominee’s Enablers

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/08/opinion/all-the-nominees-enablers.html

  4. Andy says:

    JS bashing aside, my favorite part is this: And Sasse later was quoted saying “with these two candidates this election remains a Dumpster fire.”

  5. Milwaukee Native says:

    The Wisconsin GOP is in an interesting quandary in all this.

    1. Ryan and Priebus are among the most vocal official Trump boosters.

    2. Charlie Sykes is a national voice for the #NeverTrump movement and vows he will not vote for him.

    3. Trump got little support in the Wisconsin primary.

    4. Even the Journal Sentinel has written numerous anti-Trump editorials.

    So what’s with Craig Gilbert’s candy-coating account? Being based in D.C., does he want to ensure he stays in good graces with Ryan and Priebus for future access?

  6. PeterG says:

    The important thing to remember here is that there were two separate meetings between Trump and members of Congress, one with House Republicans and one with Senate Republicans. According to the Times, the former was more or less sweetness and light, while the other was a fiasco, with various Senators offering pointed criticisms and/or withholding their support for the candidate meeting threats and “loser” epithets from Trump. Craig Gilbert ignores the negative meeting, falsely giving the impression that there was no disunity in the party’s Congressional delegation as a whole. Mr. Murphy conflates the two meetings a bit, a minor sin in comparison with Mr. Gilbert’s

    A small aside: The Senator Mark Kirk quote from the Times article was incomplete, albeit accurate, as far as it goes. T

    In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Kirk shot back at Mr. Trump[after being insulted and belittled], calling him an “Eastern, privileged, wealthy bully.”
    “Our bullies are made of better stuff in Illinois,” he said. “We’re much more practical and polite.”

    The full quote contains shades of Groucho Marx in A Night at the Opera, when Groucho as Otis B. Driftwood addresses the villain, who has been abusing the Harpo character: “Hey, you big bully! What are you doing to that little bully?”

    If Mr. Murphy’s supposition at the end of the column is correct, then Mr. Gilbert would do anything for access, regardless of professional standards and ethics. At a certain point one can step over the line between being a reporter and being a paid shill

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