Via RCP, he’s not speaking on behalf of NBC or MSNBC — I think. He and his team will be doing election-night coverage on “Peacock,” NBC’s streaming platform. That’s the feed which he claims won’t carry Trump.
And as I understand him, he’s not describing a scenario where Trump really does legitimately win tomorrow night. If the surprise to end all surprises happens and Trump romps through the battlegrounds by margins so wide that Biden can’t possibly make up the gap with not-yet-counted mail ballots, then of course Peacock and every other platform should carry Trump’s victory speech live.
What he’s talking about here is the scenario Ed and I each wrote about earlier, where Trump wins the in-person vote in Pennsylvania by 10 points and then poll workers start opening up mail ballots only to find him taking the stage and declaring, “I won! And if those mail votes are counted, it’s cheating.”
Should the networks carry that declaration? Watch, then read on.
This is shaping up to be a highest-possible-stakes version of Twitter shutting down the New York Post’s Hunter Biden story. A media platform decides that certain information is too unreliable and inflammatory for its users to consume, so it blacks it out. By dropping the Trump feed, Peacock would be making a statement about how much it trusts its viewers to responsibly process questionable information the same way Twitter made a statement about how much it trusts its readers to handle Huntergate.
With an important difference. The Post liked to remind people that no one, including the Biden campaign, successfully challenged its story or proved that it’s a dirty trick perpetrated by a foreign intelligence service. Twitter blacked out a major news story due to suspicion, not proof.
Whereas if Trump walks out tomorrow and declares victory with the battlegrounds still undecided due to uncounted mail votes, that’s an out-and-out falsehood. He’d be exploiting the platform given to him to promote disinformation about the legitimacy of the election.
Why should any media outlet provide an audience to someone knowing that that person’s about to tell a blatant lie? Some Americans will believe anything a president says, such is the authority of his office; others, on both sides, will be so rent by emotions over the election that there’s no telling how people will react to a charge as explosive as fraud.
If, in a few days after the mail ballots are counted, Trump really is the winner of the race, he can give a proper victory speech then and it should be aired everywhere. But there’s no obvious argument for abetting what’s essentially a simple-minded con job about whether the election was fair or not.
There are two problems for the media if they refuse to air his remarks, though. One is that Trump has a direct pipeline to voters via social media, of course. Are Facebook and Twitter going to play along with not giving him a platform for his “I was cheated” nonsense? The other is that Trump will keep up this refrain for days afterward while the counting of mail ballots is going on and for weeks after that potentially if Biden wins in the end. “I was cheated” will be a talking point for the entire lame-duck session. Nearly three months.
Trump might even take the “I was cheated” whinefest on the road:
Top surrogates for the Trump campaign have been told to keep their Novembers clear for potential campaign events. And Trump campaign advisers said not to rule out the possibility Trump continues his rallies even as election officials continue to count ballots after the Nov. 3 election, according to a campaign surrogate and two Trump advisers.
With the possibility that there might not be a clear winner on election night in key swing states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the campaign has discussed putting Trump and his family on the road to give a morale boost to supporters and let the president fire off about the election to crowds.
“Don’t miscount the fact that Trump will continue to do rallies while they’re still counting votes,” said one adviser to the Trump campaign.
Are news networks going to not carry him live at any point between November 3 and January 20? Or will they relent after the final vote count is done? Twitter tried to suppress all links to the New York Post story for days, then ended up throwing in the towel and changing its policy so that in the future tweets involving stories that feature possibly hacked material will simply carry an advisory instead. A media-wide blackout to prevent Trump from riling people up about cheating would need to take the same approach, comprehensively. That blackout would soon become a story in itself overshadowing Trump’s lame conspiracy-mongering, just as Twitter’s suppression of the Post story became a scandal in its own right.
And Trump’s comments about supposedly having been cheated *would* get out. People at his post-election rallies would post clips from them. Would YouTube and Facebook take them all down?
Trump falsely claiming American voters were swindled could become a modern samizdat, at least for a few weeks.
Pelosi was asked today whether she’s ready for him to prematurely declare victory. Indeed, she claimed:
For months, she’s been working closely with a team of lawyers, constitutional experts and institutions to game out responses to Trump’s potential chaos before, during and after the election…
“We have been prepared for the worst for a long time because what we have seen is the worst on the part of this president in terms of his disrespect for the Constitution, his disregard of free will of the people and his stooping to any level for his own reelection,” said Pelosi. “We have tremendous intellectual, political and financial resources at our disposal. … We have our lawyers poised to move on a dime on Election Day or evening, as we see a problem.”…
And if the president tries to declare victory on election night without millions of people’s votes being counted, Pelosi said she’s ready for that, too.
“This is not child’s play,” she said. “It is unconstitutional.”
Ending Election Day eve with some chatter that makes the president sound like a natural disaster once has to plan for feels like a fitting capper to the last four years. One thing that occurs to me: Is impeachment on the table here? I don’t think Pelosi would move to impeach him just for giving a bogus election-night statement while mail votes are still being counted, but if Biden’s won when the votes are tallied and Trump is still running around insisting he’s the rightful winner, maybe that’s when the House drops the bomb on him. From Pelosi’s perspective, impeachment might be a no-lose proposition. With most of the country, including many Republicans, having accepted that Biden’s the duly elected incoming president, kicking impeachment over to Republicans in the Senate would be like leaving a flaming bag of sh*t on McConnell’s doorstep. The GOP can either vote to acquit Trump again, in which case they’re owning Trumpism even in its final hallucinatory days with most of the country incensed about his behavior, or they can actually remove him from office a few months early and ride it out with Pence until January 20, in which case the Republican base will be furious. Stay tuned.
Here’s John Bolton on the big face-saving “I was cheated” con.
“I think he’s trying to set-up a fraud… on his own supporters and the entire electoral system to justify actions that he’s contemplating taking after the polls have closed,” John Bolton says on Pres. Trump possibly prematurely declaring victory before all ballots are counted. pic.twitter.com/uDE5Xd7Ede
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) November 2, 2020