Donald Trump's media boot-lickers: Joe Scarborough, Howard Kurtz & other useful establishment idiots

The GOP candidate does not have many media defenders. But shockingly, he has more than zero

Published July 30, 2015 11:59AM (EDT)

We write about Donald Trump a lot over here at the Salon Dot Com web magazine. Have you noticed? He's a character. Rarely does it occur to us, though, to treat anything he does in either the political or entertainment arenas as laudable. He is a joke on the political system and the Republican Party that, inexplicably, some portion of the United States population has yet to pick up on. That's why it's such a great joke.

Some media figures -- a small portion, to be sure -- take a different approach to Trump's campaign. What they do is bend on their knees, pucker up, and kiss his ass. Why put themselves through this indignity? Perhaps for access: kissing up to a public figure is a tried-and-true way to retain good relationships with that figure and his or her handlers. If you're going to be so blatantly unethical in your professional duties, it might as well be with Donald Trump, who gets very big, very bigly classy ratings, the biggest ratings in history. The scarier explanation for why some media figures kiss Trump's ass is because they genuinely believe that Trump is a laudable human being. In other words, because they are dumb.

The Trump ass-kissers fascinate us. But which of them is the worst? Let's share several recent, comical instances of the media kissing Trump's ass recently, and you decide which of them is the most egregious.

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity loves Donald Trump. Has him on his show like every night. Hannity may one of the figures who just does this for the ratings, but maybe he does it because he is dumb, too. Who's to say?

Hannity welcomed Trump on "The Hannity Zone" or whatever on Monday night. The interview was pre-recorded, so he was unable to ask Trump about this week's explosive Daily Beast piece featuring his charming lawyer's relatively dated views on the concept of marital rape. The upside was that Hannity himself was able to live-tweet Trump's responses to the various softball questions Hannity posed him.

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It got even better when Hannity went out of his way to defend Trump against his critics, in much the same way that a Trump campaign spokesperson or terrifying lawyer might.

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Perhaps Hannity is one of the Fox News personalities, like Eric Bolling, whom Roger Ailes has directly instructed to defend Donald Trump.

Howard Kurtz

Howard Kurtz appears willing to discard whatever shred of integrity he still possesses as an arbiter of journalistic ethics on defending Donald Trump against the reporters his campaign terrorizes. He has both appeared on Fox News and written on arguing that the Daily Beast's story was unfit for publication.

Let's consider the Daily Beast story. Here is a story about explosive claims Ivana Trump made in a deposition during her divorce with Donald Trump. This is "old news," but so is much of reporting in presidential campaigns: you bring things into national attention that have been forgotten, and people determine whether they care or not. That's just the base layer of the story. Another layer is that Trump consigliere Michael Cohen strenuously defended Trump against the old rape allegations by arguing that there is no such thing as marital rape. That's a shocking view from a senior lieutenant in Trump's circle. A third layer is that Cohen explicitly threatened to ruin both the lives of the reporter and the Daily Beast organization as retribution for the story, which is indicative of the sort of people that presidential candidate Donald Trump keeps around him. This sounds very much like a worthy story.

To Howard Kurtz, however, "the piece in the Beast, where I once worked, reads like a hit job calculated to harm Trump." God forbid Donald Trump's past be scrutinized in ways that might harm him.

"Morning Joe"

Trump has appeared on Morning Joe a lot recently. Its hosts have begun to enjoy his company, and might like to have him on again.

Which led them to invite onto their program the Daily Beast's author, Tim Mak, for an ambush Wednesday morning. Co-host Mika Brzezinski and sub-host Mike Barnicle applied to Mak the Howard Kurtz criticisms about how it's unfair to bring up testimony from a presidential candidate's divorce proceedings 20-some years ago, because, well... divorces are messy! What partner to a divorce settlement hasn't entered testimony about how her partner ripped out pieces of her hair and then forcibly had his way with her?

Trump coverage "is expected to be like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," says panelist Mike Barnicle. "What else are you going to look at? This is -- You can't get a more arcane aspect of the Trump background than a divorce settlement 15 or 20 years ago? What else do you think is out there that could be trolled upon?"

"I'm not sure exactly," replies Tim Mak, "but I think this story is an illustration of what we might see. This is a guy who actually is appealing to a large percentage of the Republican primary base. That's worth looking at and he is worth vetting."

"Okay, you guys let me know when you uncover something new," says Brzezinski, eager to change subjects. "OK, Tim Mak, thanks for coming."

"Hold on," says Mak. "I think it is totally relevant. The top advisor to Donald Trump doesn't believe that spousal rape is illegal."

"Great, thanks."

"And it shows you the kinds of people that Donald Trump surrounds himself with," adds Mak.

"Alright," says a sheepish Joe Scarborough, "we're going to have you back another time on another topic... I think it is best to thank you for coming and slowly step away from this segment... Thank you, Tim... boy, he walked into a buzz saw."

Daddy approves. Really cool!

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Matthew Boyle

Matthew Boyle of Breitbart News writes nice things about Donald Trump because Donald Trump trashes immigrants, and in turn, Donald Trump gives Matthew Boyle all sorts of EXCLUSIVE interviews. Boyle typically introduces Trump as either "billionaire real estate magnate Donald Trump" or "real estate magnate billionaire Donald Trump," much like how Donald Trump might introduce himself. Or here's one about "real estate magnate, reality television star, billionaire and 2016 GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump." Emphasis ours:

Real estate magnate, reality television star, billionaire and 2016 GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump fired back at President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the mainstream media and everyone engaged in the latest round of inaccurate smears against him in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Tuesday afternoon.

Or how about this piece of flackery?

The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak and Brandon Zadrozny woke up on Tuesday to find that CNN completely embarrassed them. After publishing a more-than-1,700-word-long invective on Monday evening reprinting old and disproven allegations against GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump by his ex-wife—in divorce proceedings—Trump’s ex-wife herself came out with a statement to CNN standing by her ex-husband, and discrediting the liberal outlet’s hit piece which relied heavily on statements she made in divorce proceedings 30 years ago.

Good boy. Very good. Matthew Boyle will make an excellent communications director for the Trump administration, alongside chief of staff Sarah Palin.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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