It appears that every time Donald Trump unleashes another vile, racist or hateful diatribe, the more his support grows among his Republican base.
“Just in the past few days, Mr. Trump has repeated the lie that President Obama intends to admit 200,000 Syrian refugees; the correct number is 10,000. He spreads the lie that thousands of American Muslims openly celebrated the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center; in fact, there were no such celebrations. He tweeted a false statistic that Blacks are responsible for 81 percent of murders of White victims; in fact, 82 percent of whites are killed by whites,” the Washington Post noted.
“These are not random errors. All of them appeal to the basest instincts in supporters; they reinforce fears and prejudices. All of them, Mr. Trump knows by now even if he did not know when he first stated them, are false, but he does not care.”
On the phony crime stat, “The graphic cited the Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco – which does not exist – as its source,”said MediaMatters, the watchdog group.
Even if the bureau existed, the number is wildly off-target.
For 2014, the FBI provided the following figures:
* Blacks killed by whites: 7.6 percent.
* Whites killed by whites: 82.4 percent.
* Whites killed by blacks: 14.8 percent.
* Blacks killed by blacks: 90 percent.
As a Washington Post blogger observed: “And just to be clear, it is race-baiting, and nothing else. In neither case is there even a remote connection to some kind of legitimate policy question. When Trump says falsely that thousands of people in Jersey City (which has a large Muslim population) were celebrating the destruction of the World Trade Center, he isn’t making an argument about Syrian refugees. He’s simply saying that you should hate and fear Muslim Americans. When he tries to convince people that most white murder victims are killed by Black thugs (again, false), he isn’t arguing for some policy approach. He’s just trying to foment racism and convince racists that he’s their guy.”
Trump even praised supporters for beating a Black protester and struck a new low by mocking a reporter with a physical disability.
When New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski, who covered the attacks, denied Trump’s account, the candidate mocked Kovaleski’s arthrogryposis, a condition that limits his arm movement. Jerking his arms, Trump said, “Now, the poor guy – you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!‘“
Instead of owning up to his obnoxious remarks, Trump denied mocking Kovaleski.
Instead of slumping, Trump’s poll numbers have remained steady.
Quinnipiac University regularly asks Republican voters to identify the candidate they refuse to support. Trump has always had the largest number, but the latest Quinnipiac poll in November found only slightly more people willing to say they would not vote for Trump than those who will not vote for Jeb Bush.
How does Trump get away with such outlandish and demonstrably false assertions and not pay for it in the polls?
First, he is tapping into raw racism.
A recent poll conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that approximately half – 49 percent – say racism is a “big problem” in society today.
“The figure marks a significant shift from four years ago, when over a quarter described racism that way,” CNN observed. “The percentage is also higher now than it was two decades ago. In 1995, on the heels of the O.J. Simpson trial and just a few years after the Rodney King case surged into the spotlight, 41% of Americans described racism as ‘a big problem.’”
Second, Trump’s competitors are timid about criticizing him. Either, they fear his scorching counterattacks and/or do not want to alienate his followers, whom they may need to court in the event Trump fizzles.
Only Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and to a lesser extent, Jeb Bush, have demonstrated any courage taking on Trump. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the likely benefactor of a Trump withdrawal, has said virtually nothing critical of Trump. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in all his bluster, has wimped out in the face of Trump’s egregious lies.
Asked about the non-existent cheering crowds of Muslims in his state, Christie said, “I think if it had happened, I would remember it, but, you know, there could be things forget, too.”
That’s not something the former federal prosecutor would likely forget.
The news media should also provide more context in debunking Trump’s incendiary remarks.
Writing in Salon, Jack Mirkinson observed, “The mainstream political media has such a pathological dedication to the notion of balance and ‘objectivity’ that it often finds itself at a complete loss when it comes to dealing with someone like Trump. But the kind of filth that he and others are putting out has long since moved past the debatable stage. There is an Islamophobic crisis building in this country. To oppose discrimination against Muslims is not to take some partisan stand. It’s to be a human being. To oppose a prominent political figure’s use of fascistic slander toward Black people is not to shirk your objectivity. It’s the least the elite media should be doing.”
George E. Curry is President and CEO of George Curry Media, LLC. He is the former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA). He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at twitter.com/currygeorge, George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook, and Periscope. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns.