When Sen. Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination for president in 1996, his speech hit on the themes of “honor, decency and straight talk.” He proudly mentioned the great Republican Abraham Lincoln and explicitly denounced racism.
“The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents many streams of opinion and many points of view. But if there’s anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you — tonight this hall belongs to the party of Lincoln. And the exits, which are clearly marked, are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise,” Dole said.
The speech was held up in 2016 as an example of how wonderful Republican candidates for president used to be before Donald Trump. So it’s interesting to also look back at how this speech was received by its critics. For example, then-Senior White House Adviser George Stephanopoulos called it “partisan, negative and divisive.”
Fast-forward 24 years to the present. Once again a prominent Republican gives a speech with themes of honor and decency and straight talk. Once again the prominent Republican explicitly and repeatedly denounces racism. The Republican praises Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Douglass, the Wright Brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, George Patton, Louie Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Irving Berlin, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Bob Hope.
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And once again critics claim that the speech is “dark and divisive.”
But this time the commentary and narrative-shaping pushback that used to be left to Democratic activists such as George Stephanopoulos are now handled by corporate media activists like, well, George Stephanopoulos. OK, maybe it’s not such a significant difference after all. But it’s still noteworthy that the corporate media activists are doing what used to be left to official party activists.
The “dark and divisive” line above came from The New York Times, in what was falsely presented as a “news” report on the speech. The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Philip Rucker claimed in a screed bizarrely not labeled as opinion, “Trump’s push to amplify racism unnerves Republicans who have long enabled him.”
Stephanopoulos hosts “This Week,” a Sunday show on ABC. He was out on Independence Day weekend, so his co-host Martha Raddatz filled in. She opined that Trump had delivered “anything but a message of unity” and a “very grim message for America.” Raddatz further shared her anti-Trump campaign narrative: “This speech was not the only time in the past few weeks the president has seemed eager to turn the attention back to the issues of race in this country, how does he expected to get re-elected with a message like that?”
It may seem quaint to do so in this day and age of fact-free opinion, but let’s look at the actual words of the Trump speech that Raddatz claimed was grim and racist:
We believe in equal opportunity, equal justice, and equal treatment for citizens of every race, background, religion, and creed. Every child, of every color — born and unborn — is made in the holy image of God. (Applause.)
We want free and open debate, not speech codes and cancel culture.
We embrace tolerance, not prejudice.
In order for Raddatz to run her political campaign against Trump, she had to repeatedly lie about the content of his speech.
People who actually paid attention to the content of the speech said it was evocative of Lincoln’s First inaugural, a “kindred invitation to unity in the midst of conflict.”
As if orders went out from a central director, nearly every major media outlet flat-out lied about Trump’s speech. Whether they were engaged in reflexive “political advisor” mode like the Stephanopoulos of old, whether they had pre-drafted their reports based on dubious theories about what would be in the speech, or whether they simply decided that the best way to counter an effective political message was to simply lie about it, lie about it they did.
Robert Costa and Philip Rucker opined in a piece falsely labeled as “news” that Trump gave “a dystopian speech in which he excoriated racial justice protesters,” and that this was a continuation of Trump’s “race baiting and, at times, outright racism.”
Washington Examiner reporter Byron York noted “To the Post, apparently, tearing down statues, or threatening to tear down statues, of George Washington, not to mention Jefferson, Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and others, is ‘racial justice protest.’”
As Ben Domenech wrote, “Keep in mind, this is a ‘news’ piece. But even as a statement of opinion, it is false from the first sentence. No Confederates were mentioned once in Trump’s speech, and his defense was an educational dive into the nobility and honor of the men on the mountain behind him – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt – as well as an Americana-drenched defense of the nation and the great heroes and heroines it has produced of all races throughout her history.”
He noted that the lies told by Costa and Rucker, and published in the Washington Post, were indistinguishable from the lies told by Democrat Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who claimed that Trump’s discussion of American heroes and Founding Fathers was time spent “talking about dead traitors.”
The New York Times, ABC News, the Washington Post, and many other outlets made a decision to lie about their political opponent Donald Trump in service of partisan gain.
This is an escalation by the media in their war against Trump, and one that does not bode well for the republic. You might say that they have always lied about their political opponents, and there is significant truth to that.
But even with their despicable anti-Brett Kavanaugh and Russia collusion hoax campaigns, they endeavored to tie their partisan activism to some fig leaf of news. Their behavior may have been despicable in how they handled unsubstantiated claims from Christine Blasey Ford or anonymous and politically motivated leakers, but those claims and leaks at least occurred. In this case, the media invented facts to defame conservatives and the president.
People who care about facts and truth must remember to seek out original sources rather than trust mendacious reporters and media outlets. They must be on guard about the propaganda these outlets will be putting forth in the months to come as they become emboldened. And they must take every opportunity to renounce the spreading of falsehoods by people who purport to be in a business of reporting facts.