The next Republican presidential debate is December 15 on CNN. By that time, Donald Trump’s affirmation that he would “absolutely” implement a national database of Muslims will likely have shaken most of its media attention. However, CNN almost certainly will (and should) broach the subject during the debate. That a leading candidate for the United States presidency voiced support (however absentmindedly) for a Nazi-like registry of a marginalized religious group is gigantic news and should be addressed in a debate forum.
Of course, the Trump apologists have already started churning out excuses for Trump’s remarks. A favorite cop-out of right-wing media (and one Trump has also claimed) is that this is, once again, an attempt by liberal media to smear the good name of Trump. Trump didn’t actually say he supported a database of Muslims, you see? The story was manufactured by the vicious superpower that is mainstream American media. Of course Trump would never say something like that.
Except, when you look at the unedited video of the exchange between Trump and the NBC reporter, it’s abundantly clear that that is precisely what Trump said. The reporter asks nearly the same question multiple times, as though offering Trump a lifeline out of his heinous comments, and Trump maintains his support for a nationwide Muslim database.
Watch the entire video yourself.
There is absolutely no question that Trump was embracing the Muslim database idea. And given plenty of opportunities to clarify and shun the notion, Trump didn’t budge.
When CNN raises the subject during the debate, it’s all but guaranteed that Trump will say two things: first, that it’s not very nice for the moderator(s) to ask such a question that is so obviously ridiculous; and also that this is yet another example of liberal bias in mainstream media. Should he make these comments uninterrupted, Trumpzis in the crowd will clap their arms off in support of their Führer.
Which is why before CNN says anything about Trump’s comments, the network should play the video for everyone to see. Without preface or segue, CNN should project the video in front of the candidates, the audience and the viewers at home. Then they should ask their question.
We know how good Republican candidates are at lying their way out of sticky situations when the evidence against them isn’t readily available. Carly Fiorina got away with describing “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain” and attributing it to a video that shows nothing of the sort. Even after the debate, when she received near unanimous criticism for her bold-faced lie, Fiorina didn’t back down. She’d won the first round at the debate, and that’s all that mattered.
And let’s not forget Ben Carson’s claim that it was “absurd to say that I had any kind of relationship with [dietary supplement company Mannatech].” The company, which professed “that its products could cure cancer and autism”, made a video that featured Carson talking for nearly four minutes in support of its products. The video is on YouTube for the whole world to see. But again, Carson got away with diverting moderators from the topic with claims of media unfairness and falsehoods.
CNN should see these tactics coming. They should not throw Trump a softball in the form of an accusation without supporting evidence. The evidence is readily available, and CNN must use it to hold candidates for the world’s most powerful position accountable. So, will CNN allow its journalists to flex their critical muscles, or will they kowtow to the Republican narrative?