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Oh, the lengths media will go to sour Trump’s Christmas visit to troops

Forget bias. Forget animus. Forget missing a self-awareness gene. And forget attempts to outdo yesterday’s hyperbole with uber-hyperbole. Because, when it comes to coverage of the Trump administration and the figure at the top of it, what many in our media have become is utterly, tediously predictable. 
Exhibit A this week is the president’s surprise visit to troops in Iraq. Leading up to it was a story by NBC News that went viral, declaring that Trump would be the first commander in chief since 2002 to forego the presidential tradition of visiting troops at Christmastime. The story was picked up by dozens of news organizations, including this one. 
First lady Melania Trump broke with tradition and joined the president on the visit to Iraq and later Germany. 
{mosads}The usual suspects, including actress and progressive activist Alyssa Milano, jumped on board, eventually prompting a hilarious exchange between Fox’s Brit Hume and former CNN morning anchor Soledad O’Brien after the latter put forth a theory that Trump only visited because he was shamed into it, despite such the trip being planned weeks in advance for security purposes. 

So, after losing the Trump-doesn’t-visit-troops-at-Christmastime-for-the-first-time-in-forever narrative, we witnessed a pivot by some to question Trump’s motive by using the power of osmosis, which has become quite popular in the Trump era of baseless speculation presented as absolute fact.  

From the Washington Post, “The president’s visit to Al Asad Air Base west of Baghdad, which was shrouded in secrecy, follows months of public pressure for him to spend time with troops deployed to conflicts in the Middle East and punctuates the biggest week of turmoil the Pentagon has faced during his presidency.”  

And there we have it: “… followed months of public pressure to spend time with troops … .” The motive is assumed and, therefore, becomes indisputable in what is supposed to be a straight news story. 

If the military believes what the press would like its readers and viewers to believe about Trump’s feelings towards them, many certainly had a funny way of showing it. 
By almost all news accounts, Trump and the first lady’s visit was met with an enthusiastic reception. Some even presented their own “Make America Great Again” hats to the president to sign, which led to this CNN report being ridiculed by mostly the right on social media.  

“The pool reporters traveling said that the troops brought the hats with them, including one hat that said ‘Trump2020,’” said CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr on the network Wednesday night. “We will have to see if that actually proves to be the case. The question is, if they brought them or if the president brought them: What commander allowed that to really happen?” 

“Troops are not supposed to be involved in political activities,” she added. “The U.S. military is not a political force.” 

The worst kind of bias is the bias of omission. And what’s missing from this report is precedent as it pertains to President Obama who, as a candidate, signed memorabilia for U.S. service members overseas in July 2008. Not a hint of criticism followed. 

It may be unfair for a few bad apples in the examples above to spoil the perception of the whole bunch, but every poll and study shows the Fourth Estate’s credibility is in serious trouble. 

How much trouble? An Axios/Survey Monkey poll released in July showed that 92 percent of Republicans say they believed “traditional news outlets knowingly report false or misleading stories at least sometimes.” Among those identifying as independents, the number is 79 percent. Even a majority of Democrats, 53 percent, say the same thing. 

On cue, the president goes to Iraq to visit the troops after we were told that wasn’t going to happen. His motive is questioned. The troops bring MAGA hats to sign and are shamed for doing it. Amazing how all of these stories were skewed negatively, isn’t it? 
Another day, another event chock-full of examples why many in this country will have difficulty ever trusting the media.
Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill and host of “What America’s Thinking.”
This piece has been updated. 
Tags Christmas Donald Trump Donald Trump Joe Concha media Melania Trump Military press troops White House

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