Hannity? The guy whom Cruz accused last week of being in the tank for Trump? Why?
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) April 28, 2016
Glenn Beck and Mark Levin have been far more loyal to Cruz — or, rather, loyal to conservatism — since the primaries began and they each have web-based television programs. Why not them? Or, if Team Cruz was set on a primetime rollout on a major network, he and Fiorina could have done Megyn Kelly’s show. Would Kelly not give them the full hour, maybe? I don’t know how else to explain it. It can’t be that Cruz chose Hannity because he thinks he’s going to convert some of the Trump fans in Hannity’s audience. There are no persuadable Trumpers, first of all, especially at this late date, and even if there were, Trumpers hate Fiorina. She’s been an enemy ever since she dared to criticize the emperor back at the debate in September. You’d have a better chance at grabbing some gettable votes in Indiana by targeting Kelly’s audience than Hannity’s.
One of the only bright spots of Cruz crashing out of the race over the next six weeks will be that he’ll no longer have to grovel to media stars who’ve concluded that “conservatism” is really just an unusually boorish blend of liberalism, nationalism, and authoritarianism. If I were Cruz, I’d take a yearlong hiatus from Trump TV when this is over. If he needs a cable news outlet, Jake Tapper does a fine and fair job on CNN. Meanwhile, since we’re on the subject of TV selling its soul to Trump, your must-read of the day comes from Campbell Brown. If you’re of the belief that cable news is prepared to turn on Trump the instant he’s nominated and begins attacking Hillary, consider carefully what Brown says here. Trump and the occasional missing plane may be the only things holding cable news back from a ratings collapse. If you’ve got a goose who lays golden eggs, why on earth wouldn’t you want to prop him up for four or even eight years?
“It feels like it’s over,” one old friend from my television days told me recently. Any hope of practicing real journalism on TV is really, finally finished. “Look, we’ve always done a lot of stupid shit to get ratings. But now it’s like we’ve just given up and literally handed over control hoping he’ll save us. It’s pathetic, and I feel like hell.” Said another friend covering the presidential campaign for cable news, “I am swilling antidepressants trying to figure out what to do with my life when this is over.”…
I really would like to blame Trump. But everything he is doing is with TV news’ full acquiescence. Trump doesn’t force the networks to show his rallies live rather than do real reporting. Nor does he force anyone to accept his phone calls rather than demand that he do a face-to-face interview that would be a greater risk for him. TV news has largely given Trump editorial control. It is driven by a hunger for ratings—and the people who run the networks and the news channels are only too happy to make that Faustian bargain. Which is why you’ll see endless variations of this banner, one I saw all three cable networks put up in a single day: “Breaking news: Trump speaks for first time since Wisconsin loss.” In all these scenes, the TV reporter just stands there, off camera, essentially useless. The order doesn’t need to be stated. It’s understood in the newsroom: Air the Trump rallies live and uninterrupted. He may say something crazy; he often does, and it’s always great television.
This must be such a relief for the TV executives managing a business in decline, suffering from a thousand cuts from social media and other new platforms. Trump arrived on the scene as a kind of manna from hell.
No freak show in American history would rival the freak show that a Trump presidency would be. Every day would bring the possibility that something sensational might happen, either minor, like Trump insulting some prominent person gratuitously, or major, like Trump starting a war somewhere. A Hillary presidency would bring plenty of scandal but not nearly as much sensationalism — influence peddling, pedestrian (if outsized) corruption, score-settling, the sort of vices that Americans are used to from the political class even though the Clintons seem to exhibit them in unusually outsized ways. Put it this way: How often have big ratings been generated by stories about mysterious donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation? QED. To cable newsers, the thought of Trump getting elected must feel like the thought of a lifetime supply of free heroin feels to a junkie. There’s no way they’re going to work against it. Political loyalty to the left is one thing, but this is business.