Comedian Samantha Bee said Monday that the media is at least partly to blame for Donald Trump's political success. That's not exactly a new take, but the "Full Frontal" host's argument was different from most — meaning it wasn't based on the idea that the press has covered the Republican presidential nominee too much and caused millions of voters/lemmings to support the candidate whose name they have heard most often.
No, Bee accused the media — specifically the entertainment media — of normalizing Trump over many years. She didn't use the term "normalizing," but that's what she was talking about right here:
BEE: A lot of voters have decided that racism and sexism aren’t great, but they’re not a deal breaker. Kind of like a sandwich with too much mayo: They think they can just scrape off the extra white nonsense. Why do so many Americans think that playing footsie with fringe hate groups isn’t a disqualifier from polite society, much less the presidency? Maybe because that’s the message they get from entertainment giants like NBC, which gladly nurtured Trump’s celebrity through all the years he was running around saying this:TAPE OF TRUMP IN 2011: The birthers have been so badly labeled, they’re afraid to bring it up. Well, I’ve brought it up, and I’ve reinvigorated that issue, and I’m very proud to have done it.
As Bee sees it, NBC was willing to overlook Trump's birtherism and continue airing his "Apprentice" reality show "because ratings matter more than brown people." The network "tacitly approved a race-baiting demagogue," she said, and in doing so signaled to the public that he isn't so bad.
"To its credit," Bee said, "NBC did sever ties with Trump after he called Mexicans rapists — if by severing ties you mean inviting him on their flagship comedy programs to show millions of Americans what a fun guy he is."
After showing clips of Trump hosting "Saturday Night Live" and yukking it up with late-night host Jimmy Fallon, Bee added this:
Trump can be a total sweetheart with someone who has no reason to be terrified of him. … Network execs and a lot of their audience can ignore how very dangerous Trump is because to them, he isn’t. They’re not going to be deported. They’re not going to live under a president who thinks of them as a collection of sex toys. They’re not racist; they just don’t mind if other people are, which is just as bad.
Whatever you think of Bee's media critique, it is hard to dispute an underlying premise: The media did not create Trump overnight. The fame he has parlayed into a credible White House run was built over decades of attention.
Bee is saying it was wrong all along to give Trump the spotlight — to present him as a benignly entertaining character. It's hard to undo now.