Perhaps there is some cosmic almanac in which the universe’s greatest ironies are recorded, a heavy tome that the angels can skim, marveling at man’s ability to demonstrate his own insincerity. If there is, the celestial scribes have had a busy morning thanks to Donald Trump Jr.'s appearance on Fox News in which he lambasted the New York Times for kowtowing to its audience.
The subject at hand was the newspaper’s decision to change its planned front-page headline summarizing President Trump’s speech on Monday following twin mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. The paper originally ran with a headline of “Trump urges unity vs. racism,” a summary of Trump’s comments that manages to misrepresent both Trump’s vision of unity and his relationship with racism. It’s technically true, in the way that saying Babe Ruth hasn’t hit any home runs this century is true. It’s just … not the entire story.
The paper’s executive editor explained that the social-media outcry that the headline spurred caused the Times’s senior leadership to take a closer look at and, later, to change it. Fox, in its presentation of the scenario, suggested that the paper was actually responding to criticism from prominent Democrats.
Trump Jr. readily agreed.
“They put up actually what happened, an objective headline, and then they were hit by the mob. And the mob went after them, and they caved to that pressure,” Trump Jr. said. “This is the New York Times. I mean, they’re supposed to be above reproach, but they’re not. They caved to the Twitter mob and gave their viewers what they wanted as opposed to the actual news, and that’s a scary place to be.”
The angels scribble furiously.
“The New York Times doesn’t function as a news organization anymore,” Trump Jr. said on Fox News. “They function as the marketing wing of the Democrat Party. So does The Washington Post and, frankly, most of the mainstream media. It’s not about reporting what actually happens. It’s not about being objective in that. It’s about driving forward a political agenda — in their case, obviously very leftist political agenda.”
He claimed that he’d “seen what these things do,” like “what’s going on with the Joaquin Castro craziness.”
“That list sort of screams out like the Dayton, Ohio, shooter’s list,” Trump Jr. said of the Democratic congressman from Texas. “When a radical left-wing politician who’s polling at about zero percent does this for either attention or a call to action, it’s pretty scary. I mean, that was the same thing that the Dayton, Ohio, shooter did, and people should be fed up with this nonsense.”
As the Fox News hosts took pains to note both shortly after Trump Jr. made this comment and later, as they were thanking him for appearing, what Castro shared on Twitter was a list of donors to Trump’s 2020 campaign from the San Antonio area who were already listed as donors in public records. The Dayton shooter’s list was written in high school and identified fellow students he wanted to kill. That list doesn’t appear to have actually been related to the weekend’s attack.
But notice Trump Jr.'s hop, skip and jump here. The media’s revision of a headline about his father’s speech is equated to what Castro did, which was equated to what a mass murderer did. The pushback from Fox’s team was to clarify what Castro’s list was, with host Ainsley Earhardt pointing out that he was “not necessarily saying go and do something dangerous to these people, completely different than" the shooter’s list. They did not challenge Trump Jr.’s broader conflation of Castro with the Times.
The hosts also didn’t clarify that Joaquin Castro isn’t polling at zero percent in anything. That’s Castro’s brother, Julián, who’s running for president. Joaquin Castro is involved in his brother’s campaign, but neither Trump Jr. nor the show’s hosts clarified who was being discussed. Later, Trump Jr. referred to publishing a list of Castro’s donors, which Fox host Brian Kilmeade joked would be a “short list” — suggesting that he, too, was conflating the brothers.
Trump Jr. acknowledged that “reasonable people” might not be spurred to action by Joaquin Castro’s tweet, “but when the fringe crazies on both sides — and we saw that in the last week, right? You had fringe crazies on all sides. Now they’re going after ordinary citizens.”
Here, Trump Jr. is equating the Dayton shooter with the gunman in El Paso. The former expressed support for Democratic politicians and policies on social media. The latter expressed support for Republicans. But it’s the El Paso shooter’s mirroring of anti-immigrant rhetoric used by the president as a rationale for his attack that’s spurred questions about how Trump’s politics overlap with the shooting.
“One thing that’s been noticed is that, for the first time, a president’s been blamed, his words have been blamed for shootings that took place in El Paso,” Kilmeade said.
“They don’t blame Elizabeth Warren for the Dayton, Ohio shooter,” Trump Jr. replied. “They don’t blame Bernie Sanders for the congressional …”
“They shouldn’t!” Kilmeade interjected.
“And they shouldn’t!” Trump Jr. replied. “But if it’s Trump, obviously it’s him.”
Trump Sr. began his campaign in 2015 by deriding immigrants from Mexico as overwhelmingly being criminals and drug-smugglers. As president, he has repeatedly warned that immigrants bring crime, disease, terrorism and human trafficking. His administration has claimed that immigrants are taking jobs from Americans, and Trump has told lurid stories about immigrant gang members murdering American children with knives.
The screed published by the El Paso shooting suspect echoed some of those concerns, but it’s obviously the case that Trump’s rhetoric against the people targeted by the shooter has been much more virulent and negative than anything Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have said — even setting aside the much blurrier links between their politics and the Dayton shooter’s.
Trump Jr. went on to complain about social-media companies censoring conservatives, claiming (as he has in the past) that he himself has been a target. “I’ve been hit by Instagram and these guys for, you know, just asking questions,” Trump Jr. claimed. “They’ve weaponized that against me.”
Here’s the question that Trump Jr. posed that Instagram blocked.
The Fox News hosts didn’t press him on that, either.
clarification: Earhardt's comment about Castro's list was added.