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Opinion

Media didn’t understand Trump or their proper roles in U.S. election campaign

By Angelo Persichilli      

If media were right in describing Trump as such an evil man, it means that 50 per cent of Americans are evil, too. And if that’s the case, America has a much bigger problem than Donald Trump.

Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Phoenix on Oct. 29, 2016. Angelo Persichilli writes that journalists were campaigning against him rather than reporting objectively on him or Hillary Clinton. Photograph by Gage Skidmore
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TORONTO—Losing an election is always painful; losing to Donald Trump is a humiliation.

The defeat of Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential race was: the defeat of the American media, which was campaigning for a candidate instead of reporting news; the defeat of pollsters, who were telling their clients what they wanted to hear; and, ultimately, the rejection of the establishment, which was trying to impose the status quo while Americans were craving change.

Let’s start with Clinton. Her defeat is the rejection of an entire personal political life lived through expediency to appease borderless ambitions, the exploitation of friends, and acquaintances’ popularity to hide an otherwise manifest incompetence and ruthlessness, and the support of the establishment to feed greed and bank accounts.

But in her fall, Clinton is not alone. She also dragged down most of the media, pollsters, and the establishment. People who deserve praise and respect should have been more prudent in putting their reputations and political capital at the disposal of a person whose deficiencies they had rightly denounced in the past. I am referring to the Obamas and the Bushes.

I understand Barack and Michelle’s Democratic duties, and Bill Clinton for obvious reasons. But I have difficulties justifying the Bush family, whose support for Clinton was based on their need for personal revenge against Trump for defeating one of them during the primaries. This kind of pettiness has no place in a presidential campaign.

There were many and serious reasons for voting against Donald Trump. But by winning the White House despite his huge deficiencies, it speaks volumes about the slightness and smallness of Hillary Clinton.

While I hope that the defeat will finally help retire Clinton, whose manipulations have infected American politics for almost three decades (including the Arkansas years), I hope that this is also a lesson for media and pollsters who are meddling with politics, eliminating the borderline between facts and opinions.

The credibility of the polling industry has been crushed and I hope that pollsters stop telling their clients what they want to hear. Most importantly, I hope they start learning to use the new technology. Buying new computers to collect numbers doesn’t make anyone a pollster, just like buying a Formula One car doesn’t make someone a Formula One driver. 

For almost a year, major media organizations have radicalized the debate and demonized one of the candidates. We all know Donald Trump’s deficiencies, but media have gone well beyond the duty of reporting them. They have campaigned against him, deliberately ignoring facts and huge mistakes made by his opponent.

Instead of understanding why 50 per cent of Americans were ready to make Trump their next president despite his deficiencies, media decided that Trump was not to be elected and declined to write about the real concerns of millions of Americans about the status quo.

Rightly or wrongly, millions of Americans are concerned about terrorism, but those who were expressing these concerns were labelled anti-Muslim. Millions of Americans are concerned about immigration, but those who were expressing these concerns were labelled racists. Those concerned about the state of the economy were silenced with the accusation of being against the poor.

There is no doubt that in America, like everywhere, there are racists, Islamophobics, and uncaring people. But trying to justify the defeat of Hillary Clinton with these explanations, as media have done, it is misleading, dangerous, and, most of all, false. If media were right in describing Trump as such an evil man, it means that 50 per cent of Americans are evil, too. And  if that’s the case, America has a much bigger problem than Donald Trump.

Fortunately, even if the deficiencies in Trump’s character are huge, I believe that it is more important that media go back to their mandate which is reporting fact, not to be confused with opinion, and, most importantly, reporting fact to help people to make decisions, not making decisions on their behalf.

Americans were laughing at us when we made that mistake in the Toronto campaign against Rob Ford and ignored the concerns of voters. Reporters didn’t understand that the problem was much bigger than the late mayor and was really about the disconnect between people and their institutions. And now they have Donald Trump as president of United States.

Angelo Persichilli is a freelance journalist and a former citizenship judge for the Greater Toronto Area. He was also a director of communications to former prime minister Stephen Harper and is the former political editor of Corriere Canadese, Canada’s Italian-language newspaper in Toronto.

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