Before President Donald Trump even spoke, CNN declared that his response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 50 people dead was “presidential.” Why? Because Trump had, to that point, only tweeted once about the incident.
CNN’s John King noted that in previous incidents, Trump was quick to jump to conclusions. But this time, he has been “very low key” — and relatively quiet on Twitter — which was enough for King to describe his response as “presidential.”
A minute later, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny joined King in heaping praise on the president. Zeleny, apparently passing on word from White House officials, said Trump was focused on “unity.” Zeleny noted that “the president often weighs in early” but has been “very quiet” about the Las Vegas shooting. According to Zeleny, this meant Trump was being “presidential.”
CNN also ignored that, in incidents where the suspect was non-white, Trump responses were far quicker and more caustic.
Trump then delivered brief remarks, expressing sympathy for the victims. The only policy initiative he mentioned in response to the horrific event was lowering the flags to half-mast.
CNN’s John King returned to declare that “no matter what your politics” there isn’t “anything you can take issue with what we just heard from the President of the United States.” He then reviewed Trump’s remarks as if it was a theatrical performance, describing them as “pitch-perfect.”
“This is a time to bring to country together. That is exactly, John King, what the president did with those remarks. This is not a time for politics, nor did he inject them at all into those remarks,” CNN’s Poppy Harlow confidently declared. Zeleny then returned to dub Trump a “unifier.”
The effusive praise from the cable news hosts shows the desperation among some to change the narrative surrounding Trump and his presidency — regardless of whether Trump himself actually changes. Monday’s parade of compliments on CNN come after Trump spent the weekend criticizing the people of Puerto Rico as lazy and ungrateful. He also repeatedly attacked the Mayor of San Juan because she was begging federal authorities for more help in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
All of that was quickly forgotten, even prior to Trump speaking, merely because he did not tweet anything inappropriate about the shooting in the immediate aftermath.
CNN’s declaration that “no one” could object to Trump’s approach of expressing sympathies and little else is false. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), for example, tweeted that this kind of response is insufficient.
Tragedies like Las Vegas have happened too many times. We need to have the conversation about how to stop gun violence. We need it NOW.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) October 2, 2017
Trump’s response was, in reality, little more than boilerplate talking points about an enormous tragedy.