Media Matters

Trump’s BuzzFeed Buzzsaw

Time for a new GOP media strategy.

By 2.18.14

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The target this time? Donald Trump.

BuzzFeed and McKay Coppins, BuzzFeed’s political editor, are at it again. Why wouldn’t BuzzFeed and Coppins be targeting Trump? Trump is not only a potential Republican candidate for president or governor of New York, he is famously an Obama critic.

And BuzzFeed itself? Contrary to the way it relentlessly brands itself as a source for “news,” the site is nothing more than the latest social media plaything of liberal activism.

BuzzFeed’s chairman, Ken Lerer, was not only a co-founder and chairman of the left-leaning Huffington Post, but is also a consistent contributor to Democrats. According to the Federal Elections Commission, Lerer has contributed over the years to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean, Elizabeth Warren, Rahm Emanuel, Al Franken, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees, the Democratic Party of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania plus….well, you get the idea. 

It’s time for the GOP to listen to Brent Bozell. We’ll come back to that.

This time the liberal media target is Donald Trump. With an inept attempt by Coppins and BuzzFeed at a hatchet job on Trump that has turned into a paint-by-numbers rendition of just how liberal media bias works — and how “reporters” like Coppins and outlets like BuzzFeed — play the game.

Where to begin?

First recall here this announcement after the 2012 campaign from BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief Ben Smith:

New York, December 11, 2012 — The leading social news organization announced today that McKay Coppins, BuzzFeed’s political reporter most recently leading the site’s coverage of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, has been named Political Editor and will work with editor-in-chief Ben Smith to shape BuzzFeed’s acclaimed political coverage.

….Coppins will continue to regularly cover national politics, the Republican Party, and the major figures in the conservative movement from New York.

In the same release, Coppins talked of working with (bold print supplied):

"My colleagues at BuzzFeed Politics [who] are some of the best reporters in the business.”

So let’s compare and contrast some of BuzzFeed’s “acclaimed political coverage” from the Political Editor of those “best reporters” shall we? A Political Editor whose specific task, among other duties, is to cover “the Republican Party, and the major figures in the conservative movement…”

Here’s Coppins — at length — on Trump. The piece has caused a kerfuffle that, among other things, resulted in Trump firing a member of his staff, political advisor Sam Nunberg. The New York Post’s Fred Dicker has that part of the story (here).

But in this space we will focus on this BuzzFeed piece as a case study in the Art of Liberal Media Bias disguised as straight just-the-facts ma’am journalism. Let’s take a close look, and unpack the tools of Coppins’ real task as a supposed straight “news” reporter. Let’s see how the Political Editor of BuzzFeed plays the liberal media game.

What is the idea behind the Coppins piece? On the surface, the “news” story focuses on Trump as he considers a run for governor of New York or president. As a Republican. But bearing in mind Lerer’s role, and that the site has veterans of or contributors to the famously liberal Google, Politico, Daily Beast, New York Times, Gawker and New York magazine running the place in various roles, there can be no “news” story on Donald Trump at BuzzFeed that doesn’t have as its main objective trashing Trump. To do otherwise would threaten the BuzzFeed brand.

So, how to begin a piece of “reporting” which has as its Coppins-manufactured theme that Trump is a rich has-been whose days as a candidate for anything are over before they begin? Answer:

Begin by making the target look the officious fool. Here’s Coppins’ very first sentence, bold print supplied.

Donald Trump is sitting in the passenger seat of a black SUV packed with four well-dressed yes-men — and me — as we wind through the snowy roads of Manchester, New Hampshire on a quiet Tuesday morning in January.

Translation? This being anything but straight news reporting, there needs to be a translation.

Donald Trump is in a moving vehicle with staff as said vehicle drives through Manchester on a snowy Tuesday. That is fact. But what does Political Editor Coppins inform?

The use of the term “black SUV” quickly signals 1% style wealth and power, as SUVs, in today’s world, are not cheap. In the world of politics black SUVs have become, for whatever reason, a staple of transportation. They are a dime a dozen in Washington motorcades, including President Obama’s. (The President seen here about to board a black SUV). But Coppins doesn’t say black SUVs are as common as cell phones in politics and government. Instead, Coppins goes on to more word play by noting the presence of Trump’s staff. But instead of using the word “staff” or “aides” or “security” Coppins has Trump surrounded by “four well-dressed yes men,” so many they are in fact “packed” into the black SUV. 

Now.

What would Coppins write about this picture of a black SUV carrying - gasp! — Hillary Clinton? As Clinton, wearing sunglasses, leaves a place plainly labeled “Private Club”? As a matter of fact, note those other people “packed” in the front and back seats of that black SUV with Hillary? Were McKay Coppins inside that SUV writing a piece about Hillary, he could easily write the same kind of sentence he wrote about Trump, which would then read:

Hillary Clinton, wearing dark sunglasses, is sitting in the rear passenger seat of a black SUV packed with well-dressed yes-men — and me — as we emerge past a sign denoting our last stop on a quiet Tuesday morning in January. As the sign reads that would be a “Private Club. Members Only.” 

But don’t expect such lines from McKay Coppins about Hillary.

Noooooooo. Mr.Coppins spends his time writing about Hillary Clinton with adoring lines like this one about Mrs. Clinton:

This @HillaryClinton twitter bio is awesome, but doesn't quite match her public persona.

Got that? Why, dude, Hillary’s awesome! But even the word awesome can’t match Hillary’s public persona! Which is just so..so…absolutely fabulous! O…M…G!!!!

As a matter of fact, BuzzFeed is so over the top about Hillary they took the time to run this adoring look into Hillaryland. The piece, found here, is titled - really — 45 Totally Superficial Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Run For President In 2016.

What follows are 45 (!!) different photographs of Mrs. Clinton in various adorable poses over the years. Shown with supposedly clever subtitles — appearing with a cat and a dog demonstrates Hillary is “bipartisan,” her changing hairstyles over the years shows she believes in “evolution” — there she is hugging Oprah and Meryl Streep, drinking beer, looking “hot in the 90’s” and..and…well, you get the picture. Humorous? Sure, in the way of an SNL skit that doesn’t quite make the grade. But revealing.

Make no mistake. The entire seemingly silly exercise, however awkwardly done, has a serious political purpose: use photos to convey Hillary as warm and fuzzy.

Suffice to say, the pictures in the BuzzFeed Trump article are considerably less flattering. The Donald is photo shopped behind the desk in the Oval Office, looking imperious as he straightens his tie, pictures of himself on the credenza behind him. Others are of the too-close-up variety that depict him with narrowed eyes or mouth wide open, presumably screaming “You’re FIRED.” The two articles are a study on how liberal media can — and will — use photographic or video images to promote or damage their subject.

Straight news reporting at BuzzFeed? You’re kidding, right?

Then there’s this gem of a line from the Coppins Trump story, again bold print supplied. After climbing back in the black SUV, leaving his audience behind, Trump is written of this way:

They didn’t ask one question about running for governor,” Trump tells his aides, rubbing his hands together as the vehicle fills with the alcoholic scent of hand sanitizer.

Translation? Donald Trump is an obsessive, elitist clean freak, who, upon emerging from a talk with the hoi polloi, immediately reaches for a hand sanitizer to wipe off the germs of the little people.

Hmmmm. The use of hand sanitizer is — what? Snooty? Elitist? Perhaps Coppins missed this sparkler from Brian Williams — yes, that Brian Williams of NBC News. Who wrote here of “The Purell Presidency.” Purell being, yes indeed, a hand sanitizer. Wrote NBC anchorman Williams:

Obama aide Reggie Love is informally known as the "keeper of the Purell" in the traveling germfest that has been the Obama campaign.

In other words, not only is Barack Obama washing his hands after contact with crowds as does Donald Trump, Obama had an aide who was — literally, really — “informally known as the ‘keeper of the Purell.’” But how does Coppins write of Obama, the man who has some guy following him around as that “keeper of the Purell”? In a piece Coppins co-authored over at the Daily Beast back in December of 2011 when it looked possible that Obama could be a one-term president, Coppins gushed:

Barack Obama would make a pretty damn good ex-president.… With strong health and an agile mind — and no shortage of ways to make staggering sums of money — Obama would have the time and skills to mount one of the most impressive ex-presidencies on record.

Nothing there about an Obama proclivity for black SUVs, a president surrounded by “yes men” or having a staffer follow Obama around with hand sanitizers. Worship of The One is always impressive, yes? Yet the Coppins story on Trump has barely begun before Trump is portrayed as a black SUV-riding, yes-men surrounded, elitist clean-freak who can’t wait to wipe off whatever diseases can be had from the little people.

See how it’s done? Subtle as a sledgehammer, yes?

One can go on and on here. The Coppins Trump article is filled with this kind of thing as Coppins “reports” on Trump in a black SUV, Trump in New Hampshire, Trump on his plane, Trump at his private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s staff is mocked for calling him “Mr. Trump”…as if Jay Carney strolls into the White House press briefing room, looks out into the cameras and says “Barack believes strongly that there was not a smidgen of corruption at the IRS, and Barack stands by that answer.” Questions from people Trump meets asking why he is thinking of running for governor instead of president has Coppins — out of the blue — musing about Trump’s “insecurity.” Insecure? Donald Trump? Obama may be abusing the IRS, ordering illegal changes to Obamacare — not to mention comparing opponents to extortionists — but to Coppins it is Trump who is pulling “stunts” and tossing off “inflammatory comments” while struggling to come to grips with his “fading relevance.”

If Donald Trump isn’t relevant — then why was Coppins following him around in the first place?

And misleading BuzzFeed readers about what took place? Actually, to say that Coppins misleads BuzzFeed readers about the Trump New Hampshire visit is being kind. Exhibit A?

Here’s Coppins on the Trump appearance:

A few hundred Republicans had reshuffled their Tuesday morning schedules to take in the spectacle.…I became mildly self-conscious when I realized I was the only reporter from a national outlet who had ventured outside the Acela corridor to see the Donald in action….”

In fact?

In fact, not only was Coppins following Trump that morning in New Hampshire, so too was the event covered by the following outside-New Hampshire media: Fox, CNN, the Associated Press and the Boston Globe. On top of that, as anyone who has been to New Hampshire knows, it is always critical to have coverage from the Manchester Union Leader, the Concord Monitor and Manchester’s WMUR TV. In fact all these major New Hampshire media outlets were there to cover Trump. Quite noticeably, the difference between the WMUR account of the Trump event — and that from BuzzFeed’s Coppins — is considerable. 

Here’s WMUR’s account of exactly the same event as described above by Coppins and BuzzFeed. The WMUR headline?

Donald Trump speaks to packed house at St. Anselm College

And the beginning of WMUR’s version also contrasts vividly with that supplied by Coppins and BuzzFeed. Reports WMUR:

MANCHESTER, N.H. —Real estate mogul Donald Trump paid a visit to the Granite State on Tuesday as the featured speaker at a Politics and Eggs event at St. Anselm College.

Trump drew a packed house as he addressed the largely conservative crowd on issues ranging from the economy, Iran and the challenges facing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his bridge scandal.

WMUR is practicing real journalism. The kind of “journalism” BuzzFeed has been caught practicing here can only draw howls of laughter in the political world. There is nothing in WMUR’s story about black SUVs packed with yes-men and smelling of hand sanitizer. In the WMUR story the only thing that is “packed” is “the house.” Because it was. The difference in the reporting between BuzzFeed and WMUR — the latter of which has seen presidential candidates come and go in New Hampshire since 1956 — is stark. WMUR is about reporting the facts, BuzzFeed and Coppins are out to do what they imagine is a sophisticated social media liberal hit job. And in truth? The anti-Trump… make that anti-Republican/conservative animus… is so over the top obvious BuzzFeed and Coppins aren’t even competent at the hit job. 

There’s more in the Coppins story, a boatload of typical liberal more in this BuzzFeed /Coppins cartoon version of reality. Suffice to say, understandably Trump wasn’t thrilled with the obvious blatant unfairness. At the Wrap the Trump response was reported — fairly — this way:

Donald Trump’s rep hit back at a critical profile written by BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins on Thursday that described the mogul as trapped in “the bubble of luxury and loyalty” and a “showman” who was obsessed with media coverage of his political ambitions.

“It is a totally dishonest and unfair article, written by a politically irrelevant website,” Trump’s EVP and Special Counsel Michael Cohen told TheWrap. ”From the moment the reporter entered the vehicle to the time he left Mar-a-Lago, his only goal was to write a negative piece.”

But there is a larger point here, a much larger point that in fact has nothing to do with Donald Trump, McKay Coppins or BuzzFeed.

Technology is — just technology. Obviously, technology changes. Pen and paper becomes the telegraph becomes radio which becomes television which becomes the Internet which becomes Facebook, Twitter and BuzzFeed. But however it changes, Leftist Utopians are always there. As Mark Levin points out in Ameritopia, Utopians have been around since before Plato scribbled The Republic somewhere in the neighborhood of 380 BC. What McKay Coppins did to Donald Trump in service to a Leftist agenda is hardly new.

If Donald Trump were removed from this story and instead it revolved around someone else — a conservative someone else — the story would be written or told visually in exactly the same fashion. Take Trump out and substitute, say, Sarah Palin or Ted Cruz, or some conservative other who gets under liberal skins and you would get exactly the same kind of story. It’s a liberal media recipe for dealing with conservatives, a recipe seasoned differently only for the personality in question.

For Palin the recipe is seasoned with stories like that infamous Newsweek cover of her in running shorts (here) bearing the title: ”How Do You Solve A Problem Like Sarah? She’s Bad News for the GOP — And Everybody Else Too.” Unsurprisingly, Palin has been written up at BuzzFeed with this story headed:

Sarah Palin Attempts To Stay Relevant

Notice anything?

That’s right. The BuzzFeed hit piece on Donald Trump says Trump is “startled by his suddenly fading relevance.” Curiously, the BuzzFeed idea of Palin attempting to “stay relevant” is precisely the idea that is at the core of the BuzzFeed Trump piece, which has Trump dealing with his “fading relevance.”

Hmmm. Does BuzzFeed ask this of Hillary Clinton? Or Barack Obama? Joe Biden? Nancy Pelosi? Of course not. Which instantly raises the obvious question.

Is BuzzFeed relevant as an objective source of news? 

Scroll down from that BuzzFeed Palin story and what does one find in the way of Palin-related stories but, yes indeed, a photo of the Newsweek Palin cover, plus two other BuzzFeed links to stories headed: “Crowd Boos Sarah Palin At Book Signing” and Did Sarah Palin Get Breast Implants?

But of course, BuzzFeed isn’t about just trashing Donald Trump and Sarah Palin.

For Ted Cruz it was this thrashing by BuzzFeed staff writer Aswini Anburajan in which Cruz was attacked for his race. Cruz was a “LINO” — as in “Latino In Name Only.” Lovely. BuzzFeed plays the race card. 

During the 2012 campaign, when Coppins himself was covering Mitt Romney to accolades from his editor — and, no small point, at one particular Romney event Coppins was serving as the pool reporter who would report back to other journalists — a hot mic caught Coppins saying that there was a “40% chance he (Romney) will say something stupid.”

So let’s see. BuzzFeed trashes Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney — while Coppins is tweeting about the “awesome” Hillary and BuzzFeed is lavishing her with a flattering photo spread. No pattern there, right? 

Two questions that answer themselves.

Is BuzzFeed relevant as a legitimate straight news source?

And do you wonder why Fox News and talk radio are so popular?

The Coppins Trump article in BuzzFeed is just a taste of what lies ahead not just for Trump should he run in 2016 but for all the GOP 2016 nomination candidates not to mention the eventual nominee. For that matter the same holds true in 2014 for Trump if he runs for governor of New York not to mention all those other GOP candidates across the land. There is not a chance in hell these people will get anything remotely close to “fair and balanced” treatment in the liberal media — the BuzzFeeds of the media universe — as they go out there and make the conservative case to their fellow citizens. 

Think again of that Trump slicing and dicing by BuzzFeed. Here is a guy who has made tremendous contributions to his city, his state, his country and the larger world as a one-man job producing machine (see here) The list of Trump projects is stunning, a genuine tribute to the idea of hard work and imagination. (And among other things, it is telling how Coppins views those who have jobs as a result of Trump’s hard work. Other than noting — barely — their presence, there is no connection that the “well-mannered staff of over 200” of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago private club are in fact gainfully employed — because of Donald Trump. That the estate’s “carefully manicured grounds” are “carefully manicured” by people with jobs — jobs created by Donald Trump. That the pilots and crew of the Trump 757 on which Coppins flew as Trump’s guest are real people earning real money in real jobs that in turn support, presumably, families, mortgages and their children’s educations. In the Age of Obama, with almost 92 million Americans left out of the labor force — jobless — that this isn’t even worth a line in the BuzzFeed story about a major American job creator is telling.

Instead, with the use of two simple facts-made-into-symbols in that opening sentence — a black SUV, the presence of staff - then the business of Trump wiping his hands with hand sanitizer — Trump is on his way to being sliced and diced, deliberately misrepresented - in an all too typically snarky, blatantly unfair if decidedly typically liberal media fashion. It makes no difference that Hillary Clinton too rides around in black SUVs (or that she admits she hasn’t even driven a car herself in 18 years.) Or that any person in politics, finance, medicine, academia and countless other professions are surrounded by staff who respectfully address or refer to them by title. Whether the latter is done with a simple “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Dr.,” “Professor,” or the governmental “Mr. President,” “Madame Secretary,” or whatever. (Trust me, other than Michelle Obama, no one runs around the White House addressing Barack Obama as anything other than “Mr. President.”) Nor does it matter to Coppins that President Obama has personally had an aide whose specific task was to follow Obama around with hand sanitizer. Or that the President lives like Donald Trump — with the notable exception that Obama’s life-style is paid for by working Americans and Trump paid for his lifestyle himself.

In the hands of just this one “objective” reporter from BuzzFeed — and remember here that McKay Coppins is the “Political Editor” directing a staff — or is that “yes men”??? — of the liberal like-minded, all three totems — the SUV, the staff, and the hand sanitizer — were employed to make Donald Trump — not Clinton or Obama — look The Idiot.

All are used to bolster Coppins’ theme for the day — or the BuzzFeed editorial department’s thumb sucker idea of what a “get-Trump” story looks like. And so — Trump is trashed in BuzzFeed before he starts running for anything, if he starts. Meanwhile, Coppins is ohhhing-and-ahhhing, - the right word here is “fawning” — over, I kid you not, a mere twitter feed from Hillary. She’s just “awesome,” don’t you know? And if you don’t, BuzzFeed has 45 of their favorite Hillary pictures to show you just how awesome she is. Oh, and don’t forget that if by chance Obama had been defeated in 2012 by Romney — the Romney for whom in Coppins’ estimation to his fellow reporters there was a “40% chance he will say something stupid,” Coppins was already at work crafting the future image of Obama as “a pretty damn good ex-president.”

For doing all of this, Coppins is promoted by BuzzFeed as “one of the breakout political reporters this cycle and is primed to run one of the best politics teams out there.”

You can’t make it up.

Unless, of course, you’re BuzzFeed. Home of real “yes men” — the “yes men” of left-wing activism passed off as “news”.

In aiming at Trump, BuzzFeed shot its own credibility.

No Republican or conservative of any sense will ever look at the outlet again as anything more than an outlet on the order of the web site of the Democratic National Committee or Move On.Org. BuzzFeed is nothing but a supposedly hip outlet for left-wing activism. McKay Coppins, whose specific task according to BuzzFeed, as mentioned, is to “regularly cover…the Republican Party, and the major figures in the conservative movement” has revealed himself to the people he is supposed to cover as nothing more than a literary Leftist yes man disguised as an impartial journalist. And not terribly well disguised at that. After his story broke Coppins boasted:

@mckaycoppins : I'll be on MSNBC's @msnbcDisrupt in about 20 minutes talking about my Trump story, and the fallout in The Donald's inner circle.

No way! Really? McKay Coppins to MSNBC in a heartbeat after his trumped up anti-Trump story breaks?

Well knock me over with a feather! Maybe he’s earned his own MSNBC hosting gig.

Oh please.

One of the most useful books of the next two years will prove to have been written by Brent Bozell and Tim Graham of the invaluable Media Research Center. Released last year, the book is titled: Collusion: How the Media Stole the 2012 Election and How to Stop Them From Doing It Again

Collusion — or as Bozell and Graham call it “naked political bias” - is exactly what is going on at BuzzFeed and with Coppins. Badly disguised, as the BuzzFeed Trump story shows, as objective news.

The book should be read to fully understand that “objective” journalism when it comes to the GOP and conservatives — not to mention Republican candidates and officeholders — is long since hell and gone. As McKay Coppins has vividly demonstrated, he is no more an objective journalist — and BuzzFeed is no more an objective web site — than Harry Reid is a nun. The Obama era has done lasting damage to the credibility of the mainstream media — and the mainstream media wasn’t in very good shape on this score to begin with.

There is a lesson in this episode with Donald Trump and BuzzFeed.

Let’s hope there are Republicans and conservatives out there who are paying attention to that lesson.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.