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Media fails by asking about 2024

Tony Bennis

During the recent debate between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, CNN host Dana Bash asked Trump if he would accept the results of the 2024 presidential election. It’s a question frequently asked of Trump and Trump surrogates by hosts of network television news programs.

In asking Trump that question, the media stunningly fails with the most basic journalistic standards for a couple of very clear reasons.

The immediate and obvious failure in media asking Trump that question is that it falsely implies Trump has the option of rejecting the 2024 election results. It’s akin to asking the Dallas Mavericks if they accept the results of the NBA Championship where they lost to the Boston Celtics four games to one. Refusing to accept your loss does not change the result.

But the greatest journalistic failure in asking Trump if he’ll support the results of the 2024 election is that it gives him the opportunity to answer that question predictably — as he always does — with an answer that could seem reasonable without understanding the big picture.

Trump answered CNN’s question about accepting the 2024 results by saying, if it’s “fair and legal and a good election.”  That seems like an appropriate answer, but it’s not.

The question allows Trump to answer in a way that falsely suggests our elections might not be fair. It feeds the inflammatory myth that Republicans have been promoting for many years — that maliciously, Democrats are rigging the elections against Republicans with widespread voter fraud.

But, despite spending millions and millions of dollars searching for voter fraud, Republicans consistently fail to find any meaningful examples. And when Republicans angrily rant about voter fraud, they are not talking about it occurring in overwhelmingly white districts in rural Idaho; they are focused on large cities like Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta, with a high percentage of Black voters and voters of color.

When Trump and Republicans spew hateful rhetoric about voter fraud, it’s actually a strategy to conduct their voter intimidation and voter suppression campaign, primarily designed to prevent Black citizens from voting, knowing that they are more likely to vote for Democrats. It feeds a vile element of racism by giving permission for white people to view Black voters as lawless and attempting to steal something that belongs to them — the election.

Under the guise of “election integrity,” Trump Republicans are engaged in a sweeping effort to suppress the Black vote. They’re making it harder to register and harder to vote and easier for them to remove Black residents from the voting rolls. This spring, the Trump campaign and the RNC promised to deploy 100,000 volunteers and attorneys to battleground states to “protect the vote and ensure a big win” in November. This could keep voters from voting and create chaos-induced delays that turn away voters in predominantly Black districts.

And all of this racist, anti-Democracy disinformation is allowed to permeate public thinking, with an air of legitimacy, when media ask the question of Trump and his cowardly Republican surrogates, “Will you accept the results of the 2024 election?”

The more determinative question to ask Trump relating to the 2024 election is to ask about the 2020 election. That’s the question to ask because there is a track record about what Trump did. So, here’s the question media should ask Trump.

“By January of 2021 every recount verified that Joe Biden had duly defeated you for president. Judges, including those you appointed, ruled against your lawsuits that claimed, falsely, that there was illegality with the 2020 presidential election. Your attorney general, Republican William Barr, told you Biden’s election was legitimate. Your director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Republican Chris Krebs, publicly stated the 2020 vote was ‘the most secure in American history.’ And, yet you called the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia and pressured him to ‘find’ 11,780 votes for you so you could claim victory in Georgia. You pressured other officials in states you lost to commit election fraud by tossing out the true results. You pressured your vice president, Mike Pence, not to certify the valid election results. And you still to this day claim, falsely, that you won the 2020 election by a landslide. So, how can Americans trust you to uphold the constitution while you dishonor America’s system of democracy and you attempted to overturn the 2020 election?”

Trump attempted to overturn the “fair and legal and good” election of 2020, and even today Trump continues to divide America with inflammatory disinformation that he was actually the winner. Pressing Trump about what he did in 2020 is the most accurate way media can question him about his views on USA elections, his acceptance (or not) of the U.S. Constitution, and assess what Trump might attempt in 2024.

Tony Bennis is a Boston area documentary producer and writer.

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