That much news coverage is biased against President Trump goes without saying. But every now and then there comes an episode of bias so egregious that it deserves attention. The coverage of the president’s July 3 speech at Mount Rushmore is one of those episodes.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page called it “one of the best speeches” of Trump’s time in office. Conservative intellectual Roger Kimball called it “perhaps his most forceful and eloquent to date.” The message, Kimball said, was an “invitation to unity in the midst of conflict.”
Indeed, Trump’s theme was a call for Americans to unite in the face of threat. Standing in front of Mount Rushmore’s massive images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, Trump celebrated “American giants in full flesh and blood, gallant men whose intrepid deeds unleashed the greatest leap of human advancement the world has ever known.”
Trump praised America’s founding as “not only a revolution in government, but a revolution in the pursuit of justice, equality, liberty and prosperity. No nation has done more to advance the human condition than the United States of America. And no people have done more to promote human progress than the citizens of our great nation.”
The key to the Founders’ genius was that they “enshrined a divine truth that changed the world forever when they said: ‘all men are created equal,’” Trump said. “These immortal words set in motion the unstoppable march of freedom.”
The nation created an extraordinary people. Trump not only recounted the biographies of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. He celebrated many more: Andrew Jackson. Ulysses S. Grant. Frederick Douglass. Wild Bill Hickock. Buffalo Bill Cody. The Wright Brothers. The Tuskegee Airmen. Harriet Tubman. Clara Barton. Jesse Owens. Gen. George Patton. Louie Armstrong. Alan Shepard. Elvis Presley. Muhammad Ali. Walt Whitman. Mark Twain. Irving Berlin. Ella Fitzgerald. Frank Sinatra. Bob Hope. And more.
But the country that produced all that greatness faces a new and dangerous threat, Trump said. “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities. Many of these people have no idea why they are doing this, but some know exactly what they are doing. They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive. But no, the American people are strong and proud, and they will not allow our country, and all of its values, history and culture, to be taken from them.”
The violence, and the “cancel culture” that goes with it, is part of a “left-wing cultural revolution,” Trump said. “They would tear down the principles that propelled the abolition of slavery in America and, ultimately, around the world, ending an evil institution that had plagued humanity for thousands and thousands of years. Our opponents would tear apart the very documents that Martin Luther King used to express his dream, and the ideas that were the foundation of the righteous movement for Civil Rights. They would tear down the beliefs, culture and identity that have made America the most vibrant and tolerant society in the history of the Earth.”
But America will prevail, Trump declared. Equal opportunity, equal justice, open debate, tolerance, love of country -- those are the values that will ultimately win over the disorder now raging in some U.S. cities.
That was the speech: a declaration of America’s virtues, a description of a looming problem, and a reaffirmation of those virtues. To many, it seemed both a soaring tribute to American greatness and an urgent warning of the threats it faces.
But to many journalists, it was a nightmare of darkness. The New York Times’ headline for its report was “Trump Uses Mount Rushmore Speech to Deliver Divisive Culture War Message.” Trump “delivered a dark and divisive speech,” the Times reported, “using the holiday and an official presidential address to mount a full-on culture war against a straw-man version of the left.” By doing so, especially during the increase in coronavirus cases, the Times declared, Trump “risked coming across as out of sync with the concerned mood of the country.”
The Washington Post went further. In a story headlined “Trump’s push to amplify racism unnerves Republicans who have long enabled him,” the paper said Trump at Mount Rushmore delivered a “harsh denunciation of the racial justice movement” and caused Republicans to fear he would “forever associat[e] their party with his racial animus.” Trump’s Fourth of July address, the Post reported, was “a dystopian speech in which he excoriated racial justice protesters” -- a continuation of Trump’s “race baiting and, at times, outright racism.”
And it wasn’t just the media. Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who is now on Joe Biden’s list of possible vice presidential candidates, said Trump at Mount Rushmore “spent all his time talking about dead traitors.” Maybe she was referring to Confederate leaders, but she missed the fact that Trump said not one word about the Confederacy or any Confederate leaders at Mount Rushmore. Instead, he spent his time talking about Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, plus the cast of characters mentioned above. Duckworth was completely, entirely, 180 degrees wrong.
There is one lesson from it all. This kind of reporting and commentary will not change, especially in the months preceding an election. That is why it is important for Americans to go to primary sources. If you read that Trump said this or that in a speech, watch a video of the speech. Read the transcript posted on the White House website. Judge for yourself. Perhaps you’ll reach an entirely different impression from the journalists at the nation’s largest media outlets.