Trump’s media hatred takes center stage at rally

click to enlarge ZACH HILLSTROM

  • Zach Hillstrom

When I first heard I’d be covering President Donald Trump’s Keep America Great Rally at The Broadmoor World Arena Thursday, Feb. 20, I admit that the prospect had me a little excited.

I’d never been to a Trump rally before, nor heard the president speak in person. But, like anyone who has even loosely followed Trump’s presidency, I’d seen countless sound bites and stories about the conservative circus with which Ringleader Trump surrounds himself.

And although I had a pretty good idea of what the event might bring in terms of inflammatory messages and divisiveness, I was sure that seeing the patriotic pageantry and theatrics up close would exceed my expectations.

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But when the president finally took the stage and began to speak, I felt like I was watching an old standup comedian who’d written one set of jokes four years ago, never bothering with new material.

Save for a few impromptu additions — like taking issue with the South Korean film Parasite winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and a rambling 20-minute evisceration of Fox News’ Neil Cavuto for airing a segment critical of the president’s debate skills — it was basically the same checklist I’ve seen Trump work through during the majority of his rally appearances.

Loudly singing his own praises? Check. Using belittling nicknames for opponents and critics? Check. (As an aside, “Mini Mike Bloomberg” absolutely crushed with this crowd. The full-belly cackles from folks around me were just as pronounced the third time Trump said it as they were after the first.) What about pointing a finger at Hillary Clinton, who hasn’t served in any public office since 2013, nor run for any office since 2016? Double check. 

But the rally did live up to hype in one regard: Trump’s disdain for a free press. At the event, the word “Democrat” was typically met with a showering of boos and expletives. But the word “media” was somehow worse. It drew as fierce a hatred as I assume the word “Nazi” did for Americans during World War II, or “communist” during the Cold War.

It seemed like the entire purpose of the rally was to make one point clear to those in attendance: The people cheering alongside you are your friends and allies, and anyone who speaks out or stands against your president is your sworn enemy. 

Punctuating his disregard for the press: There were essentially two focal points at the rally ­— the podium from which the president delivered his remarks, and the cordoned area in the middle of the venue, where the media was put on full display.

The middle of the arena floor was essentially a zoo exhibit. It showed Trump’s supporters exactly what their enemy looks like, and to whom they should direct their hate.

In covering the event, my primary responsibility outside of writing this brief opinion piece was to shoot lots of photos to accompany the stories written by my colleagues. And every crowd photo I took following one of Trump’s references to the “fake news” media illustrates an angry attendee screaming and shaking his or her fists directly at the camera.

So while most of the rally was far more predictable (and to be honest, dull) than I imagined it could be, the visceral hatred that Trump and his supporters have for journalists more than lived up to its billing.