Not only has GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump managed to garner himself billions in free media coverage, he’s managed to turn the media’s own bias against them. As we reported earlier today, Donald Trump’s past association with the birther movement was brought back to life this week as a Hillary Clinton talking point, and Trump felt the need to address that.
This morning, Trump held a press conference at the presidential ballroom of the new Trump International Hotel, under the guise that he’d be taking questions over whether he still believes President Obama was born in the U.S. Except Trump wasn’t about to let the media try to create a new controversy around an issue that’s been dead for years now. Instead, as the Daily Caller reported, he used the opportunity to showcase his military endorsements.
The media got more than a half hour of a variety of military heroes — generals, medal of honor recipients and a gold star wife — expressing support for the Republican nominee. And it all aired live on the cable news networks.
Before the event, Trump tweeted: “I am now going to the brand new Trump International, Hotel D.C. for a major statement.” That was interpreted by the press to mean he was going to address “birther questions.”
That’s because on Thursday, Trump declined to tell the Washington Post if he still questioned whether Obama is an American citizen. But later Thursday night — after his comment took off in the media — Trump’s campaign released a statement saying: “Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.”
Realizing Trump was not using the occasion to address that subject — and instead focus it on the military — many in the press were not happy — and vented on Twitter.
18 months into this cable networks are still letting Trump hijack them for free airtime — ad time — by promising a "major announcement'— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) September 16, 2016
Trump's campaign hyped up change on birther issue. And now that TV networks carrying it live, we've had 20 mins of veterans endorsing Trump— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) September 16, 2016
Networks going to stick with Trump as he tries to cloak his racist birtherism in the herosim and service of these vets?
— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) September 16, 2016
Once again, the American news media gets totally played by Trump. Wall-to-wall coverage. We’re all guilty.
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) September 16, 2016
Jake Tapper calls it a “political rickroll.”
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) September 16, 2016
JOHN KING: “We just got played. We just got played. And voters can decide what to make of that."
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) September 16, 2016
At the very end of the campaign event, Trump finally addressed the topic the media was there to hear. “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.”
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States,” Trump said. “Period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong again.”
Many reporters, some standing on chairs, began shouting questions over the applause from the guests in attendance. But Trump, having accomplished what he wanted, took none.
Memo to future Republican candidates for the presidency: that’s how you beat the media at their own game.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]