Journalists take flak as DeSantis falters, CNN slammed for hosting Trump

I was right too soon.

On two major stories, as it turns out.

Which is a nice feeling, given that my political prognostications, like everyone else’s, can sometimes miss the mark.

For weeks and weeks, I’ve argued with my television guests that Ron DeSantis was making a historic mistake by refusing to respond to Donald Trump’s attacks and letting the former president define him.


No no, they said, it’s too early, people aren’t paying attention, DeSantis is smart to rack up conservative wins in the Florida legislature and jump in later. Except that Trump soared in the GOP polls and the governor, somewhat battered and bruised, declined. In the digital age, you no longer get to decide when you run your race.

Now comes the New York Times, in a front-page Sunday piece, declaring that DeSantis’ 2024 run “has faltered before it has even begun.”

His reticence “opened a window of opportunity for Mr. Trump. The former president filled the void with personal attacks and a heavy rotation of negative advertising from his super PAC,” and the governor’s electability pitch “has been badly bruised.”

Another thing DeSantis has done is mainly limit himself to right-wing media, muffling his message, while Trump is still doing victory laps over his CNN town hall. I’ve written about how the governor doesn’t like or trust the mainstream media, but he needs to mix it up to get his message out.

One exception: the DeSantis brain trust invited Politico reporter Jonathan Martin to Tallahassee to make their case.

“There was nothing the DeSantis team was keener to convey than that he has survived the preemptive onslaught and that there’s a disconnect between his appeal in the early nominating states and the grumbling from fickle party elites and a media they believe remains hooked on the Trump show,” Politico said. “They also believe he’s not getting credit for the conservative victories he piled up in the just-concluded legislative session.”

Their polling, writes Martin, shows that DeSantis maintains a higher favorability rate than Trump in the three kickoff states — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.


It’s a plausible argument, but it’s going to take more than one Politico column to convince the media world that DeSantis has a strong shot at the nomination. If it turns out he does, I will gladly announce that I was wrong.

The other point on which I was right–though the debate still rages – is that it’s ludicrous to argue that news outlets shouldn’t conduct interviews with Trump. The CNN event may have gone off the rails, but that doesn’t mean it was a mistake to put him on.

Trump is far and away the leading candidate for the nomination, and those who argue the media shouldn’t give him a platform are deluding themselves. First, Trump will always find ways to blast out his message, and second, it would further erode the media’s credibility to say he’s so dangerous that he must be banned from TV. But that’s exactly what some MSNBC hosts and liberal critics want.


If they had their way, it would be suppression of speech – the opposite of what journalism is supposed to stand for. Maybe CNN should have used a different format, or a different moderator, or not filled the audience with cheering Trumpists – but over 3 million people got to see the former president challenged on the “rigged” election, Jan. 6, E. Jean Carroll and other important topics.

The backlash was so fierce that Anderson Cooper made this plea to viewers: “Many of you are upset that someone who attempted to destroy our democracy was invited… continued to spew lie after lie after lie. And I get it. It was disturbing… You have every right to be outraged today and angry and never watch this network again.” 

Still, if many journalists and pundits decide, as they did in 2016, that we face such a threat to the republic that he must be opposed at all costs, they can always leave the business and sign up with the Democrats.

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