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Donald Trump's Rhetoric Creates Challenges For The Media


Presidential candidate Donald Trump's call to block entry of all Muslims to the United States has provoked a backlash and created problems for the Republican establishment. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik points out that Trump and his rhetoric are creating incredible challenges for the press as well.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: After astonishing the political establishment - and a lot of other people besides - last night, Trump appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America." ABC promoted its interview as only on GMA. True perhaps for a moment, but only for that moment, as he appeared on three other networks this morning as well.


CHRIS CUOMO: Mr. Trump joins us now on the phone. He wants to make the case. Mr. Trump, thank you for joining us.

FOLKENFLIK: CNN's Chris Cuomo proved combative.


CUOMO: Ban all Muslims until we can figure out what's going on - people are asking you how you would do that. I say let's put that to the side. It's irrelevant. It's about the concept.

FOLKENFLIK: Cuomo yielded no ground.


CUOMO: Here, what you're doing, in the country that is known as a symbol of freedom, is saying we're too afraid to be inclusive - we're going to reject the promise of America and ban an entire religion.

FOLKENFLIK: You could hear a sharpening of the tone on other channels as well. NBC political director and "Meet The Press" host Chuck Todd said the Republican Party had been hijacked by Trump, especially by last night's announcement.


CHUCK TODD: It is a total distraction. It is a total ridiculous proposition.

FOLKENFLIK: Todd spoke earlier today on MSNBC.


TODD: This may benefit him short-term, but this is now a full-fledged potential catastrophe for the Republican Party.

FOLKENFLIK: Trump has appeared almost immune to embarrassment throughout this campaign, and his faithful have stuck with him, according to polls. He has rarely felt compelled to correct or soften his rhetoric. No slur he's uttered seems to harm him either, whether mocking Senator John McCain's time as a prisoner of war, Mexican immigrants, a reporter's disability or Carly Fiorina's looks. It's not clear yet whether the latest outrage by Trump will shift the way the media handles covering him.

Steven Ginsberg is the senior political editor for The Washington Post.

STEVEN GINSBERG: The fact-checking matters. A lot of people pay attention to that.

FOLKENFLIK: And yet, Ginsberg says...

GINSBERG: For his core audience, he's able to feed his idea that the institutions or the establishments, particularly of Washington, are aligned against him, and that feeds into a perception that's long been there that he makes excellent use out of.

FOLKENFLIK: Trump has waged his asymmetrical campaign largely on TV, either in large rallies or in live interviews, often by phone. Betsy Fischer Martin is the former executive producer of NBC's "Meet The Press." She says many TV interviewers have tread too lightly.

BETSY FISCHER MARTIN: People can press on some of those specifics and not just let him get away with sort of grandiose prescriptions for something - trust me, it's, you know, I got this covered. Or it's going to be awesome, it's going to be fabulous, and not say, well, wait, you know, what - how are you going to do that?

FOLKENFLIK: Martin says the networks have been eager for the ratings bump and the buzz his appearances provide.

MARTIN: It seems like he's just given a few minutes to come on and say what he wants to say, and then hopefully he'll come back the next week.

FOLKENFLIK: MSNBC's "Morning Joe" has been a receptive form for Trump in recent months. Almost everyone participating calls him Donald, but a testiness emerged today.


JOE SCARBOROUGH: You got to let us actually ask questions. You're just talking.

FOLKENFLIK: Joe Scarborough took the unusual step of cutting Trump off entirely.


SCARBOROUGH: We will go to break if you keep talking.

FOLKENFLIK: And so he did. Of course, Trump was back on MSNBC right after that commercial break. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.