During a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia on Tuesday, President Obama sharply criticized the media’s recent coverage of Donald Trump, saying journalists were creating false equivalence between Trump and Clinton while failing to hold Trump to task for various "disqualifying" statements he has made.
"Do you mind if I just vent for a second?" Obama asked. "I sure do get frustrated with the way this campaign is covered." The president argued that there are "serious issues at stake in this election, behind all the frivolous stuff that gets covered every day," and that the media was creating false "equivalence" between Clinton and Trump.
He went on to argue that Clinton’s record on transparency and her conduct with her family foundation were far superior to Trump’s. "You wanna debate transparency?You’ve got one candidate in this race who’s released decades’ worth of her tax returns. The other candidate is the first in decades who refuses to release any at all," Obama said. (Trump has said he won’t release his tax returns because he’s currently being audited, which doesn’t really make any sense at all.)
You wanna debate foundations and charities? One candidate’s family foundation has saved countless lives around the world. The other candidate’s foundation took money other people gave to his charity and then bought a 6-foot-tall painting of himself. I mean, he had the taste not to go for the 10-foot version!
The Trump Foundation did indeed spend $20,000 at a charity auction to purchase a painting of Trump, as the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reported, but that’s really the tip of the iceberg here. Check out Matt Yglesias’s explainer for more details on the Trump Foundation controversies that have gotten weirdly little media attention.
Finally, Obama argued that Trump has said so many outrageous and untrue things for so long that the press has effectively given up on challenging him. He specifically cited Trump’s false claim that he opposed going to war in Iraq, in what seems to be a subtweet of NBC’s Matt Lauer:
Donald Trump says stuff every day that used to be considered as disqualifying for being president. And yet because he says it over and over again, the press just gives up and then you say, well, yeah, you know, okay. They did stuff — I was opposed to the war in Iraq. Well, actually, he wasn't, but they just accept it.
"The bottom line," Obama said at the conclusion of this riff, "is that we cannot afford to suddenly treat this like a reality show. We can't afford to act as if there's some equivalence here."