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Donald Trump fooled cable news into airing a 25-minute infomercial for his campaign

GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Campaigns In Laconia, New Hampshire Darren McCollester/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Donald Trump promised a major statement about his embrace of conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birthplace.

Instead, he fooled the three major cable news networks into airing a 20-minute infomercial about his hotel and his candidacy. With the “breaking news” chyron on, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN played footage of veterans praising Trump and Trump praising his own hotel.

And then Trump showed up on stage for less than two minutes to say that Obama was born in the United States.

This is what people mean when they complain about how “the media” has covered the Trump campaign.

The fact that some Medal of Honor winners like Trump is not breaking news. News networks have no obligation to broadcast every minute of a candidate’s event just because he promised that eventually he’d say something they were interested in hearing.

If the Trump campaign were paying to air that praise for their candidate, the cost would have been exorbitant.

If Hillary Clinton is late to an event, cable networks don’t uncritically air 30 minutes of her supporters talking about how great she is; they cut away, and they return to airing the event when there’s something happening that’s actually of national interest. CNN eventually cut away, but not until after airing more than 20 minutes of Trump supporters praising their candidate. MSNBC cut away after nearly 25 minutes.

At this point, the bait and switch can’t possibly be a surprise. During the primaries, Donald Trump turned a victory speech at Mar-a-Lago into an infomercial for Trump brands. The networks didn’t cut away then, and they haven’t learned their lesson now.

Watch: Trump on his role in the birther movement

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