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Journalists covering Donald Trump need to ‘tone it the F down,’ says MSNBC’s Katy Tur

“The surprise and the indignation is misplaced, and it’s not effective,” Tur said on the latest Recode Decode.

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President Donald Trump talks to the media Mark Wilson / Getty Images

One year ago today, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. Since then, the political journalists who once wrote him off still haven’t learned the right lessons, MSNBC’s Katy Tur says.

“Everyone needs to tone it the F down, just tone it down,” Tur said on the latest episode of Recode Decode. “Bring down the volume. If we’re all loud about everything, nothing penetrates.”

“We’re all facing big dangers when it comes to our sovereignty, our elections, our democratic process,” she added. “We have a foreign power that’s trying to manipulate us. We need to focus on that, that is a huge story! You can’t let that keep happening.”

(Disclosure: MSNBC is owned by NBCUniversal, a minority investor in Recode’s parent company, Vox Media.)

Speaking with Recode’s Kara Swisher and SKDKnickerbocker’s Hilary Rosen, a Democratic political strategist, Tur said a similar challenge is facing any politicians who are thinking about the 2018 or 2020 election. It’s difficult to not follow the “bouncing ball,” she explained, meaning the “daily controversy.”

“It can’t be about Donald Trump, but the only thing people want to talk about is Donald Trump,” she said.

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Tur also talked about her new book, “Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History,” and how she became the first journalist to cover the Trump campaign full-time. She recalled what happened when, as a reporter for NBC News, she conducted her first interview with the candidate, in July 2015.

“I thought when I sat down that I was a part of his act, this was just what he was doing to get attention for his brand,” Tur said. “So I presumed he’d go after me; I presumed he’d try to tear me down. Once the interview was over, I quickly realized that he was pretty serious, because he started screaming at me off-camera, telling me that I would never be president.”

“In the back of my head, I thought, ‘Well, neither will you,’” she added. “But I bit my tongue, because journalist.”

In time, though, Tur learned that Trump supporters had real concerns and real anger that would propel their candidate through the primaries. On conference calls with NBC colleagues, Tur repeatedly tried to articulate why the media was failing to reach those voters.

“‘The harder we push at him, the more we shed a light on him, the more we fact-check him, the more we contextualize him, the more they like him,’” she recalled herself saying. “‘They hate us. They hate us! They don’t believe anything we’re saying. Even if they do, they don’t care, because they want something different, and that different is Donald Trump.’ I was like the Simpsons meme: ‘Old man yells at cloud.’”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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