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Coverage of Trump’s latest rally shows how major media outlets normalize his worst excesses

Lying is still being recast as “reviv[ing] an inaccurate refrain.”

Trump waves to the crowd in Green Bay on Saturday.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s rally on Saturday night in Green Bay, Wisconsin, was an ugly affair. The president falsely accused Democrats of supporting infanticide, called the FBI and Justice Department leaders he’s purged from government “scum,” referred to the assembled media as “sick people,” and even admitted his proposal to punish blue states by relocating undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities was “actually my sick idea.”

The crowd ate it up, at various points chanting “lock her up!” and “CNN sucks!” and booing loudly as Trump demonized his political opponents.

Like most Trump rallies, it was a disturbing and unusual spectacle. But to listen to the mainstream media tell it, it was a completely normal political event.

As Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star highlighted, the headlines major outlets used to describe Trump’s rally completely ignored his lies and incendiary smears. And it goes beyond headlines — in their articles about the rally, CBS, USA Today, the Associated Press, and the Hill failed to so much as mention that Trump pushed a number of false claims.

The New York Times did attempt to fact-check Trump’s lie about Democrats and abortion — Trump accused Democrats of supporting doctors who “wrap the baby beautifully” before they get together with the mother and “determine whether or not they will execute the baby” — but in so doing, the outlet demonstrated it doesn’t really have a vocabulary to adequately deal with Trump.

Instead of calling Trump’s lie a lie, the Times used the euphemism “revived an inaccurate refrain” in a tweet that was widely mocked. The accompanying article goes out of its way to avoid accusing Trump of lying, instead describing him as “reviv[ing] on Saturday night what is fast becoming a standard, and inaccurate, refrain about doctors ‘executing babies.’”

Major media outlets have long struggled with how exactly to cover Trump, with the Times famously coming to the word “lie” in a headline late, something the paper’s own public editor criticized it for. This effort to find euphemisms for the word “lie” is actually normalizing his worst excesses. Coverage of this sort makes him seem like any other politician.

The irony is that on Saturday night, as always, the media was one of Trump’s foremost targets of abuse — yet the very outlets Trump demeans continue to bend over backward to cover him in the most favorable possible light.

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.