In the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump as president, the legacy news organizations that so confidently predicted Trump would never be elected are struggling to conform coverage of a president-elect who has been endorsed by the KKK and brags about sexually assaulting women to their “normal” presidential reporting.
His first post-election interview, with CBS News’s 60 Minutes—in which he promised to immediately jail or report three million people—was a masterclass in softball questioning. Responding to correspondent Lesley Stahl—who sat on the story of President Ronald Reagan’s obvious mental deterioration while still in office—Trump almost comedically stared into the camera and ordered his supporters to “stop it!”, referring to harassing people of color and women. He reaffirmed his sheepish support for marriage equality; he pledged not to take a salary. As pointed out by the New Republic‘s Graham Vyse, Stahl allowed Trump to reframe himself in “respectable” terms while not pushing him on any of his policies or the presence of Stephen Bannon.
Meanwhile, New York Times reporters admonished audience members at the performance of Hamilton that Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended for booing his presence.
This comes as Times executives tout their tough coverage of Trump as a reason why their subscription numbers are spiking.
Not to worry, though, because there’s one media outlet that’s not being coy at all about their plans for covering the Trump presidency: TMZ.
Friday night, Fox News aired an hourlong special titled OBJECTified: Donald Trump hosted by TMZ founder and chief creep Harvey Levin, the conceit of which was to follow Trump around the garish parody of an Eastern European presidential palace that is his Trump Tower penthouse. Levin asks such probing questions as, “What did you think of Deflategate? When you drive around your city and see all these buildings with your name on them, does that give you a sense of satisfaction?” and “If you had to describe yourself as a smart person, a savvy person, or a tenacious person, which of those best describes you?”
The two discuss such pressing matters as golf networking (“You can never ever get to know people at lunch or dinner as you can on a golf course,” says the president-elect.), a small motorized toy Mercedes that Trump’s son Barron used to drive around, and a chair that Trump sat in when he filmed The Apprentice.
It’s pointless to ask for critical coverage of anything from Fox News, but it wasn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion that TMZ would glamorize Trump in this way, though its previous political coverage wasn’t encouraging. As Nicholas Schmiddle wrote in a February profile of TMZ in The New Yorker, it’s…awkward:
Last year, a TMZ photographer went up to Hillary Clinton, at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and asked her, “Hillary, with the blunder on the e-mails—was that just a generalizational gap or can that be corrected?” Clinton smiled and walked past. In July, TMZ caught up with Bernie Sanders: “Senator, your campaign is almost like the ‘Passion of Christ’ movie. Senator, why do you think you are bringing out so many people?” (“We are touching a nerve,” Sanders replied.) With Donald Trump: “Donald, a lot of rappers always use your name in their lyrics.” (“That’s right. ’Cause they’re smart.”)
It’s good to know what we can expect of both our national legacy and gossip media: normalization, defense, and in some cases, glamorization of the most dangerous president that has ever taken office.