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Communication in the Age of Trump


Edited By Arthur S. Hayes

Franklin Delano Roosevelt used radio fireside chats to connect with millions of ordinary Americans. The highly articulate and telegenic John F. Kennedy was dubbed the first TV president. Ronald Reagan, the so-called Great Communicator, had a conversational way of speaking to the common man. Bill Clinton left his mark on media industries by championing and signing the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law. Barack Obama was the first social media presidential campaigner and president. And now there is President Donald J. Trump.

Because so much of what has made Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency unconventional has been about communication—how he has used Twitter to convey his political messages and how the news media and voters have interpreted and responded to his public words and persona—21 communication and media scholars examine the Trump phenomenon in Communication in the Age of Trump. This collection of essays and studies, suitable for communication and political science students and scholars, covers the 2016 presidential campaign and the first year of the Trump presidency.

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4. “Enemies of the people”: Elites, Attacks, and News Trust in the Era of Trump (Jason Turcotte)


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4. “Enemies of the people”: Elites, Attacks, and News Trust in the Era of Trump


California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

In a 2012 primary debate, CNN’s John King questioned presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on allegations of an open marriage. In an attempt to undermine his integrity as a journalist, Gingrich flatly refused to answer the question and swiftly attacked King (Streitfeld & Steinhauser, 2012). When VP candidate Sarah Palin could not name a single news publication in a 2008 interview with Katie Couric, she was quick to accuse Couric of “gotcha” journalism (Rovzar, 2008). When asked to comment on Hillary Clinton’s email scandal in a primary debate, Bernie Sanders waged a forceful critique on the media (Levine, 2015). No contemporary political figure has applied this strategic deflection as routinely and forcefully as President Trump. On the campaign trail Trump attacked journalist Hugh Hewitt after stumbling in an on-air interview (Barbaro, 2015). He routinely depicted the news media as a biased institution, using terms like “lame-stream” and “failing” to characterize the news media. Since taking office, President Trump has been unequivocally antagonizing toward the White House press corps. In addition to Twitter rants, he’s engaged in a diatribe of CNN that labeled the network as “fake” news and referred to journalists as “enemies of the American people” (Trump, 2017).

Political elites have routinely dodged press questions by using rhetorical strategies that include overt refusals...

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