Trump’s love-hate relationship with the media has been a central theme throughout his campaign. The former reality TV star knows how to, and relies on, getting large amounts of media coverage for free.
As early as May this year, estimates were that Trump received nearly $3 billion in free advertising, based on media coverage of him. On Aug. 9 Trump said that he has spent $0 so far in television advertising in the general election, compared to $52 million by his democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
But controversial statements have frequently backfired on Trump. Since the Republican and Democratic conventions—the official start of the general election campaign—Trump has made provocative statements only to dismiss them later as jokes, sarcasm, or a misrepresentation by media bias.
President Obama and Clinton ‘Co-Founders of ISIS’
Trump called President Barack Obama the founder of the ISIS terrorist group at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Aug. 10. A comment he re-iterated in an interview with CNBC.
“He was the founder of ISIS, absolutely,” Trump said when asked by CNBC anchor Scott Wapner who pressed him on whether it was appropriate to call the president the founder of a terrorist organization.
“We destabilized the Middle East. We’ve been paying the price for it for years. But he was the founder, absolutely the founder,” said Trump.
He also said that ISIS honors Obama, and called Obama and Clinton “co-founders” and “MVP’s” of ISIS.
Trump repeated his statements on the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News and on Hugh Hewitt’s conservative radio show.
By Friday, Trump distanced himself from his accusations of Obama and Clinton, instead turning it around on the media, specifically CNN, saying that the network doesn’t understand sarcasm.
@CNN reports so seriously that I call President Obama (and Clinton) “the founder” of ISIS, & MVP. THEY DON’T GET SARCASM?” he tweeted.
Ratings challenged @CNN reports so seriously that I call President Obama (and Clinton) “the founder” of ISIS, & MVP. THEY DON’T GET SARCASM?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2016
“Obviously I’m being sarcastic, but not that sarcastic to be honest with you,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania on Friday.
“These people are the lowest form of life, I’m telling you,” Trump said while pointing at the area where the media are located at the rally.
“The lowest. They are the lowest form of humanity,” he said.
Rallying Supporters of the Second Amendment
During a campaign rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, where Trump is now behind Clinton in the polls, he made a casual statement that stirred a lot of controversy.
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump told the crowd.
“By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks,” he continued. “Though the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
The fallout was swift, with criticism alleging that it was a suggestion of violence by liberal counterparts, disavowals by Republicans, and scrambles by the Trump campaign to reframe the comment.
As with calling Obama and Clinton founders of ISIS, the candidate blamed the media’s coverage of the statement, and an eventual explanation that Trump was rallying Second Amendment voters to come out for the election.
“Media desperate to distract from Clinton’s anti-2A stance. I said pro-2A citizens must organize and get out vote to save our Constitution!” he tweeted.
Media desperate to distract from Clinton’s anti-2A stance. I said pro-2A citizens must organize and get out vote to save our Constitution!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2016
The Crying Baby at his Rally
In an odd moment on the campaign trail, Trump was talking about trade in Ashburn, Virginia, when he was interrupted by a baby crying in the audience, prompting an impromptu riff from the presidential candidate.
“I love babies. I hear that baby cry, I like it,” he said. “What a baby. What a beautiful baby. Don’t worry, don’t worry. The mom’s running around, like, don’t worry about it, you know. It’s young and beautiful and healthy, and that’s what we want,” Trump said.
The rally continued, the baby started to cry again, and Trump responded again.
“Actually I was only kidding, you can get the baby out of here,” he said. “I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking. That’s okay. People don’t understand. That’s okay,” he continued.
These comments set off a firestorm of headlines claiming that the baby was ejected from the rally. However, according to a reporter from the Toronto Star who claimed she was seated behind the crying baby, the mother of the baby got up the second time when the baby started crying and was on her way to an exit already when Trump noticed her leaving and made the comments.
However, as a result of the flurry of headlines from major news sources, Trump used the incident as a centerpiece to highlight media bias in his subsequent speeches and on his Twitter account.
“The press came out with headlines: ‘Trump throws baby out of arena.’ So dishonest,” he said at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Aug. 5.
“I mean these are dishonest people. I could give you 20 stories like that. Everyone’s having fun, we’re smiling, I’m waving. Everyone’s having fun, but they say ‘Trump throws baby [out]’. You know how terrible that is? It’s such a lie. And they know it’s a lie,” he continued.