The Trump Stenographers At Newsmax: Indictment Edition
Newsmax hyped Donald Trump's unsupported claims of his imminent "arrest." When an indictment actually happened (well past Trump's declared date), Newsmax cranked out dozens of attack-and-defense pieces -- and plugged a Newsmax author.
By Terry Krepel
When Donald Trump proclaimed on March 18 (without evidence, of course) that he would be "arrested" the following Tuesday, the Trump stenographers at Newsmax sprung into action. Eric Mack wrote:
Former President Donald Trump expects to be arrested Tuesday in a case brought by the Manhattan district attorney's office and called on his supporters to protest in a Truth Social post Saturday.
Mack made no effort to try and fact-check Trump's claim beyond noting that the New York Times called it speculation. Nevertheless, Newsmax called on its usual torrent of right-wingers to profess horror over a development they couldn't prove was actually happening -- a total of at least 38 articles over the next four days (listed here). Newsmax did slip in the occasional dose of reality; an unbylined March 20 article claimed that "A law enforcement source told Fox News Monday that authorities do not expect former President Donald Trump to face arraignment until next week as a Manhattan grand jury which has been meeting secretly over allegations of hush money paid to a porn start to silence claims of an affair with Trump years ago apparently has another witness on Wednesday." But a March 20 column by Jeff Crouere helped Trump play victim:
The vicious political persecution of Trump is akin to what occurs in “banana republics.” No longer is our country too advanced for such shenanigans to occur here. With partisan Democrats prosecuting in “blue states” and in the Department of Justice, there is an ongoing, ruthless campaign to obliterate Trump politically.
In order to keep the outrage going, Newsmax had to move the goalposts, publishing an article on March 21 -- the day of Trump's original declared arrest -- that Trump "is likely to be indicted Wednesday, with his surrender and arraignment coming next week." And, yes, the manufactured outrage and the attacks on DA Alvin Bragg from its retinue of pro-Trump talking heads (and Trump himself) kept going, publishing an additional 32 outrage articles March 22-23 (listed here). By contrast, Newsmax published a single wire article noting that "A federal appeals court on Wednesday directed a lawyer for Donald Trump to turn over to prosecutors documents in the investigation into the former president's retention of classified documents at his Florida estate." Then, because another prediction had failed, it was goalpost-moving time in the form of another article by Mack:
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's grand jury hearing evidence about former President Donald Trump's alleged involvement with a hush-money payment to a porn star will not meet Wednesday, according to multiple reports.
Mack tried to move the goal posts again the next day:
In a surprise move, the New York grand jury probing former President Donald Trump's case has suspended its activities this week and will reconvene next week.
Newsmax even cranked out 15 outrage articles on the weekend of March 25-26 (listed here). But with those earlier deadlines blown and no indictment seemingly imminent, it was time to change the narrative -- on March 29, there were two articles featuring pro-Trump talking heads arguing that Bragg had no case against Trump after all.
When Bragg's grand jury announced that day a previously scheduled break for a few weeks, Newsmax seemed quite pleased. An article by Solange Reyner and Eric Mack hyped the development, which was followed by a Trump-focused article by Peter Malbin:
Former President Donald Trump took to Truth Social on Wednesday to praise a Manhattan grand jury that is examining his alleged role in a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Mark Schulte wrote a pre-emptive March 29 column attacking Bragg, claiming that his investigation of Trump was "egregiously dishonoring a nationally prominent prosecutor's office."
The actual indictment
That newfound respect for the grand jury didn't last long. When a credible media outlet reported on March 30 that the grand jury decided to indict Trump after all, Newsmax snapped into action again to peddle new outrage. Its first story on the development was a wire story, followed by copy-and-pasting Trump's response. Newsmax then hyped Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' declaration that he would fight Trump's extradition to New York for arraignment, but failed to report that DeSantis has no power to actually do that and is obligated by federal law to not interfere -- and anyway, that was followed by a one-paragraph wire article noting that Trump and the Manhattan district attorney have been in contact to arrange surrender. Then came another wire article claiming that some Trump adversaries "fear the first-ever prosecution of a former US president could be a loser that undermines more consequential cases."
There were a couple more news-related items:
Then the freakout started anew -- at least 27 attack articles on March 30 and 31 alone (listed here). Newsmax also published a March 31 commentary by Garrett Ventry asserting that the indictment of Trump was "un-American" and based on a "faulty legal theory; it represents the latest weaponization of the justice system against Trump." Newsmax, however, prefaced the column with an editor's note to distance it from the opinion: "The following article has not been authored by an attorney. It does not constitute a legal opinion by Newsmax."
Newsmax posted 24 more pro-Trump or anti-indictment articles over the weekend of April 1-2 (listed here). Newsmax did slip in a couple of actual news articles as well:
There was also an April 1 column by Michael Reagan ranting about the indictment and weirdly insisting that Trump looks bad by acting like the criminal he appears to be by submitting himself to the justice system:
Tiger Trump and his claims of the "attack on our country" morphed back into Paper Tiger Trump and he announced he will meekly travel on his own dime to Manhattan and submit to the kangaroo indictment to be followed by a kangaroo court.
But even Reagan appears to be tiring of the Trump show, concluding: "Here’s our final prediction today. The indictment probably guarantees Trump’s nomination, followed by another Trump defeat in November 2024."
An April 3 column by Larry Bell was filled with defenses of Trump and Biden and Hillary whataboutism:
Whether a nationally initiated and orchestrated Democrat strategy or local New York act of political arson, the indictment of former President Donald Trump on transparently weak charges have ignited a raging inferno that has irreversibly blackened America’s electoral landscape.
Strangely, Newsmax felt the need to preface Bell's column with this "editor's note" disclaimer: "The following article has been authored by a non-lawyer, and does not constitute a legal opinion; nor does it constitute an endorsement for any candidate, or political party, by Newsmax." That's laughable given how Newsmax has defined itself since the 2020 election as an aggressively pro-Trump outlet. What legal action does Newsmax think it's averting through this disclaimer? Or is it getting a little exhausted of the Trump show too?
Arraignment day and beyond
Trump flew to New York from Florida on March 3 for the arraignment, and Newsmax was cranking out attack and defense articles -- at least 43 on April 3 and 4 (listed here). Surprisingly, there was also an April 3 wire article featuring newly announced Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson arguing that Trump should drop his 2024 candidacy over his instigating the Capitol riot.
On April 5, the day after his arraignment, Newsmax published 17 more attack-and-defend articles -- making for a total of at least 111 such articles Newsmax had published since March 19. Newsmax snuck in the occasional bit of news that wasn't aggressively pro-Trump or anti-Bragg:
Newsmax's pro-Trump columnists contributed as well. Blaine Holt ranted in an April 3 column:
President Donald J. Trump is the first president in U.S. history to be spied on, impeached twice under a hoax, betrayed by public officials, forced to divulge tax records, raided by federal law enforcement, and indicted on timed-out misdemeanor counts elevated to felonies.
Holt providence no evidence of any "campaign promise" Bragg personally made to Soros. Mike Clancy did his own huffing in his April 5 column:
Now this weaponization of the justice system has reached an unimaginable historical crescendo: a grand jury indictment of Donald Trump, a former president and a current candidate for president.
Clancy went on to purport to explain how what Trump did was not a crime, even though all the evidence has not been released yet and, thus, he cannot possibly know for sure that no crime was committed. Then it was back to ranting:
The indictment is pathetically weak. Bragg should have followed the judgment of the FEC and the U.S. Attorney, and not pursued such a frivolous indictment.
Newsmax's "news" coverage of the Trump indictment tapered off after that,with only a relative few articles each day. Apparently that's enough to keep the outrage machine simmering at Newsmax.
Newsmax had been hyping the new book by right-wing activist David Horowitz -- without disclosing that it was published by Newsmax's publishing division, Humanix. Newsmax not only got Trump to endorse the book, it appeared to be getting him to drop the book's title as he faced escalating legal peril. The endorsement came in a March 9 article by Sandy Fitzgerald:
Former President Donald Trump is praising author David Horowitz's latest book, calling it "great" and encouraging his followers to read it.
Four days later, Trump latched onto the words "final battle" to describe his purported political mission, as described in an article by Eric Mack:
Former President Donald Trump laid out his pitch to 2024 Iowa Caucus voters Monday night, calling it the "final battle" to defeat the "corrupt establishment" and finishing his speech with a unique Q&A with supporters.
Mack and Newsmax apparently didn't note the publicity potential at the time, but they up for that in a March 25 article after Trump said it again:
Former President Donald Trump returned to the campaign rally trail Saturday night in Waco, Texas, saying "2024 is the final battle."
That was followed by a promotional paragraph designed to make sure nobody missed the connection (bolding and coloring in original):
Important: Trump’s ‘Final Battle’ refers to David Horowitz’s new book exposing the dangers he faces in 2024, and why he must win! Trump says “get it” see FREE Offer for ‘Final Battle’ and save $28 More Info Here
As Trump flew to New York from Florida to be arraigned on fraud charges on April 3, he dropped the words again, and Mack was there to do the promotional duty:
As former President Donald Trump took flight aboard Trump Force One on Monday afternoon, he issued a press release making reference to his call for a "final battle."
The promotional paragraph plugging the book was there too.
This went full circle in a April 5 article by Fitzgerald, in which Horowitz touted Trump touting his book title:
Former President Donald Trump has dubbed his 2024 campaign as the "final battle" for the country's democracy, and bestselling author David Horowitz, whose book "Final Battle: The Next Election May Be the Last," tells Newsmax that the charges against Trump show how the Democrats are endangering the nation's democracy.
Again, the promotional paragraph plugging the book was included. None of these articles, however, disclosed the conflict of interest that Newsmax is promoting a book it also published.
One has to wonder if Newsmax is sending a little kickback Trump's way for every time he says the words "final battle."