A Dull Trip for Trump Begets Vast News Coverage

From a Washington Post story by Paul Farhi headlined “A dull trip for Trump begets vast coverage”:

It was the airport trip seen round the world — or at least all over cable news.

With all the breathless reporting of a major event, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC broke into their midday newscasts to cover the mundane spectacle of former president Donald Trump … leaving his house and getting on an airplane.

Multiple network cameras followed Trump as he departed his Mar-a-Lago resort and was driven to Palm Beach International Airport, where he boarded a Trump-branded plane en route to New York City.

The news peg, of course, was that Trump was on his way to report on Tuesday for arraignment on still-undisclosed charges handed down last week by a New York grand jury. The first president in history to be indicted is a major story — or will be when Trump actually surrenders.

In the meantime, the cable guys were on the scene — live! — for what CNN anchor Phil Mattingly called an “O.J.-like convoy,” a reference to the live TV coverage in 1994 of accused murderer O.J. Simpson traveling in the back seat of a white Ford Bronco as a posse of Los Angeles police cars slowly tailed him down the Santa Monica Freeway. So many made the reference online, in fact, that “O.J. Simpson” briefly trended on Twitter.

Trump’s brief ride from Mar-a-Lago to the airport mostly wasn’t like that. There were no gendarmes on Trump’s tail, no threat of violence or self-harm, no real suspense. Unlike the O.J. moment, there were also no multitudes drawn to the overpasses and sidings to cheer for their hero.

The TV pictures suggested that the former president’s supporters were elsewhere on Monday. Scattered knots of people milled along the route waving Trump flags, but it was not the righteous mob that Trump had predicted would rain “death and destruction” across America if he were indicted.

Instead, Trump’s six-minute trip to the airport in a motorcade of black SUVs was uneventful, even ennui-inducing. “We’ve got some cars coming out,” a disembodied reporter on MSNBC narrated excitedly. “A second car, a third car. … He is currently on Ocean Boulevard, and it’s going to be turning right on Southern Boulevard.”

The TV cameras lingered for many long moments on his 757, parked on the runway as it received its famous passenger. The jet with “TRUMP” stamped on its tail then lined up behind others as it awaited its turn to take off. Then it did: All three networks stayed with the plane as it rose into a blue sky over the Atlantic and banked up the East Coast.

It was less reminiscent of O.J. in the Bronco than of another Trump flight: the live coverage of his departure from Washington, and from office, on Jan. 20, 2021, as Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played on loudspeakers.

The cable anchors overseeing coverage of Trump’s trip Monday tried to invest the event with grand portent. On MSNBC, Chris Jansing told viewers just after the plane went out of camera range: “You saw it right here, literally seconds ago. Where he once held court [in Manhattan], he’s now heading into court, the first indicted ex-president.”

Over a split screen of the Florida airport and Trump Tower in New York (similarly devoid of protesters), Fox anchor Harris Faulkner turned to commentator Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s former White House press secretary, for analysis of the legal case against him. McEnany, a Harvard-trained lawyer, was dubious that New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg could secure a conviction, even though the counts against Trump or the evidence underlying them are not known.

Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC idly wondered how long it would take Trump’s plane to travel to New York from Florida.

CNN arrayed its analysts on blue directors’ chairs outside the Manhattan courthouse, as if setting up for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. There was lots of play-by-play from anchor Kaitlan Collins and panelists Elie Honig and David Chalian about what Trump would face at his booking Tuesday.

Then, as Trump’s plane ranged out of sight, Collins threw it back to the CNN studio, where another group of pundits took up the chatter over replays of Trump’s trip to the airport and his flight winging to New York.

Trump’s plane landed in New York around 3:30 p.m. Eastern. All three cable networks covered that live, too.

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post’s media reporter. He started at The Post in 1988 and has been a financial reporter, a political reporter and a Style reporter.


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