What We’re Watching: May 25, 2018 - Good morning and happy Friday. Here’s what we have our eyes on today. Stories We’re Following President Trump gives a...
42 minutes ago
After Donald Trump spent a mere 30 seconds addressing President Obama's birthplace during a 30-minute event that started an hour late at his new hotel in Washington, D.C., the anchors at CNN tore into Trump and his attitude toward the press.
Throughout Trump's event and after he finally addressed his efforts to fuel the birther movement, the hosts and reporters at CNN called out the Trump campaign for misleading the press and using the event to promote his new hotel.
As Trump let several veterans and military officials express their support for him, CNN anchor Kate Bolduan lamented that the network had been waiting 20 minutes for Trump to make the big announcement that his campaign had been promising. Co-anchor John Berman chimed in to complain about the confusing signals the press had received from the Trump campaign about the event.
"To be clear, we have been told this event would be an event where Donald Trump would address his past trafficking in the birther issue, the notion that President Obama was not born in the United States," Berman said. "He opened the event making a plug for his hotel, it is a new hotel, so in a sense, you could say he was leveraging five years of birther conspiracy to promote his hotel." ...
CNN then brought on John King, who trashed the way Trump maneuvered the press.
"So I really don't quite know what to make of that except for that we got played again by the Trump campaign, which is what they do. He got a live event broadcast for, what, 20 something minutes," King said. "We just got played."
"There you got after, what, four or five years of leading a fraudulent, reckless campaign against the legitimacy of the United States President, you got about, what, six or seven words from Donald Trump saying he's decided it's over. I guess he gets to decide that," he added.
Ashleigh Banfield continued to bash Trump's event, drawing comparisons to the way foreign dictators treat the press. She noted that Trump's brief comments on his birtherism came just one day after he gloated that reporters on his press plane were delayed and unable to fully cover his rally.
"I can tell you, having covered a couple of dictators in my life in other countries, covering those campaigns is a bummer, because they don't let you ask questions either. So that's why the American press, love them or hate them, are critical to this democracy," she said. "You have to be able to ask people questions if they're going to lead you, and if they're going to get your guns, your military, your nuclear codes. You have to be able to get to ask them questions."
"Either you have a media or you have what I witnessed in Saddam's era," she later added.
After five years as the chief promoter of a lie about Barack Obama's birthplace, Donald Trump abruptly reversed course Friday and acknowledged the fact that the president was born in America. He then immediately peddled another false conspiracy.
"President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period," Trump declared, enunciating each word in a brief statement at the end of a campaign appearance. "Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again."
But as the GOP presidential nominee sought to put that false conspiracy theory to rest, he stoked another, claiming the "birther movement" was begun by his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. There is no evidence that is true.
"Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it," Trump said.
While the question of Obama's birthplace was raised by some backers of Clinton's primary campaign against Obama eight years ago, Clinton has long denounced it as a "racist lie."
"Trump has spent years peddling a racist conspiracy aimed at undermining the first African-American president," Clinton tweeted after his Friday event. "He can't just take it back." ...
Trump's allegation on Clinton starting the controversy is the latest example of his tendency to repeat statements that are patently false. However, that did not affect his ability to beat more than a dozen challengers in the GOP primaries and has yet to dissuade his loyal supporters. ...
Hours later, Trump's campaign spokesman Jason Miller issued a statement that suggested the question had been settled five years ago — by Trump.
"In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate," Miller said.
"Mr. Trump did a great service to the president and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised," he added.
The facts do not match Miller's description. Trump repeatedly continued to question Obama's birth in the years after the president released his birth certificate. In August 2012, for example, Trump was pushing the issue on Twitter.
"An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud," he wrote.
Hillary Clinton on Monday said that her campaign did not disclose her pneumonia diagnosis right away on Friday because she did not "think it was going to be that big of deal."
"It’s just the kind of thing that if it happens to you, and you’re a busy, active person, you keep moving forward," she told CNN's Anderson Cooper in a phone interview.
Cooper then pressed Clinton, "But doesn’t your handling of this, and your campaign’s refusal to acknowledge what happened until really after that video was circulated confirm the suspicion to some voters that you’re not transparent or trustworthy?"
"Oh my goodness, Anderson," Clinton replied. "Compare everything you know about me with my opponent. I think it's time he met the same level of disclosure that I have for years."
[Monica] Besra, who is from a tribal community in eastern India, was so sick she could barely walk when nuns from the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa, helped her to a small prayer room one day in 1998.
She paused by a photo of the nun and suddenly felt a “blinding light” emanating from the portrait, and it passed through her body. Later, other nuns pressed a religious medal on her belly, swollen from a tumor, and prayed over Besra as she lay in bed.
She says she awoke at 1 a.m., her body feeling lighter, the tumor seemingly gone.
“I was so happy at that moment I wanted to tell everyone: I am cured,” Besra recalled Wednesday during an interview at her home. ...
Mother Teresa was considered a living saint by many believers during her lifetime, but Besra’s story has always been treated with skepticism in India because doctors and the state health minister debunked it at the time.
They have long maintained that Besra had been suffering from a cyst, not a cancerous tumor. The doctors have said she recovered after she received tuberculosis treatment for several months at a government hospital in Balurghat, about 270 miles north of the city where Mother Teresa spent decades ministering to the destitute and dying.
“I’ve said several times that she was cured by the treatment, and nothing has happened,” one of the doctors involved, Ranjan Mustafi, said in a brief telephone interview.
All this irritates Monica's husband Seiku. "It is much ado about nothing," he says. "My wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle." He is peeved at his wife's fame, in part because the press is constantly at his doorstep. "I want to stop this jamboree, people coming with cameras every few hours or so." He concedes that the locket is part of the story of Monica's ordeal but says no one should suppose there was a cause-and-effect relationship between it and the cure. "My wife did feel less pain one night when she used the locket, but her pain had been coming and going. Then she went to the doctors, and they cured her." Monica still believes in the miracle but admits that she did go to see doctors at the state-run Balurghat Hospital. "I took the medicines they gave me, but," she insists, "the locket gave me complete relief from the pain."
Although she publicly proclaimed that her heart belonged "entirely to the Heart of Jesus", she wrote to the Rev Michael Van Der Peet, a spiritual confidant, in September 1979 that "Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. The tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak."
If we went out and found victims who'd suffered grievously at the hands of Jews or blacks and paraded them around the country before angry crowds the wrongness and danger of doing so would be obvious. Now, you might say, that's not fair. American Jews and African-Americans are citizens, with as much right to be here as anyone else. But that's just a dodge. There's no evidence that undocumented immigrants commit more crimes than documented or naturalized immigrants. Indeed, there is solid evidence that immigrants commit fewer crimes than the native born. Simple logic tells us that undocumented immigrants face greater consequences for being apprehended by police and thus likely are more careful to avoid it. They're likely more apt to avoid contact with authorities than the rest of us.
There is a legitimate public policy question about how aggressive we should be in deporting those who our laws say should not be in the country in the first place. But the fact that some of them commit crimes is not relevant to the discussion. This is simply a way of whipping up irrational fear and hatred. Though I wouldn't use the word 'demonize', one could fairly argue that groups like MADD spent decades demonizing drunk drivers. But of course this is demonizing a specific activity which has caused thousands of deaths. The action itself is the cause of death and suffering. There is no comparable argument to be made about immigration status. It is simply blood libel and incitement.
Indeed, my hypothetical about Jews and African-Americans is no hypothetical. Anyone who is familiar with the history of the Jim Crow South or 1930s Germany and the centuries of anti-Semitism that preceded it will tell you that the celebration and valorization of victims was always a central part of sustaining bigotry, fear and oppression. We know now that many victims of lynching or blood libel were in fact wholly innocent. But of course not all of them were. The specific idea of ritual killing behind the phrase 'blood libel' was an anti-Semitic fantasy. But being members of an oppressed group is no exemption from human nature. There were blacks who raped and killed whites and Jews who raped and killed Christians. The valorization of victims was and is a way of provoking vicarious horror, rage, hate and finally violence whether specific individuals were guilty or not.
I must return to the point: the suffering of these exploited victims is real. Indeed, I'm no stranger to that pain. When I was a child I lost a beloved relative in an auto accident. I know from my experience the intense desire to find a scapegoat or someone to blame. I don't begrudge any of these families not only their agony but even their a desire to blame whole groups. Grief warps the mind. But there's no excuse for those who have themselves suffered nothing but exploit this suffering to propagate hate. That fact that we've become inured to this, that we now find it normal to see these cattle calls of grief and incitement as part of a political campaign is shocking and sickening. There's no other word for this but incitement and blood libel.
Watch Trump's speeches, with the yelling, the reddened face, the demand for vengeance and you see there's little to distinguish them from what we see at Aryan Nations or other white hate rallies that we all immediately recognize as reprehensible, wrong and frankly terrifying. This isn't 'rough' language or 'hard edged' rhetoric. It's hate speech. Precisely what policy solution Trump is calling for is almost beside the point. Indeed, it wouldn't be hate speech any less if Trump specified no policy solution at all.
This isn't normal. It was normal in the Jim Crow South, as it was in Eastern Europe for centuries. It's not normal in America in the 21st century. And yet it's become normalized. It's a mammoth failure of our political press. But it's not just theirs, ours. It's a collective failure that we're all responsible for. By any reasonable standard, Donald Trump's speech on Wednesday night should have ended the campaign, as should numerous other rallies where Trump has done more or less the same thing for months. There's a reason why the worst of the worst, the organized and avowed racists, were thrilled and almost giddy watching the spectacle. But it has become normalized. We do not even see it for what it is. It's like we've all been cast under a spell. That normalization will be with us long after this particular demagogue, Donald Trump, has left the stage. Call this what it is: it is hate speech, in its deepest and most dangerous form.