How does he get away with death threats?

For the second time in less than a month, Donald Trump made a comment suggesting someone take a shot at Hillary Clinton because of her position on guns. Who might do this? “The 2nd Amendment people”. What might they do? “We’ll see.”

Once again, I feel it’s 2003 and we are leading up to the war in Iraq and nobody in the media is questioning the lame reasoning. “Surely the press won’t let that BS slide.”  But I’ve since realized that the media lets politicians on the right get away with saying all sorts of crap. In the case of death threats from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, they actually help him get away with them.

Here’s how it’s done, in 5 easy steps

“I think that [Hillary Clinton’s] bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. Immediately…Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay? It’ll be very dangerous.” [1]

1. Declare it’s a Joke!

At the start of the video Wolf Blitzer called Trumps’ comment a joke.  Instead of being taken seriously as a comment, Blitzer assigned the frame of the discussion as “a joke,” removing the seriousness of it. This is one way they helped Trump get away with death threats. “It’s a joke!”

2) Help prove its legality

Sometimes the media asks, “Was the comment legal or not?” Then they can get into laws about incitement and intent, a discussion of the words used, the way it’s phrased and can talk about the context. They can bring in legal experts who will talk about the very high bar for actual incitement.

3) Assume his intent is harmless

The media could have a discussion about the difference between a threat and a “true threat”and the role of intent of  in the recent Supreme Court ruling, but, is probably too much for TV and definitely won’t fit into a tweet. They give Trump the benefit of the doubt, because they would never call for the assassination of their opponent that couldn’t be his intent.  (Interestingly the right wing see death threats and black helicopters everywhere in Democratic presidencies because that is what they would do if they had the power.)

4) Let his staff explain what he really meant 

The fourth way Trump gets away with death threats is when his staff gets a second bite of the apple to explain away comments. “He was talking about the 2nd Amendment. He wasn’t making a statement. He was just asking questions.”

This is a gift the media gives to all sorts of politicians and officials. It’s a pretty sweet deal. “I know you heard those words, said in that tone in that context. You might think he was calling for her bodyguards to be unarmed so that if someone shot her they couldn’t respond with deadly force. But what he really meant was…

5) Find the easy public condemnation, ignoring the private approval

The media doesn’t believe that it is their job to hold Donald’s feet to the fire on comments like these beyond his one level deep excuse, “I was being sarcastic!” is good enough for the. They also won’t push to get real condemnation from multiple Trump Republican supporters.  If they try to go after more than two they will be called Hillary shills. This is the fifth way the media help Trump get away with death threats: show the  shallow public condemnation but ignore the private approval.

That said,  there probably will be public condemnation from some Republicans. There are enough unenthusiastic Republicans to get quotes from but they will quickly pivot to Hillary’s word choice about Trump supporters.

Finally the media will ask, “Will this help or hurt him in the polls?” They only have to show some Tweets of supporters from the Hill article that Drudge linked to show Trump’s base loves this. (It would be interesting to track some of those commenters down and interview them on air.)

There is no equivalent media on the left who would work a comment like this into a frenzy like the right does. Fox, Breitbart, WorldNewsDaily etc. do this to the left every day of the week and 5 times on Sunday.

In our current environment there are no serious negative consequences to death threats from Trump, only benefits.

This is how Trump gets away with death threats.

So what can we do about this?

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