Until now, Donald Trump’s campaign has enjoyed media attention that, even at its harshest, has largely pulled punches against him. Across nearly every outlet, reporters and hosts have merely been lending Trump free airtime to allow him to proselytize on all of his favorite talking points. Why shouldn’t they? Trump’s polling numbers against mainstream media darling Hillary Clinton have continued to crater, and if the Republican electorate should choose to nominate a candidate that makes even the cold, robotic Clinton seem likable, who are her media buddies to stop them? And when the likes of “crazy” Megyn Kelly have attempted to force Trump into answering tough questions, he merely whines and shuts these people out. He can afford to do that when the voices against him are few and far between.
But Trump inadvertently walked into the lions’ den last week when he appeared on the radio program of Wisconsin conservative and #NeverTrump flag waver Charlie Sykes. A seventeen minute evisceration ensued, in which Sykes pegged Trump’s refusal to apologize to Heidi Cruz as being the kind of tantrum one might find on a playground and accusing the billionaire of lacking the grace or civility to admit when he was wrong. Sykes’s characterization of Trump as an adolescent was echoed later that evening by Anderson Cooper at a CNN town hall event, in which he dismissed Trump’s juvenile explanation for the Heidi Cruz incident as being “the argument of a five-year-old.”
The following day, Trump, likely eager to move on from the Heidi Cruz faux pas, appeared at another town hall, this time with Chris Matthews at MSNBC. But Matthews also took off the kid gloves and took Trump to task, eliciting not only his now infamous abortion gaffe, but also goading Trump into admitting that there would be “exceptions” for his rich Muslim friends that support him in his Muslim immigration ban
The mainstream media is more-then-happy to allow Trump to entrance Republican voters with his rhetoric while he is still only running against Republicans. But as Trump continues to appear more likely to be the GOP nominee for president, the guns of the mainstream media have begun to slowly turn against him. Nearly four months separate the Republican National Convention and the November general election, and if Trump is to be the nominee, this sort of scrutiny will only grow more intense. When the media forces Trump to delve into the complexities of his proposals and views, Trump turns into a sound bite machine, providing seemingly endless ammunition for the Clinton campaign and her media admirers to use against him. His lack of a strong philosophical foundation causes him to buckle under pressure and turns his “shoot from the hip” mentality into a major liability.
The media loves nothing more then to grill Republican candidates. It’s up to Republican voters to select a nominee that can withstand the heat.