- - Tuesday, May 30, 2017


President Trump on Saturday returned home from a nine-day trip that was extraordinary for its sheer breadth.

First to Riyadh, then Tel Aviv, then Jerusalem, then Rome, then Brussels, then Taormina, Italy. First, he brokered a massive $100 billion-plus deal with Saudi Arabian leaders and delivered a powerful speech to 50 Arab leaders. Then he became the first to fly from the Arab nation directly to Israel, where he made history as the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall. He met Pope Francis. (Get it? He met Muslim leaders, Jewish leaders, Christian leaders, a brilliant stroke by the man the media says is over his head in the White House — and historic.)

In Brussels, he demanded European leaders pull their own weight (and pay their fair share) with NATO. In Taormina, where foreign leaders were gaga for a million-zillion dollar “global warming” pact, he made clear America will decide what’s best for America.

In between all of that, he responded forcefully to the terror bombing in Manchester, England, when — appearing with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, a leader who clearly tolerates terrorism — Trump called Muslim bombers “losers.”

But what did the media report amid all this historic news? The Melania “hand flick.” The picture with “the orb.” The “shove” at a photo op. The “dour pope.” The “angry handshake” with the French president. The “no headphones” photo. The “middle finger” flippage.

These were the stories the mainstream media and reporters on Twitter spent lots and lots of time covering. CNN, in its story headlined “6 key moments from President Trump’s first trip abroad,” included three of these: the hand flick, the shove, the orb. Only the pope and the Western Wall made CNN’s vaunted list of “key moments” from Trump’s trip (and the “sword dance,” another nothing-burger story).

Of course, the world is different in 2017. The MSM, going broke fast with no real way to monetize its content, are bent on getting clicks (clicks lead to page views which convince advertisers that readers will see their ads). So, it’s all snark all the time — cover the stories that will get the most clicks and — like Buzzfeed — go for the lowest common denominator.

But still, the flow from the new president’s first foreign trip was just so much fluff, so petty and vindictive.

First Lady Melania Trump does not say much in public, but her actions seemed to speak louder than words — or at least sent tongues wagging — when she appeared to rebuff the president’s proffered hand as the couple descended from their plane in Rome late Tuesday,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in a story with the headline: “So what’s with the president and Melania Trump holding, or not holding, hands?”

“Seemed to speak louder than words”? Or not. Whatever. It’s news!

CNN actually wrote an entire story of Trump “touching a glowing orb.” “State photographers were on hand to capture the moment, which quickly spawned memes from social media users who likened the US President to everything from comic book characters to blockbuster movie villains,” the once respectable network wrote. The story actually topped the page at one point — above Trump’s fiery speech to Arab leaders.

Then there was “the shove.”

“Did Trump just shove another NATO leader to be in the front of the group?” reads a stupid tweet by CNBC Breaking News Reporter Steve Kopack.

In the video, Mr. Trump sidles up to Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and gives him a playful slap on the arm as he slides into the front of the pack for a photo op (where the U.S. president clearly belongs, and was possibly at the direction of the photographers). The video also shows that Mr. Markovic smiles and everyone chats amiably while the pictures are snapped. For CNBC, though, it took their “breaking news reporter” to get that big story.

But nothing was quite as big as “the dour pope.” Everyone used a picture of Pope Francis looking glum in a line, rather than one of his smilingly greeting Mr. Trump.

Of course, it took two seconds to Google a picture with former President Barack Obama to find the pope — who apparently has “resting pope face” — with exactly the same expression.

And yet all the MSM networks showed the dour shot over and over. Clearly, the unwritten text went, the pope literally hates Mr. Trump (forget that he’s a man of peace and love, he hates h-a-t-e-s HATES President Trump, like we all do! Ha ha ha!).

And who can forget the “angry handshake” Mr. Trump had with French President Emmanuel Macron. CNN was all over that giant story. “Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron just exchanged a white-knuckled handshake,” wrote CNN’s Chris Cillizza.

The New York Times actually tweeted along with the picture, “Jaws clenching, faces alternating between smiles and grimaces, the 2 shook hands until Trump’s knuckles turned white.”

Yes, that from the Great Gray Lady, America’s paper of record. Sad.

Near the end of the trip, the media (this time the vaunted BBC, which Mr. Trump has singled out for mockery), helped push a story that Trump decided not to listen to a translation as Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni spoke at the G7 summit. He clearly didn’t tune in, the story went, because he didn’t have headphones on like the other foreign leaders.

“A short clip that sums up this G7 summit: look who has chosen not to hear a translation of his Italian host’s speech,” tweeted the BBC.

The Huffington Post joined in “Trump obviously speaks fluent Italian so there is no need for headphones for translation.”

But, problem. Trump was listening to a translation — as well as following along to a printed transcript of the speech in English.

“@POTUS wears a single ear piece for translation in his right ear,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer noted.

Finally, a little nugget made the rounds on Saturday, showing Trump purportedly giving the Italian prime minister the finger.

And the media wonders why nearly 7 in 10 think they’re full of yes, that, but we were going to say “fake news.”

• Joseph Curl has covered politics for 25 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent at The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter via @josephcurl.

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