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Political Editors / June 1, 2016

Trump Mounts Attack to Distract From Vet Donations Story

He criticized the “extremely dishonest” press.

Donald Trump hammered the “extremely dishonest” press at a 40-minute Q&A session he scheduled in response to a Washington Post story investigating the millions of dollars he claimed he raised for veterans in January. For his supporters, who think the Leftmedia is oozing bias and that Republican politicians are too spineless to fight back, this was exactly what they were itching to hear.

Trump told the reporters, “I sent people checks of a lot of money. … And instead of being like, ‘Thank you very much, Mr. Trump,’ or ‘Trump did a good job,’ everyone’s saying: ‘Who got [the money]? Who got it? Who got it?’ And you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.” Trump went on, saying he wouldn’t stop attacking the press if he were elected president.

In January, Trump campaigned with the “veteran card.” Rather than face his fellow GOP candidates in one televised debate, Trump held a fundraiser a few miles away — at which he admitted, “I didn’t want to be here, I have to be honest.” At the time, he announced he had raised $5 million and thrown in $1 million himself. “Our Veterans have been treated like third-class citizens,” Trump said, “and it is my great honor to support them with this $1 million dollar [sic] contribution.”

Words are different than actions and even before the mainstream media picked up the story, conservative media was pointing out that, weeks later, Trump had not made good on his word. In short: There were legitimate questions. Was Trump honestly trying to help veterans, or was he using them as political puppets to generate goodwill? It wasn’t until after the Washington Post contacted Trump five months later that he started actually donating in earnest to veterans groups, sending about half of the checks to the 26 organizations by overnight express around May 24.

Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon series “Dilbert,” predicts Trump will win the general election in a landslide because of his persuasive techniques. One of those techniques is not dealing in facts. Instead, he’s directing his audience’s “focus and attention.” Trump successfully turned attention from the millions of dollars that took their sweet time getting to veterans groups and to a narrative about the “dishonest” press.

As commentator Charles Krauthammer observed, “He usually counterattacks against the press, because you can’t lose in doing that — there’s no love lost for the press — and I think he did it effectively.” Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan was known for dealing with the press by talking over it and directly to Americans. Trump jumped into the peanut gallery and started a brawl.

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