Trump Clinches Nomination: Who Are the Media Winners and Losers?

CNN

Not all are licking their wounds. Some are luxuriating in a measure of "I told you so" satisfaction.

And then there was one.

With Gov. John Kasich of Ohio announcing the end of his candidacy on Wednesday — one day after Donald Trump vanquished his nearest rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in the Indiana primary — a brash reality TV star is now poised to clinch the nomination.

The news of Trump's ascendancy has drawn a wave of mea culpas from gobsmacked political pundits who, faced now with circumstances they once found too ridiculous to accept, must concede defeat. If they're not eager to admit it themselves, there are plenty who'll do it for them: Politico ran "The 9 worst predictions about Trump's rise to the top," while The Intercept went with "Beyond Schadenfreude, the Spectacular Pundit Failure on Trump Is Worth Remembering."

But not all in the media are licking their wounds. Some are luxuriating in a measure of "I told you so" satisfaction. Or, as the National Review puts it in its post-Indiana column, "[Joe] Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski have taken to insufferable gloating about their prescience and condescending snootiness aimed at anyone or anything that might disrupt the Trump narrative they’ve bought into and helped to create."

Who then, in the wake of Trump's historic win, are the true media winners* (*where winning is defined as advancing one's own personal agenda) and losers* (*where losing is defined as winding up with egg on one's face)?

THE WINNERS

Megyn Kelly

Like an addictive B-story cooked up by a devious reality show producer, the ongoing war between Trump and the Fox News star — like so much of his candidacy — has been too deliciously bonkers to ignore. But despite enduring a steady onslaught of derogatory remarks, or perhaps because of it, Kelly's star has risen right alongside Trump's. The result: The Kelly File ratings have skyrocketed to 2.5 million viewers per hour, and a detente has resulted in Kelly's biggest career coup yet: a primetime special sit-down with Trump, scheduled for big Fox on May 17.

Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough

No cable talker has rolled out the Trump welcome mat quite as enthusiastically as this MSNBC duo, whose cozy rapport with the candidate, and impassioned defense of him to critics, has drawn widespread complaints of bias. Audio recordings released by comedian Harry Shearer revealed that a special arrangement does indeed appear to exist between hosts and candidate. ("You don't want me to [ask] the [questions] on deportation?" Brzenzinski asks during a commercial break. "That right," Trump responds. "Nothing too hard, Mika.") The upshot? A 96 percent ratings surge in the key demo and — if a New York Times shortlist is to be believed — a possible vice presidential position for Scarborough. 

Breitbart News Network

It's hard to think of a better way for a website to curry favor with Trump than by publicly turning on its own reporter after she accuses his spokesman of yanking her with enough force to leave finger-shaped bruises on her arm. That reporter, Michelle Fields, quit the publication along with editor-at-large Ben Shapiro and publicity exec Kurt Bardella. The spokesman, Corey Lewandowski, was charged by police with battery — but prosecutors later dropped the case, citing lack of evidence. (This despite a surveillance video capturing the moment.) As for Breitbart, while down a few employees, it's currently enjoying a steady stream of Trump exclusives. In the latest, the presumptive nominee tells the outlet, "The real enemy is Hillary Clinton and four more years of essentially Obama." Scoop!

CNN

The target of more White House Correspondents' Dinner insults than any other — even President Obama couldn't resist, congratulating Jake Tapper for having "left journalism to join CNN" — the network's stony-faced anchors and political pundits are laughing all the way to the bank, having demolished Fox News in the ratings for five of the past eight months. (CNN chief Jeff Zucker boasted this year that the network earns $200,000 per 30-second ad on debate nights.) To stay in Trump's good graces, CNN installed a fervent Trump apologist, Jeffrey Lord, as a full-time panelist. Lord defended Trump's refusal to disavow a Ku Klux Klan endorsement by explaining that the KKK "is a function of the left — it was the military arm of the Democratic Party, hello?" The result: Trump didn't boycott a single CNN debate.

THE LOSERS

Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver

Big-data messiah Nate Silver has staked his professional reputation on accurate predictions. That's why, among the many, many pundits who said Trump would never happen, that wrong call was perhaps most corrosive to Silver's brand. The first erroneous post, from June 16, 2015, used a dot-riddled chart to demonstrate how Trump is the least-liked presidential candidate of all time. (While that may hold true, it incorrectly extrapolated that he was unelectable for that very reason.) "Trump has a better chance of cameoing in another Home Alone movie with Macaulay Culkin," the story declared, a reference to Trump's cameo in Home Alone 2. As Trump's popularity grew, Silver tossed out a series of dismissive theories: It was "name recognition"; it was the "troll factor." By November, Trump couldn't win because "nobody remotely like Trump has won a major-party nomination in the modern era." It went on like this until Feb. 10, 2016, the day after the New Hampshire primary, when Silver conceded: "Republicans Need to Treat Donald Trump as the Front-Runner." Too little, too late? Maybe the numbers will offer answers.

The Huffington Post

Arianna Huffington's online news-and-opinion repository made a splashy gamble upon Trump's June 16, 2015, campaign announcement, declaring that all "coverage of Donald Trump's 'campaign'" (scare-quotes theirs) would be filed in the entertainment section. “Our reason is simple,” the post explained. “Trump’s campaign is a sideshow.” By December, the coverage started appearing in the politics section. "We are no longer entertained," Huffington wrote in an anti-Trump op-ed that accompanied the editorial decision. More recently, she told CNN: “Donald Trump is both a buffoon and dangerous. We’re going to cover him in both ways.” Trump both ways: A dish better left off the menu.

Ross Douthat

The conservative New York Times columnist made some of this election's most confident pronouncements — which have come back to haunt him through endless retweets. "The entire commentariat is going to feel a little silly when Marco Rubio wins every Republican primary," he wrote in September 2015, and which has been retweeted over 3,000 times. Four months later: "TRUMP HAD A CEILING HE ALWAYS HAD A CEILING I TOLD YOU HE HAD A CEILING I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU YOU LAUGHED BUT I TOLD YOU." (To Douthat's credit, he doesn't delete them.) For a better read on his current state of mind, head to his first post-Indiana column: a mournful capitulation to the inevitability of Trumpism entitled, "The Defeat of True Conservatism."

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