On May 29th, Roseanne Barr went on a tweet storm in which she took aim at Chelsea Clinton, George Soros, and Valerie Jarrett. Her racist tweet about Jarrett, which has since been deleted, stated that the former Obama adviser looks like “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby.” The backlash was swift and, hours later, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey released a statement that Roseanne has been canceled due to the “abhorrent [and] repugnant” tweet.
Barr rightfully lost her job as a result of her indefensible comments. Meanwhile, a person who tweets and verbally states equally racist rhetoric as a matter of course remains in the White House.
This is hardly the first time that a person in a less impactful role than Donald Trump has been held to a higher standard than the president. On October 7th, 2016, the infamous Access Hollywood tape was released, in which the world could heard Trump brag about grabbing women’s genitals without their consent — an action which meets the Justice Department’s definition of sexual assault.
Billy Bush, who laughed along as Trump boasted about assaulting women, was fired by NBC less than two weeks after the tape surfaced. Trump, who already had an extremely lengthy record of degrading women, was elected to the highest office in America just one month later.
To be clear, both Barr and Bush deserved to lose their jobs. The First Amendment protects Barr’s right to engage in racist language without legal repercussions, but it doesn’t prevent anyone — including her employer — from cutting ties. However, none of this occurred in a vacuum, and it’s bitterly ironic that there are a slew of racist, sexist, xenophobic tweets posted by Trump himself, both before and after the election.
In January Trump referred to TPS nations like Haiti as “shithole countries.” Earlier this month he called some undocumented immigrants “animals,” and the White House used the same dehumanizing rhetoric in an official statement. Although the media reported on these comments, nothing changed in the nation’s highest office.
Furthermore, the media — including Trump’s most despised outlet, The New York Times — have largely handled Trump with kid gloves both before and after his election.
Research published in The Columbia Journalism Review in December 2017 showed that The New York Times “ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all the policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.” Meanwhile, Trump’s use of an unsecured cell phone, which leaves him vulnerable to hacking or surveillance, has barely made a ripple in the news cycle. And no matter how much time he devotes to tweeting about The New York Times’ unfair treatment of him, Maggie Haberman laughably described Trump’s outright lies merely as “demonstrable falsehoods” in a recent tweet that went viral.
I can’t help but wonder how much Trump would hate the media if it hadn’t, as studies have shown, been slanted in his favor throughout the election cycle. How much would he hate The New York Times if its reporters weren’t afraid to blatantly call him a liar as he repeatedly makes a laughingstock of America and endangers people’s lives?
It certainly seems that there is a standard of basic human decency in our country, and then there’s a completely separate standard for Donald Trump.
Of course, ousting Trump from his post depends on an entirely different process than the firings of Barr and Bush. No matter how low he sinks, Trump will remain president until he’s either indicted by the Department of Justice (which is highly unlikely) or voted out by the American people in 2020.
But when he was named the party’s presumptive nominee in 2016, Republicans had the option of blocking Trump’s nomination and rejecting his hateful rhetoric and policies.
Trump actually could have been “fired” from his candidacy.
Instead, the GOP chose to put party over country — presumably so they could give themselves a tax cut and take health care away from millions of people. The fact that Trump was hired by 63 million voters suggests that Barr and Bush would possibly have their jobs today if left to the judgment of the American people.
But Trump’s enablers aren’t just the people who voted for him. They’re the apathetic who stayed home on election day because his racist, sexist policies wouldn’t affect them. They’re his apologists, like the “liberal” media he despises who rush to praise him when he successfully reads off a teleprompter and manages to conduct himself like a normal human being for ten minutes. And, 16 months into Trump’s presidency, we all need to take a close look at ourselves and whether or not we’ve become desensitized to his horrifically prejudiced rhetoric and policies.
The media quickly moved on from Trump’s descriptions of immigrants as “animals,” his comments that there were “very fine people” among the white nationalists in Charlottesville, and his use of an unsecured phone — so it’s on us to remind ourselves and each other that none of this is acceptable.
We’re living in an era where hatred and bigotry have become dangerously normalized, but the solution isn’t to curl into a fetal position and helplessly wring our hands because TV personalities are held to a higher standard than the president. The solution is to turn our outrage into action — because in 2020, we have the power to finally say “you’re fired” to Trump.