As Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have shown over and over, sometimes comedy is the best form of political commentary. On that point, Colbert’s Donald Trump segment on the inaugural episode of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” was a tour de force.
“I promise you, just like the rest of the media, I will be covering all of the presidential candidates -- who are Donald Trump,” Colbert starts off.
The CBS host then shows a clip of Trump swearing off Oreos because parent company Nabisco had moved some of its production to Mexico. Cue a bag of Oreos, which Colbert proceeds to turn into a running metaphor for the media’s addiction to covering Trump.
“One is enough. That is the only Trump story I'll be treating myself to tonight,” Colbert says, shifting the bag under his desk.
“Well, maybe just one more,” Colbert continues, opening the bag as a clip of Trump sparring with Fusion host Jorge Ramos plays.
Colbert keeps trying to stop himself, but can't resist just one more ... okay another ... and another. By the end, Colbert loses all willpower and empties the bag of Oreos over his upturned mouth.
The skit is hilarious, but in its absurdity it highlights just how ridiculous the news networks’ wall-to-wall coverage of Trump has been. In the quest for ratings, no stunt is too trivial. Most recently, it was Trump’s hair-pulling gag -- in which Trump invited an audience member to verify his hair was real -- that captured the press’ imagination.
There are no saints here. MSNBC recently gorged on Trump, replaying the same clip of “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd with the reality TV star in his private plane so many times it made you wonder if someone needed to stage an intervention. CNN, for its part, blew off Anderson Cooper’s moving documentary about Hurricane Katrina for a Trump press conference in which nothing happened. At first a Trump booster, Fox News ended up begging the businessman to ease off his attacks on debate moderator Megyn Kelly before resuming the 24-hour Trump-a-thon.
The broadcast (i.e., non-cable) news networks are no better. An analysis from CNN media reporter Brian Stelter found that Trump received more coverage on the nightly newscasts at ABC, CBS and NBC than all the other presidential candidates combined.
The media’s Trump addiction isn’t harmless. Not only does Trump coverage crowd the airwaves, leaving less time for more serious political candidates; it has a direct influence on the political process. As John Sides showed at The Washington Post, Trump’s rise in the polls happened only after the media binged on Trump. In the end, the country might very well end up with Trump as the nominee thanks to feckless TV producers who couldn’t keep the Oreo bag closed.