News Media Wrestle With How To Describe Some Of Trump's Tweets President Trump's tweets regarding four Democratic congresswomen of color were condemned by fellow Democrats as racist. Most media struggled early on whether to call the tweets racist.

News Media Wrestle With How To Describe Some Of Trump's Tweets

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


News organizations have wrestled with how to cover President Trump's tweets condemning four Democratic Congresswomen of color, specifically whether to call those tweets racist. NPR's David Folkenflik reports that news organizations became increasingly blunt as the story played out.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Here's CNN's John Berman on Monday morning.


JOHN BERMAN: What do you call someone who says clearly racist things? This morning the answer is Mr. President.

FOLKENFLIK: CNN went early and hard against Trump's tweets, which focused on four members of the U.S. House - three of them born in the U.S., the fourth a U.S. citizen for half her life. Trump wrote they should go back to the crime-infested places they came from. Most news organizations didn't follow CNN's tough line, at least not at first. Lydia Polgreen is editor-in-chief of HuffPost, a populist, left-of-center news site.

LYDIA POLGREEN: I used to work at The New York Times. There's a great deal of discomfort with the idea of simply stating as a fact that someone is racist or saying that someone is a liar without really fully knowing the intent of the person saying it.

FOLKENFLIK: Many news outlets initially limited themselves to calling the tweets controversial or racially charged, later citing Trump's critics who denounced them as racist - not HuffPost.

POLGREEN: This is so calculated. This is so frequent and so bolstered by repeated behavior that it - it's really hard to deny.

FOLKENFLIK: By Monday morning, The Associated Press and NPR News called the tweets racist on their own authority rather than simply quoting critics. David Lauter is Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times.

DAVID LAUTER: Even by Trumpian standards, this was something new. He had gone across a line that he had flirted with up until now but hadn't actually crossed in quite this way.

FOLKENFLIK: Trump's troubling record on race dates back decades. Yesterday, he doubled down.



KAITLAN COLLINS: ...Are racist, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Quiet. Quiet.

COLLINS: Are you OK with people thinking your tweets are racist, sir?

TRUMP: Quiet. These are people...

COLLINS: I'm asking a question...

TRUMP: ...That if they don't like it here, they can leave.

FOLKENFLIK: By Monday, the tide had shifted at places like The Washington Post and CBS News, where new news anchor Norah O'Donnell opened yesterday's show this way.


NORAH O'DONNELL: Four Democratic Congresswomen of color have just spoken publicly as a group for the first time about the racist tweets aimed at them by the President of the United States...

FOLKENFLIK: That said, The New York Times still hasn't used the word directly. And one place that Trump's tweets are not deemed unduly offensive, Twitter itself, which said that Trump hadn't violated its new rules.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.