Though Obsessed with Donald Trump, the Media Was Blind to Brewing Threat of Violence


In this daily series, Newsweek explores the steps that led to the January 6 Capitol Riot.

On December 27, the last Sunday of 2020, the news media struggled to offer any happy news in a year dominated by COVID and then by Donald Trump’s post-election dissension.

COVID cases reached 80 million worldwide and over the weekend, the United States reached a grim indicator: 1 in 1,000 Americans had died in the pandemic. Los Angeles County alone was experiencing one COVID death every ten minutes.

The media was obsessed with Donald Trump yet failed to notice the brewing threats of violence, Thousands of Trump supporters storm the United States Capitol building following a « Stop the Steal » rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed concern that the state of the pandemic might get worse in the coming weeks. « … [T]he reason I’m concerned and my colleagues in public health are concerned also is that we very well might see a post-seasonal, in the sense of Christmas, New Year’s, surge … a surge upon a surge, because, if you look at the slope, the incline of cases that we have experienced as we have gone into the late fall and soon-to-be-early winter, it is really quite troubling. »

« We are really at a very critical point, » Fauci said.

Then there was the Christmas morning bombing in Nashville, still raw in people’s minds, a reminder that nothing stopped for the pandemic. Though terrorism was being downplayed, analysts latched onto other implications. « I think this is a wake-up call and a warning for all of us about how vulnerable our infrastructure is, » former FBI assistant director Frank Figliuzzi told CBS’ Face the Nation. « We’ve concentrated, post 9/11 on … getting our hands around all the chemical companies, mass orders of precursors for known explosives, » he said, calling on shop owners and companies to be even more vigilant.

« [T]he notion of a copycat seeing what’s happened in Nashville and trying to do this themselves is very real, » he said.

« We haven’t really been talking about infrastructure in this country in the context of individuals trying to conduct attacks of harm against, » former homeland security Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Neumann told ABC’s This Week, « but it’s just a stark reminder that it is extremely vulnerable and we’re overdue for some pretty significant investments. »

On NBC’s Meet the Press, there was no talk of Nashville, or COVID: the entire show was devoted to Joe Biden and what kind of president he would be. The closest the program got was in asking two governors about the difficult time and being targeted by COVID protestors. Gov. Mike Dewine of Ohio said: « I think it’s understandable that people are upset. It’s nine months into this. People are tired of it, so I get it. »

Trump’s « final days in office are shaping up to be the most volatile and unpredictable of a presidency defined by its volatility and unpredictability, » said Jonathan Karl on ABC’s This Week.

ABC had Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan on, Karl asking him if he was concerned about the damage Donald Trump could do in his last 24 days in office. Hogan cited Trump’s delay in signing the COVID stimulus bill into law, his vetoing of the defense authorization bill. « Millions of people are going to suffer, » Hogan said. « The Paycheck Protection Plan ran out in July. Unemployment benefits are about to run out tomorrow. And we’ve got to get this done. »

Asked about Trump’s call for a last-ditch fight on January 6, Hogan reassured viewers that Joe Biden was going to be sworn in on January 20. « There is a lot of disinformation out there, » Hogan said. « Everybody wants every single legal vote to be counted. We want the election to be fair and proper. »

« I’m hopeful that the vice president [Mike Pence] understands that [January 6 is a purely ceremonial job] and will execute his constitutional duties on January 6th, » former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie told ABC. « There may be some, some histrionics that go along with it, in the end I’m confident that the Congress will confirm what the American people did on Election Day, which was to elect Joe Biden the next president of the United States. »

Chris Christie conceded that there might be « some histrionics » around Joe Biden’s inauguration. The president-elect delivers remarks at the Queen Theater on December 28, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.
Mark Makela/Getty Images

Not one of the dominant Sunday morning news shows mentioned the protests brewing or the likelihood of violence.

« See you in Washington, D.C., on January 6th. Don’t miss it, » Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday.

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