Impeachment Inquiry Fizzles, Changes Zero Minds As Americans Tune Out
President Trump is being impeached by Democrats, who control the House of Representatives. And after three days of contentious testimony — with breathless headlines deemed BREAKING! every five minutes — you know how many minds have been changed?
Zero. Zero minds. Zippy the chimp.
Here’s why. Republicans believe Trump was well within his rights to withhold foreign aid as he asked the president of Ukraine to look into possible criminal activities by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter. They think Trump is simply being persecuted. Meanwhile, Democrats think Trump has violated all sorts of laws, as well as the tenets of the Constitution laid out by the Founding Fathers, with a supposed quid pro quo. They believe Trump is a danger to democracy.
And the 24-hour news channels aren’t helping viewers make heads or tails of the daily flood of information.
“It’s harder now — they want to grab you with those headlines,” Jerre Corrigan of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, told The New York Times last week. “Trump did this, Trump did that. You have to go in and really research it. And I don’t think a lot of people do that. I just don’t know what to think. You would have to know the facts, and I don’t know that I’m getting the facts from the media right now.”
How does anyone know what’s true? Simple answer: They don’t. A poll released last week found that 47% of Americans find it hard to know whether the stories they hear are true. Just 31% find it easy, the poll by The Associated Press found.
“Now more than ever, the lines between fact-based reporting and opinionated commentary seem blurred for people,” Evette Alexander, research director at the Knight Foundation, which funds journalism and research, told The Times. “That means they trust what they are seeing less. They are feeling less informed.”
Add social media to that nonstop flow of partisan political coverage. Millions of people see stories on their Facebook and Twitter feeds every day from all kinds of unreliable sources — and then pass them on to other politically like-minded people, without knowing whether they’re true or not.
Plus, the standards for what constitutes “news” nowadays have plunged. Venerable newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post routinely publish pieces full of unnamed sources. Single-source stories, once verboten, are now de rigueur. Anything derogatory about Trump quickly becomes “fact” — like the recent allegation, again from an anonymous source, that he wanted to build an alligator-filled moat along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Books, too, hit the shelves full of uncorroborated tales. In “A Warning,” released Tuesday and written by “Anonymous” — a writer described only as “a senior official in the Trump administration” — The Post said the book “paints a chilling portrait of the president as cruel, inept and a danger to the nation he was elected to lead.”
Liberals lapped it up.
Meanwhile, other news reports and books back Trump. Donald Trump Jr.’s book “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us,” raced to the top of The Times bestseller list. The president himself often touts books favorable to him.
And conservatives lapped that up.
Then there are the politicians themselves.
Take just the past few days. Trump went to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center over the weekend for a few tests. Conspiracy theories exploded — he was clearly having a dramatic heart episode. The rumors persisted until the White House released a statement from Trump’s doctor saying the visit was “routine.”
On the other side, Trump fired out a tweet on Tuesday quoting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as saying “it is dangerous to let the voters decide Trump’s fate.” She never said that. It was, in fact, Fox News Channel’s chief congressional correspondent Mike Emanuel. But Trump’s post was liked and retweeted more than 100,000 times.
So here’s what we know going into week two of the impeachment inquiry. The people who disapprove of Trump support impeachment. The people who support Trump don’t. Each side has about half (just like the 2016 election, when 65.8 million people voted for Hillary Clinton and 62.9 million voted for Trump).
Nothing else that comes out in the inquiry will matter. Minds are made up. The House will vote to impeach. Democrats will cheer, Republicans will jeer. Then the Senate will not vote to convict. Republicans will applaud, Democrats will boo.
And then we’re back to square one. The entire impeachment exercise is pointless: In 11 months, Americans will decide whether. Trump is a two-termer or if a Democrat gets to pick out new drapes for the Oval Office.
But until then, good luck trying to figure out the “facts.”
*Joseph Curl ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2014 and covered the White House for a dozen years. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @JosephCurl. A version of this article ran previously in The Washington Times.