Uncanceled: Banned from Facebook, Trump reaches millions on TV

By Matt Field | May 5, 2021

Trump on One America News. Former president Donald Trump talks on conservative TV network One America News earlier this year.

About four months after Facebook suspended former president Donald Trump in the wake of his incitement of supporters to storm the US Capitol, the company’s novel Oversight Board on Monday ruled that the platform’s suspension could stand. Trump won’t be able to pick up where he left off—a string of posts on January 6 that included reference to a speech in which he falsely accused Democrats of “election theft.” But while Trump may not have direct access to Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, he does still have regular access to millions of cable TV viewers on Fox, Newsmax, and One America News, as well as a sprawling network of pundits, hosts, and podcasters ready to spread his words far and wide.

Like other supposed victims of the “cancel culture”—the allegedly powerful movement of liberals out to enforce PC dogma and snuff out everyone from Dr. Seuss to George Washington—Trump is still a major media presence. In fact, in the first few months of this year alone, Trump has done at least 10 cable TV interviews on Fox networks or on the newer conservative channels, Newsmax and One America News. His appearances reach massive audiences. Fox had an average of 3.6 million daily primetime viewers in 2020, a cable news record, according to Reuters. After last year’s election, Fox’s conservative rival Newsmax had close to half a million. Trump’s TV hits come on top of the speeches and  podcasts appearances he’s given. And the hosts that have interviewed him have their own huge social media followings. Fox’s Sean Hannity and podcaster Dan Bongino, on whose program Trump appeared last month, have 5.3 and 2.4 million twitter followers respectively.

Far from being “canceled,” the former president has been able to use his numerous TV appearances to rehash familiar grievances. In a Newsmax interview on Feb. 17, for example, he slammed Twitter for banning him. “It’s becoming very boring,” he said of the platform he once used incessantly. He told Fox host Laura Ingraham that the government was “persecuting” the right-wing mob that overran the Capitol in an effort to overturn the presidential election results. “Some of them went in, they’re hugging and kissing the police and the guards,” he said, echoing the sympathetic portrayal he gave of the rioters at the time. “We love you. You’re very special,” he said back then, saying he understood the rioters’ “pain” at having the election stolen from them.

In the March 25 interview, Ingraham tried to cut Trump off as he veered into conspiracy theories about the election, telling the former president that she didn’t want to “relitigate the past.” Trump was more successful on One America News Network. “We won so much. Except for me, you know how that happened. … but it was disgrace what happened with the counting, the tabulation … the tabulation wasn’t exactly good,” he said. “We got almost 75 million votes–probably got much more than that. That’s the reported votes.”

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On Tuesday, Trump started a new website called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” to push his statements out to his followers, which they, in turn, can promote on social media. Predictably, Trump’s central focus so far seems be furthering the false conspiracy theory that he actually won the presidential election—or, as he put it, “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020”—trashing the social media networks that banned him, and excoriating supposed RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) like Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Liz Cheney who voted to impeach him for his role in the January 6 riots.

Until Wednesday, Facebook’s Oversight Board had weighed in on only nine content moderation cases, according to its website, moving to overturn Facebook’s decisions in six of those. While the board is a new model of platform oversight, some think it will not appreciably change the reality that the company serves as an engine of disinformation. Rep. Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, tweeted, “Donald Trump has played a big role in helping Facebook spread disinformation, but whether he’s on the platform or not, Facebook and other social media platforms with the same business model will find ways to highlight divisive content to drive advertising revenues.” He called for new legislation on the platforms.

Since Trump’s suspension from Facebook, the platform’s business model hasn’t changed, and neither has the former president, who will almost certainly continue to repeat the conspiratorial grievances that got him booted from Facebook in the many news-dissemination venues still available to him.

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