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Swift Trump verdict has the media considering history’s sweep — and the polarizing figure behind it


NEW YORK — A sudden, decisive verdict in former President Donald Trump‘s hush money trial on Thursday led the media to simultaneously reflect on both the sweep of history and the most polarizing figure in modern American politics.

Broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC suspended regular programming to bring the news shortly after 5 p.m. Eastern. The New York Times and The Washington Post bannered their websites with identical headlines: “Trump Guilty on all Counts.”

“The former president is a convicted felon,” said CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, “but that does not prevent him from running for office for another term in the White House.”

The Drudge Report website repeated the word “guilty” 34 times in red type under a picture of Trump sitting in court earlier in the day.

The announcement came as news organizations were preparing to end a second day of waiting out jury deliberations with no conclusion. They quickly scrambled when Judge Juan Merchan, instead of saying court was dismissed until Friday, said there was a verdict that would be announced in a half hour.

Once the jury was seated in a Manhattan courtroom with no cameras allowed, word emerged quickly — the jury foreman pronounced Trump “guilty” 34 times, on all counts.

“That sudden turn at the end of today must have been very unsettling for the former president,” said ABC News anchor David Muir.

Courtroom observers watched Trump carefully for signs of a reaction, with one noticing that he subtly shook his head then watched with little movement as all the counts were read. Trump later came out to tell waiting media that the “rigged” trial was a disgrace and that Americans will have the final verdict on him on Election Day in November.

“He’s now a different type of figure in history than he was a half hour ago,” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said, “and yet he says the same thing.”

Media organizations supportive of Trump mixed dismissiveness with anger. Fox News analyst Andy McCarthy, whose words were quoted frequently by Trump most days when he spoke after the trial, had predicted the guilty verdict in the moments before it came down. But he said afterward it was inconceivable that anyone else in in New York state would be treated that way.

McCarthy said the case will be appealed, “and I hope there will be more fairness and equity than there was in the trial.”

On the conservative outlet Newsmax, analyst Mehek Cooke said the verdict was a travesty and indicated that “if you disagree with this government, if you disagree with Joe Biden, they will come after you.”

Said Cooke: “Be very scared.”

The Fox.com website headlined its lead story: “Trump blasts ‘rigged, disgraceful’ trial after being found guilty.” Breitbart.com called it the “election interference trial,” while Redstate.com criticized the “completely disgusting statement” put out by President Joe Biden’s campaign in response to the verdict.

On the liberal MSNBC, Ari Melber said that “the system worked … not because of the result, but because of the process.” Analyst Neal Katyal urged viewers that were pleased by the verdict not to “pop our champagne corks yet,” because the Trump campaign is likely to run against the legal system.

Several news outlets mixed reporting with punditry, notably through onscreen messages displayed by the likes of CNN and CBS. One CNN message reported that no jurors looked over at Trump as they filed out of the courtroom after delivering the verdict.

Still unknown is how the case will affect the dynamics of the presidential race. Trump’s sentencing is scheduled for July 11, only days before he is scheduled to be nominated as the Republican presidential candidate for the third straight time.

Before the verdict, TV news networks stayed on the case almost exclusively while waiting for news. Since the case began in mid-April, Fox News Channel’s daytime viewers are up 15% over last year at the same time, MSNBC is up 17% and CNN up 19%, according to the Nielsen company. That explains any reluctance to turn away.

It meant for hours of speculation and opinion. The phrase “tea leaves” — a cliched reference to predicting an event’s outcome based on signs that may or may not mean anything — was heard more times than on a Bigelow’s factory floor.

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David Bauder writes about media for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://twitter.com/dbauder.





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