Here's what happened: First, Vladimir Putin made
some positive comments about Donald Trump in December. Then a great media controversy
erupted in the US denigrating Trump for being praised by Putin. Next, early morning
TV host Joe Scarborough baited Trump with a fallacious story about Putin, and Trump
fell into the trap. But, then when ABC commentator George Stephanopoulos tried piling
on over the Putin remarks, Trump stumped Stephanopoulos.
Scarborough had laid it on the line to Trump: How could he accept the recent accolades of Vladimir Putin? "He kills journalists that don't agree with him," Scarborough cautioned during a December 18 MSNBC interview.
Scarborough pressed Trump to repudiate that practice of Putin's. "You obviously condemn [it], right?"
And with those words, Trump fell plop into Scarborough's trap.
How was it a trap? It's widely known that Putin murders oppositional journalists, isn't it? That's because Putin's ruthless approach has been a long-running media theme in the US. I often hear TV commentators mention this when they discuss Russia.
Around the end of Putin's first two presidential terms I did an analysis of the journalist murder pattern in Russia. Here's what I found: According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 15 journalists were murdered during Putin's stint in the presidency. That's what had been fueling the alarmist media coverage about him. But what the "murdered journalist" stories always fail to report is that in the previous presidential period, the Yeltsin era, there were 31 murders! In other words, under Putin, the number of journalists killed was more than cut in half. Perhaps Scarborough owes Putin some accolades for that accomplishment!
Recently I checked on what's happened since Putin's return to the presidency in 2012. There were 3 journalists murdered according to CPJ. What about the other BRIC countries during the same time? How do they compare? Brazil had 16 journalist murders, India 7, and China 0. Except for China, Russia had the safest record. Sixteen murders in Brazil? Why isn't Scarborough all over Brazil about that, and why isn't he singing the praises of China for its perfect record in protecting journalists?
Indeed, since 1992 China has had only 2 journalist murders. That even beats the US record. America had twice the number of journalist murders in that period. And what about Russia? Since 1992 the Philippines has had more than twice as many murdered journalists as Russia. Where's the outrage over that?
I don't think we're talking about human rights principles here. Scarborough seemed to insinuate they were at stake. But clearly the honest truth is not on Scarborough's side. This has been no more than an outright slime job on Putin, and now it's an attempt to denigrate Trump by association.
Trump wasn't stuck in Scarborough's trap for long. Stephanopoulos apparently didn't realize that, however. In the December 20 edition of his Sunday morning political affairs program, he seemed to pick up where Scarborough left off on the issue of Putin's killing journalists. Stephanopoulos confronted Trump with a tweet from Mitt Romney of all people:
"Important distinction: thug Putin kills journalists and opponents; our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants."
To that Trump asked Stephanopoulos, "Does he know for a fact that he kills? I don't think anybody knows that. It's possible that he does, but I don't think it's been proven. Has anybody proven that he's killed reporters?"
Stephanopoulos looked flustered but replied: "There've been many allegations that he was behind the killing of Anna Politskaya [sic]." Trump snapped back, "Yeah sure there are allegations. I've read those allegations over the years. But nobody's proven that he's killed anybody as far as I'm concerned."