Earlier this week, The Washington Post broke the news that there is a 457-minute gap in the presidential phone logs for January 6, 2021, the day of the Trump-inspired attack on the Capitol. The White House keeps a record of every person the president talks to (remember, the president is supposed to be a public employee, not the king of white supremacists). The January 6 records show that Trump took eight calls in the morning and 11 in the evening, but from 11:17 am until 6:54 pm, there is a big, stinking gap. We know Trump took phone calls during this time: It’s already been reported that he called Senator Mike Lee and spoke to Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy. But the full extent of Trump’s activities are missing from the official record during arguably the most important time of his failed presidency.
Unnamed sources now claim that a giant hole in Trump’s call records is not “unusual” because the former president used the White House switchboard while in the residence, but not when he was in the Oval Office. I find it amazing that Trump’s spin on this is that there are four years of unlogged phone calls (Russia, if you’re listening) instead of seven hours. But even if that’s the case, the seven hours on the day of the coup seem appropriate for heightened scrutiny. Pinning down the president’s timeline on the day his forces attacked the Capitol would seem to me to be job No. 1 of federal investigators, and investigative journalists.
But nobody cares. There are still a lot of people who can remember when this country ground to a halt over an 18-minute gap in Richard Nixon’s recordings of his taped conversations. Here, we have 457 minutes, about seven-and-a-half hours, during which the very existence of phone calls have been wiped from the record. But for some reason this was a one-day story for mainstream American media. To put this in context: There have been more articles, news segments, think pieces, and investigative freaking reports on the details of a movie star hitting a comedian at the Academy Awards than there have been about whom the president of the United States was talking to during an attempted coup against our government.
Reading mainstream US newspapers this week has been a case study in why America is failing. In addition to reams of coverage on “the Slap,” there have been multiple stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop—an entire “controversy” generated by the same media weakness that produced endless coverage of “her e-mails.” There has been breathless coverage of Madison Cawthorn’s titillating allegations of cocaine and sex orgies that he claims to have been invited to. There’s even been coverage of the Republican rebuke of Cawthorn’s claims, which is interesting because there’s been almost no follow-up on how Republicans are reacting to the seven-hour gap in White House phone logs. Among Republicans, only John Bolton took a break from (I assume) lathering himself in oils as an aide reads him the projected death tolls in a World War III scenario to say that he thinks Trump is lying about his knowledge of burner phones.
Even The Washington Post, which broke the story and, by rights, should be screaming from the rooftops about its vital, eye-opening scoop, has moved on to other January 6 angles. The problem mainstream media has is that they’ve decided that one insurrection story per day is enough. So one day it’s the seven-hour gap, and the next day it’s the House Select Committee’s contempt recommendation against Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino. Then there’s a story about the fountain of corruption that is Ginni Thomas, and the day after that it’s new Department of Justice subpoenas. Every day there’s a different insurrection-adjacent story, but the media never floods the zone with all of them and never stays on a single one long enough to get answers.
This kind of coverage only makes sense if you are worried about pissing off Republicans. This coverage sounds “fair” only if you are worried about being fair to the people who attacked the country. This coverage sounds balanced only if you equate a president who aided and abetted a coup against the government with a president who has a son who had his laptop stolen.
At least Frankenstein eventually tried to take down his monster. The American media seems intent on covering up for its grotesquerie. The media created Trump (The Apprentice), promoted him ($2 billion in free media), and took his main political rival out at the knees (again “her e-mails”), but all these years later it still hasn’t figured out how to cover Trump.
This shouldn’t be complicated. Trump is at Mar-a-Lago right now. Reporters should go there! They should demand answers for the seven-hour gap in his records. When he lies (which he will, because Trump’s first response to literally any question is to lie), do not accept the lie and reprint it like a stenographer. Say “You’re lying.” Demand evidence for what he claims (he won’t have any).
Then go back to the Republicans and ask them for their phone logs. Then go to the Department of Justice and ask them what they are doing and who will be held responsible for deleting or hiding official records. Then stay there until these institutions cough up a real answer.
I’m not telling elite journalists and news directors at the major US newspapers anything they don’t already know. These people know exactly how to stay on a story and cover it from all angles when they want to. When Joe Biden almost ad-libbed us into regime change, the news industry drilled down on nine words for a whole week. The media can focus—when it wants to.
I can only conclude that the media does not want to focus on the seven-hour gap in Trump’s phone records on the day of the coup. People will have to form their own opinions as to why the media is so invested in shielding Trump from this inquiry. Maybe the question we should be asking is: “What did the Fourth Estate know, and when did they know it?”