MSNBC has been among the news outlets broadcasting live from the White House, to which the US president returned after undergoing coronavirus treatment at the Walter Reed military hospital. The network’s hosts started exercising their tongues as soon as Trump appeared on the balcony, ripped off his mask, and saluted the Marine One helicopter that had transported him home, before wobbling back inside.
“This is a Mussolini moment. Donald Trump – who looks like he has makeup on, which means someone had to get close enough to make up his favorite orange patina – he’s standing there as if he’s a member of an old Russian Tsar family,” a news anchor, said to be Joy Reid, can be heard in the footage.
BREAKING VIDEO: Trump salutes Marine One after taking his mask off. MSNBC calling it a “Mussolini Moment.”CNN calling it “something out of North Korea.” pic.twitter.com/Y9Q9cd7lrG
— Anoncat ☭☂️🏴 ➐ (@anoncatanoncat) October 5, 2020
The vitriol-laden broadcast was referring, of course, to Benito Mussolini, known as Il Duce – the notorious Italian fascist leader who often addressed the crowds from a balcony above Rome’s Piazza Venezia.
While it might have been deemed acceptable among MSNBC hosts, the historical parallel was judged over the top by those watching the coverage online. Some viewers were particularly enraged by the fact the network has been so negative about Trump’s speedy recovery from Covid-19.
Media seething because they were hoping Trump would die or be significantly weakened/diminished by the coronavirus and instead he emerges looking stronger than ever before. MUSSOLINI MOMENT BITCH pic.twitter.com/WZPA0WCJLk
— Nicholas J. Fuentes (@NickJFuentes) October 5, 2020
“These journalists are uncultivated, comparing Trump to Mussolini and to the Czar family! What’s the link between them and the POTUS?” one observer asked. Others unloaded on the mainstream media for their poor timing in criticizing the president and “call[ing] him a dictator,” when he has been ill with the deadly virus.
“This is a Mussolini moment” —MSNBC commentator reacting to President Trump standing on the White House balcony.
The president could literally get COVID and beat it, and the mainstream media will still try to find a way to call him a dictator. Insane.
— Alana Mastrangelo (@ARmastrangelo) October 6, 2020
Many observers were astonished by “the casual and consistent use of extreme hyperbole any time Trump does anything.” The president’s critics are so “blinded by hate,” one claimed, they lose sight of what’s rational.
I'm constantly amazed at the casual and consistent use of extreme hyperbole any time Trump does anything.
The contrast between the portrayal and reality is so striking, I can't understand how anyone falls for it, unless they are so blinded by hate to be completely irrational.
— smk762 (@smk_cartografix) October 6, 2020
Then there were those who speculated how Barack Obama would have fared in Trump’s shoes. One asked why an unfortunate photo that captured a moment when the former president raised his hand didn’t amount to references from the likes of MSNBC to a ‘Hitler moment’, and another why the Obamas’ own balcony appearances didn’t elicit similar disapproval.
Hard left trolls talking about #Mussolini moments.
So what do we call this from Obama? A ‘Hitler moment’?
— Bellerophon (@PBR5treetgang) October 6, 2020
The historian has checked in pic.twitter.com/amTVhUaGUe
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) October 6, 2020
Moderates, meanwhile, suggested MSNBC and like-minded media are shooting themselves in the foot by demonizing Trump. “They have learned nothing since the 2016 campaign. The constant demonisation of every move or word Trump makes alienates the audience, and it just switches off,” one user opined.
MSNBC is not alone in casting Trump’s coronavirus and the White House outbreak in a certain light. CNN security analyst Sam Vinograd and CBS White House correspondent Ben Tracy have suggested working in the presidential residence could be dangerous. The latter went as far as to claim that, “I felt safer reporting in North Korea than I currently do at the White House,” sparking uproar online.
But it’s not the first time the president has been likened to the Italian dictator. Back in June, Anthony Gardner, the former US ambassador to the European Union, said there are “many things” Trump shares with Mussolini. British political broadcaster and RT columnist George Galloway once described Trump as “jutting his jaw like Mussolini. Il Duce at his worst.”
And the Republicans have also referenced the founding father of fascism to suit their own purposes. “I do see quite a few Benito Mussolinis in the Democratic field,” Republican National Committee spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington said last year.
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