Sunday, November 17, 2019
Home BBC Watch Sneering Sopel’s anti-Trump obsession

Sneering Sopel’s anti-Trump obsession

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LAST Thursday’s Today programme was ‘a special’ featuring the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel, announced as a ‘look at Donald Trump’s record as President of the United States’.

In the end its focus mainly fell on Mr Trump’s economic record, with Sopel placing most emphasis on the President’s trade wars and tariffs, interviewing the Detroit-based head of Ford and a former economic adviser to Mr Trump, both of whom oppose his policies on tariffs. The criticisms from the latter, Gary Cohn, were then made headline news, unlike Mr Cohn’s far more positive takes on his former boss’s overall economic record throughout that 8.10am interview.

It was striking how relentlessly the BBC man framed his questions from the negative standpoint (negative towards Mr Trump that is) even with the non-political head of Ford. It was as if he had a point to make.

Besides these critics of Donald Trump’s tariffs policies, Sopel interviewed a Democratic senator and a Republican pollster as well as talking to two groups of members of the public – one urban, African-American and vehemently anti-Trump, the other suburban, racially mixed by the sounds of it and strongly pro-Trump.

The latter conversation is worth noting for its closing section:

Jon Sopel: And what about the charge he’s a racist? When you say to people ‘go back to where you come from’ when they’ve got an American passport?

Vox Pop 1: Well, I think one of the problems is his quote was closed. You guys didn’t finish it, because he said ‘go back to your country, fix it and then come back and show us how to do it’. So that’s one of the frustrations people have because they take his comments out of context and then spin it into their narrative that there’s this constant black-white struggle.

Sopel: You think it was a smart fight for Donald Trump to get involved in?

Vox Pop 1: I think it was. A lot of people feel that way. A lot of his constituents, a lot of people feel, if you don’t like America then you just leave.

The lady’s point about that quote being taken out of context and spun against the President is surely right. The original tweets, if you recall, ran as follows:

So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly . . .

. . . and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how . . .

. . . it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

So, when Donald Trump’s ‘Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done’ is cited, how often have you heard BBC journalists quote the ‘then come back’ bit?

Indeed, with both Gary Cohn and Senator Debbie Stabenow, as in his question to the Trump-supporting women, Jon Sopel stuck (as usual) to repeating the ‘go back’ bit of the quote and never mentioned the ‘then come back’ bit, and each time it led to a question about whether Mr Trump is a racist. (‘He’s a racist, isn’t he?’ he asked Mr Cohn.)

If you quote only part of a quote then surely you’re misquoting it, aren’t you?

Jon Sopel, despite his protestations of impartiality, cannot hide his views about President Trump.

His Twitter feed is one long sneer at the incumbent of the White House. His reporting is barely less open about it. 

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Craig Byers
Craig Byers is a blogger about the BBC, focusing on the issue of BBC bias while living in Britain's finest traditional seaside resort: Morecambe (the one with the Eric Morecambe statue).

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