By Madison Latiolais and Grayce Mores | January 2021
The President Trump's assaults on democratic ideals date back to before he even formally held the office, when he attempted to undermine public trust in the news media during the 2016 election. He attacked the authority of the press as an arbiter of the truth in order to claim authority over the truth for himself. In effect, he can convince his supporters of anything and everything, chief of which is that the “rigged” election has denied them of their rights. The storming of the capitol is the manifestation of years of convincing lies. Here is a timeline of how Trump systematically eroded public trust in democratic institutions:
Beginning in 2015, Trump began using rhetoric that encouraged anti-media sentiments among the American public. It resulted in the overall distrust of media groups who said or published anything Trump believed to be false or unfair.
During his campaign for president in 2016, Trump gave speeches in which he was using a populist approach to winning the presidency. Trump found success in his populist approach, so he continued to use rhetoric that created a vision of he and the American people against the government and its institutions.
By 2018, Trump had secured the faith of the Republican base. He was able to deny any allegation, no matter the amount of evidence and still have the support of his base. In this particular quote, Trump announces that he will choose to believe Russian officials over American ones. Situations like this one helped Trump to create skepticism and doubt towards American institutions.
In response to a request by a moderator during the last presidential debate for President Trump to denounce white supremacist groups, he told the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by." It is just one example of Trump use of militarized language. He also used it as an opportunity to blame the left for problems in America.
This tweet by President Trump shows him encouraging attendance to the rally in D.C. that ended with an attack on the United States Capitol. He ended the tweet with "StopTheSteal," which served as a reminder to his supporters that Trump believed the election was rigged and stolen. He was tweeting about the rally during December 2020 as well.
“We’re going to walk down any one you want, but I think right here. We’re going walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” [Save America Rally Jan 6, 2021]
This portion of President Trump's speech to his supporters at the Ellipse just hours before the attack on the U.S. Capitol is arguably the most clear attempt for Trump to encourage and insight violence. His speech contained portions about a stolen and fraudulent election, which many of his supporters believed to be true. He was encouraging his supporters to walk with him to the Capitol and "show strength" which ended in a violent insurrection on January 6, 2021.
Donald Trump and his allies have been spouting false claims and boosting bogus conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election. Trump has claimed wide-spread voter fraud due to hacked voting machines, illegal immigrants, dead voters and more. Most, if not all of these claims have been disputed and disproven, and officials in each state representing both political parties have stated "that there was no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role in the outcome of the presidential race".
Trump has also encouraged his supporters to shun news agencies that have acknowledged Joe Biden as the winner of the election, instead turning them towards far-right "news" sites like NewsMax and One America News Network. NewsGuard, an independent organization that rates news sites on criteria of credibility and transparency, has given both of these news websites failing grades.
One America News Network regularly posts stories with false or distorted information, and neglects to differentiate between factual news and opinion pieces. The site is focused on far-right and conservative issues like abortion, immigration, Donald Trump, the economy, and the Democratic Party leadership. OANN often posts unfounded conspiracy theories and incorrect statistics, focusing on content that casts Republicans and Trump in a positive light.
NewsMax is a conservative site and cable television network that has published false health claims and unfounded conspiracy theories. The owner of NewsMax, Christopher Ruddy, has "described himself as a close friend of U.S. President Donald Trump." The site has pushed false claims about the dangers of vaccination, debunked theories about vaccines' effect on autism, and fluoride in water. These articles spread unsupported health theories with either a complete lack of sourcing or use of sources that do not use independent scientific methods.