Pros Split On Coverage of Trump PTSD Controversial Comments


Trump’s campaign regularly accuses the media of taking his comments out of context (see: immigration, abortion, kicking a baby out of a rally).

But was that the case on Oct. 3 when NBC and CBS reported his remarks to veterans about Post-traumatic stress disorder?

NBC’s clip showed this from Trump:

“They see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over, and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it.”

Trump was responding to a question about veterans and mental health.

The backlash started on social media.


After the controversial comment, Trump spoke for over a minute about the severity of mental illness for veterans. He said veteran suicide “should never happen” and called these lost veterans “great people”.

Here’s the full answer:

Neither NBC nor CBS reported anything he said after his comment about some veterans being strong.

NBC’s Katy Tur devoted one minute to the story, including video of Trump’s comment, the social media backlash, a criticism from Vice President Joe Biden, and defense from a Trump advisor.

In contrast, CBS’s Major Garrett covered the story in two sentences during a live shot:

“Earlier today in Northern Virginia, Trump was asked about mental health care for veterans and said those who suffer from post-traumatic stress are not as —quote— strong as those who do not. Scott, for years veterans groups have tried to erase the stigma of weakness once associated with post-traumatic stress,” Garrett said.

Trump advisor and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn accused the media of taking Trump’s statements out of context.

Chad Robichaux, the veteran who posed the question to Trump, told The Washington Post:

“I think it’s sickening that anyone would twist Mr. Trump’s comments to me in order to pursue a political agenda.I took his comments to be thoughtful and understanding of the struggles many veterans have, and I believe he is committed to helping them.”

Was either network’s coverage fair to the Trump campaign?

Former ABC and CBS correspondent Jack Laurence says yes:

“Trump appeared to be saying that some veterans, especially those in the audience, have been able to deal with [PTSD] better than others because they are (psychologically) ‘strong’, implying that those who cannot ‘handle it’ are not.”

Laurence stated that reporting the rest of Trump’s speech was not necessary because “It did not address the issue of who could ‘handle’ PTSD and who could not.” The rest of Trump’s speech may have been sympathetic, but Laurence says, “That’s not news.”

“It is certainly fair to single out a phrase or sentence from a candidate’s remarks without reporting the entire speech,” Laurence said.

He said the situation is similar to media outlets reporting Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment without covering her earlier talking points.

However, author and journalist Hooman Majd believes CBS’s reporting did take Trump out of context.

“Not showing video of his comments was lazy journalism at best,” he said. “In the kind of more intimate setting where his comments took place, and in an unscripted moment, language and body language, mannerisms, and general sense of the room have to all be taken into account. A transcript cannot do justice to the source.”

Majd said NBC’s coverage was “generally fair,” but failed to ask Trump’s campaign the essential question: “Does Donald Trump believe those soldiers who suffer from PTSD are weaker somehow than those who serve in war and don’t suffer?”

For now, the public will have to draw its own conclusions.

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