Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said that she expects that the “outrageously imbalanced” news media coverage of Donald Trump will “begin to even out” as the race heads to the general election.
In an interview with Variety on Wednesday, Wasserman Schultz said that the general election will present a different dynamic because it will be a head-to-head matchup, versus the GOP primary when Trump dominated coverage against 16 other opponents.
She said that the DNC “will be pushing for accountability when it comes to the media’s coverage of this campaign from our perspective. The opportunities should be essentially even, and so it is my hope and our expectation that the coverage would begin to even out, and you not allow what they allowed to play out during the primary. And I expect that they will be more responsible about it than they have.”
Analytics firm MediaQuant valued Trump’s earned media coverage at $2.8 billion, compared to $1.2 billion for Hillary Clinton, $770.7 million for Ted Cruz and $658 million for Bernie Sanders. The figures are for 12 months ended April 30. The Trump coverage, she said, has “kind of been outrageously imbalanced.”
Still, Wasserman Schultz said that it was “not for us to dictate” whether news networks conduct phone interviews with Trump, as opposed to in-studio or on camera interviews. Clinton has conducted phoners too, but news networks have been criticized for the extent to which they have featured Trump by audio only.
“I am just talking about the coverage needs to be balanced, and they can’t just focus on ratings, and they need to focus on making sure that they present a fair opportunity that is presented to them without being mindful that there is a candidate on the other side,” she said.
Wasserman Schultz was at the headquarters of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the day after Trump trounced Cruz in the Indiana primary and Cruz dropped out. Trump’s remaining rival, John Kasich, abandoned his bid on Wednesday, making Trump the presumptive nominee.
Wasserman Schultz called Trump an “abomination.”
“Donald Trump is the Republican party,” Wasserman Schultz said. “…So any comparison of Donald Trump being able to vanquish his opponents in the primary to he general election are really completely comparing apples and oranges. Donald Trump’s success has proven that this is where the Republican party of today is. They are right wing and extreme. They support misogyny. They are willing to support the most bigoted, sexist, misogynistic bully that has campaigned for the presidency in modern times. And that certainly is not where a majority of Americans are.”
Still, she said that she agrees with pundits and analysts who say that Trump should not be underestimated.
“We are a divided nation,” she said. “We are going to take this election very seriously, unlike Republicans, who laughed Donald Trump off for far too long. We have been assuming for many months that he would be their nominee, have been preparing for him to be their nominee, and we will be running this election as if it were a down-to-the-wire close election.”
The race between Clinton and Sanders has gotten heated, while the expectation had been that the Democrats would wrap up their primary race before the Republicans did. Instead, Sanders won Indiana’s primary, although it didn’t put much of a dent in Clinton’s delegate lead.
Wasserman Schultz said that she was “confident” of party unity.
“On our side, compared to 2008, this is a relatively tame back and forth,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Go back and watch some of the acrimony between Obama and Clinton at this point. The election was much closer, and you had a lot more acrimony. Surrogates were on TV trashing the other. And not only did we reunify even though it played out through the primaries, President Obama eventually asked Senator Clinton to be his secretary of state.”
Wasserman Schultz said that she has “cautioned the candidates at this stage of the campaign to be mindful of tone,” but she also noted that each candidate has vowed to support the other in the general election.
Instead, she said that it is Republicans who “have a real problem with unity” based on sentiments expressed by some conservatives on social media who say they will never back Trump.
She said that they would be reaching out to Republicans to support the Democratic nominee.
“There are a number coming out publicly on their own,” she said. “We always do, but we see many more than usual on the Republican side who are actually saying they will not only go to the polls and vote for our candidate but will be willing to work for our candidate.”
She predicted that there will be more voter interest in the Democratic National Convention than the Republican gathering, which she said is “going to be a circus.”
“They are about to nominate the most extreme, racist, sexist, bigoted, misogynist in modern times,” she said. “So watching their convention play out will be more like watching a train wreck. You shouldn’t do it, but you can’t help yourself.”
She added, “If you look comparatively at 2012, the Republican National Convention, with a so-called establishment nominee, ended with Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair.” She said that this years DNC “will be such a clear and stark contrast about the choice that voters will have in being able to move us forward and focus on the future or be dragged backwards and worse.”
Wasserman Schultz said that she expected the electoral map to look like it did in 2012, although she pointed to demographic shifts and expected turnout from voters alarmed at the prospect of Trump being elected. Although California is reliably blue, she pointed to 14,000 new Democrats registered in Orange County, a traditional conservative bastion.
“They are generating interest on our side simply because of how badly [the Republicans] are alienating large groups of voters,” she said.