Martin Schram: Discovering the real Trump — unhinged and unworthy

From the commentary: And so it goes. Fox (News) has redefined itself as the ultimate conveyor of fake news. And (Donald) Trump’s former faithful may soon discover that all he can ever do is Make Americans Grate Again.

Fox News headquarters
A political display is posted on the outside of the Fox News headquarters on 6th Avenue in New York on July 21, 2020.
(Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Without warning, Donald Trump’s patriotic, faith-based MAGA believers were bombarded not just once, but twice, last week by shattering news.

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Worse yet, it wasn’t fake.

So of course they looked south to their supreme leader to give them a fact-based rebuttal to gush through their favorite social media firehose. But, in his Mar-a-Elba, their lonely leader had nothing for them. He may well feel like the walls are slowly closing in. And we know why: He knows what else will soon be coming.

Today we’re going to spotlight the most obvious reality Trump hopes you’ll never discover. But before that, we need to recap the news that has just shaken Trump’s faithful.

First: In Georgia, the Fulton County special grand jury issued a short, powerful uppercut of a redacted report. In a unanimous decision, the 26-member grand jury that investigated the conspiracy claims pushed by Trump and his team concluded “no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election.”


Second: Texts and emails, made public in a lawsuit by the Dominion voting machine company, showing that those “Big Lie” conspiracy claims that were pushed by Trump and his cuckoo’s nest of lawyers were contemptibly rejected and profanely sneered at in private by the MAGA crowd’s favorite far-right Fox News commentators: Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, and the behind-the-scenes Fox producers. Plus one other noteworthy: the zillionaire who owns the whole shebang, Rupert Murdoch.

But Fox News and all those Fox superstars continued to publicly air the election denial claims of interviewees they privately called liars. Why? Their internal communications made clear they feared losing their far-right audience if they reported the truth.

Carlson wrote (according to the evidence made public) that Trump — whom he championed on the air — was a “demonic force” and was “destroying things,” adding: “He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.” After privately rejecting the election denial deceptions, Carlson had Fox advertiser Mike Lindell of My Pillow fame on his show to air his unsubstantiated claims. And then Carlson said goodbye: “Mike Lindell, I really appreciate your coming on tonight. Thank you very much. God Bless you.”

Sean Hannity kept putting election deniers on his shows, even though he privately fumed at Trump’s claims that he really won the election, writing (according to the evidence revealed): “He’s acting like an insane person.”

Hannity — Trump’s admirer, backer and sometimes adviser — gets us to that one observation and insight that our defeated president hopes you’ll never explore. Especially because Trump knows, deep down, that his own actual mental state is out there for us all to see and hear — if we google the entire audio and transcript of Trump’s entire one-hour-plus Jan. 2, 2020, phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

We’re not just talking here about Trump’s one infamous plea to Raffensperger: “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.” We’re talking about the inescapable revelation about the real Trump that will be understood by those who take the time to listen to and/or read the entire phone call. We’ll hear and read Trump rambling and ranting, often repetitively, sometimes incoherently, increasingly desperate, ultimately unhinged. Trump keeps offering differing large numbers of ballots he claims were lost or stolen or shredded or whatever — but offers no proof.

Raffensperger and his team calmly interrupt only to respectfully say Trump is wrong, that the facts, videos don’t show that.

Trump sometimes intimidates: “That’s a criminal offense. … That’s a big risk to you and to … your lawyer.” Trump sometimes insults: When Georgia’s secretary of state doesn’t agree with something, Trump likens Raffensperger to “a child … just a child.”


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Trump pleads like a pol: “You have a big election coming up, and because of what you’ve done to the president — you know, the people of Georgia know that this was a scam,” Trump said. “ … and a lot of Republicans are going to vote negative because they hate what you did to the president. OK? They hate it … if this can be straightened out before the election.”

Finally, in desperation, America’s president begs: “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”

And so it goes. Fox has redefined itself as the ultimate conveyor of fake news. And Trump’s former faithful may soon discover that all he can ever do is Make Americans Grate Again.

Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at This commentary is the columnist's opinion. Send feedback to:

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