- Ralph Naderlongtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate. His recent piece for The Huffington Post is headlined “The Need for Progressive Voices.” His forthcoming book is titled Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think.
We speak with consumer advocate and former third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader about presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric and the corporate media’s coverage of Trump’s candidacy. Nader says TV networks are using public airwaves to “cash in” on the presidential race, while giving candidates like Trump a “free ride.” “The questions aren’t particularly pointed when they interview them, and they’re very repetitious, and they give these candidates like Trump and others front stage,” Nader says. “But also, they exclude leading citizens who could criticize the process, the candidates, and nourish the content of a presidential election campaign.”
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Ralph Nader, consumer advocate, former presidential candidate. Ralph, I want to ask you about the media and the rise of Donald Trump. This is CBS CEO Les Moonves speaking at a Morgan Stanley-hosted conference in San Francisco earlier this year.
LESLIE MOONVES: Who would have thought that this circus would come to town? But, you know, it may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS. That’s all I’ve got to say. So, what can I say? It’s—you know, the money’s rolling in, and this is—
UNIDENTIFIED: Polls are open.
LESLIE MOONVES: This is—this is something. I’ve never seen anything like this. And, you know, this is going to be a very good year for us. But—sorry, it’s a terrible thing to say, but bring it on, Donald. Go ahead. Keep going.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS. Ralph Nader?
RALPH NADER: There’s—there’s a perfect monetized mind of the commercial media using public airwaves, our property, to cash in and give the candidates a free ride. By a “free ride,” I mean that the questions aren’t particularly pointed when they interview them, and they’re very repetitious, and they give these candidates like Trump and others front stage. But also, they exclude leading citizens who could criticize the process, the candidates, and nourish the content of a presidential election campaign. And that’s what these networks do.
So, he says, “What can I say?” Well, here’s what you can say, Lester. You can say, yeah, you’re making a lot of money for CBS and your bonuses, but you’re also undermining democracy. There has to be commercially excluded zones for democracy. There’s got to be sanctuaries that are not commercialized and some things in our country that are not for sale. And elections should not be for sale, and they shouldn’t be driven by mass media profit. I mean, it’s really pretty amazing how insensitive a CEO can be about what your viewers just saw, Lester.
AMY GOODMAN: What kind of questions do you think should be put to Donald Trump? For example, people talk about, “Well, this country has to get right financially, right the ship. He can do it. He’s is a billionaire businessman.” How many times has Donald Trump gone bankrupt? I mean, in one project alone, right? Atlantic City casino, was it three or four times?
RALPH NADER: He’s had four major bankruptcies of his companies. He refuses to divulge his huge tax returns. He keeps saying his auditors are working on it, as he bides his time and gets past one primary after another. And if we had his tax returns, we could see how little tax he really pays—he’s almost admitted that; second, whether he really does give to philanthropy like he says he does; third, what his entanglements are and his shady business dealings. And, of course, that kind of detailed tax returns would lead to other lines of inquiry by the media. But, you know, Chuck Todd asks regularly on Meet the Press, and he keeps putting him off.
But the way to deal with Donald Trump is to throw him on the defensive, because he talks in terms of delightful conclusions—he’s going to get jobs, he’s going to do this, he’s going to do that—like a father authority figure, but he never says how he’s going to do it. And he implies that he’s being elected to a one-branch government, the White House, as if Congress doesn’t have a role in whether he’s going to build a $25 billion wall on the Mexican border, or doesn’t have a role whether he’s going to slap a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports.
The other thing that’s important is, I think there should be a nationwide petition, immediately, where all his wild bigotry, against women, Hispanics, Muslims, people with disabilities, on and on, are listed, and then the demand from hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people building day after day: Donald Trump, regret and recant. Donald Trump, regret and recant. He’s a master of repetition. You’ve got to feed him that kind of repetitious demand to throw him on the defensive. So, divulge the tax returns and start this nationwide petition. Donald Trump, regret and recant those remarks. And that will change the tone of the dynamics of the Trump campaign, which is always aggressive, always on the attack.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph, talk about the significance of the West Virginia primary, also Hillary Clinton, on the issue of coal, turning around.
RALPH NADER: Well, first of all, I think she was right in what she said. Let’s not exaggerate the role of coal in West Virginia’s economy. It’s about 3 percent of the workers and 6 percent of the economy, and it’s declining. Putting solar panels on West Virginia homes is a much safer, cleaner, better way to transition coal miners out of that deadly, dangerous underground work that has caused the loss of over 400,000 coal miner lives in the last 110 years—about what we lost in soldiers in World War II—from black lung disease, coal miners’ pneumoconiosis. So I think she was actually right. She’s trying to wiggle her way out of it now.
But West Virginia is an interesting case. It’s poor people, rich land, minerals, and it’s been voting Republican for members of Congress, voting Republican in the presidential races recently. And I think Bernie Sanders is going to do very well in West Virginia, because he cuts through the murkiness that has embroiled West Virginia politics for so long. Donald Trump actually just told people in West Virginia, “Don’t bother voting in the Republican primary. It’s over.” I mean, imagine telling somebody not to vote in the Republican primary, especially since he’s going to win it on the Republican side. He’s the only one really on the ballot.