NEW YORK: #StopHateDumpTrump, a celebrity-driven initiative to derail Donald Trump’s bid for the White House, has collected more than 33,000 signatories running the gamut of household names from Harry Belafonte to Kerry Washington.
However, it’s getting a mixed reaction from the media, its target audience.
"We intend to put the media and political institutions on notice that they are accountable for normalizing Trump’s extremism by treating it as entertainment, by giving it inordinate and unequal air time, and by refusing to investigate, interrogate, or condemn it appropriately," said Eve Ensler, a Tony-award winning playwright, and one of the founders of the campaign.
The dispute this week between Trump and Fox News – the candidate is sitting out the network’s debate tonight because it will be moderated by nemesis Megyn Kelly – is another example of the media giving Trump too much airtime, said Cathy Renna, managing partner at Target Cue. The nonprofit agency is handling communications for #StopHateDumpTrump.
"I think that some of the PR [from Fox News on Tuesday] was overly sarcastic. Statements about [Trump’s] Twitter followers being his cabinet? That seemed really bizarre and inappropriate for a national news outlet to put out," Renna said.
She applauded Kelly, saying the host is doing her job.
"She called him on his sexism. If he’s saying that’s not fair game, he’s not ready to be the nominee," Renna said. "This is about holding the media accountable for not doing their due diligence."
Last Friday, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said #StopHateDumpTrump is trying to "intimidate the media."
"Donald Trump is a political candidate. He's very open about what he believes and you are free to take him or leave him, to criticize or praise him. But you are not free to threaten anyone who reports on him," O’Reilly said in his Talking Points Memo.
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed Ensler this week about the movement, and he sympathized with its founder that Trump has turned the 2016 race into a "reality TV show," full of "bigoted, hateful steam."
"And we’re watching it," Ensler said. "The media has basically turned it into entertainment, which has normalized Trump’s extremism, and each day spreads the margins of what’s acceptable."
O’Donnell agreed, and criticized other networks for playing into Trump’s approach.
"One of the saddest things you see in these TV interviews with Trump, are many times the interviewer at the end of the interview publically begging for Trump to give them another interview," O’Donnell said.
Renna said about 25 people are running the movement with consultants and activists in its "core group," each bringing different strengths, ways of expanding the initiative, and increasing followers. No members of the group are getting paid or spending money on the grassroots campaign, she said.
Ensler, Kimberle Crenshaw, and Jodie Evans launched the movement at Ensler’s house over dinner a few weeks ago. "It all happened really fast," Renna said.
Crenshaw, a professor at UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School in New York, is also the founder and director of the African-American Policy Forum and co-author of the #SayHerName report, which aims to highlight police violence against black women.
Evans co-founded Code Pink, a women-led peace and social justice movement.
A grassroots movement with traditional media relations approaches
Renna said its communications strategy includes both traditional approaches – issuing press releases and pitching producers with different sources – and social media.
"Kerry Washington tweeted out about it. When Kerry Washington tweets something out, people pay attention," Renna said. "We’re a very diverse group doing this."
Code Pink has disrupted several Trump rallies. Groups such as MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America have also been instrumental.
"We’re going to come up with other ideas and elevate this level of conversation," Renna said. "The goal is very basic. The goal is to hold the media accountable and give people a platform to talk about this."