Trump-Kim coverage draws charges of moral equivalence

As President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un exchange barbs and threats, many high-profile media types and Hollywood entertainers have framed the back-and-forth like a battle of two heavyweight fighters.

“Kim Jong-un called Trump a ‘dotard.’ How harsh is that burn?” read a New York Times headline and tweet on Friday, one of several articles across various platforms that covered the Trump-Kim faceoff.

But others didn’t find it appropriate to pitch up the brutal North Korean dictator as if he were a rival athlete to the American president.

“This is actually a classic media tactic -- moral equivalency,” said Dan Gainor, vice president of the Media Research Center. “They used it a lot during the Cold War, where America was depicted just the same as Communism, that ended up killing 100 million people.”

Among Kim’s more notorious atrocities are the ordered executions of defectors by pulverizing them with anti-aircraft guns, incinerating them with flame throwers, killing off close family members, and starving the entire North Korean nation while he continued to build up the country’s nuclear weapons program.

To Kim’s many critics, North Korea is run as a massive concentration camp. Which only raises more questions about how several media outlets framed the Kim-Trump story.

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brezezinski called Trump a “child” on Friday morning, after reporting on the president’s latest message to Kim. Mediaite, a media watchdog website, editorialized Brezezinski’s comments, writing that Trump is escalating tensions with “immature trash talk.”

CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller made sure to point out Trump was “at his golf club” on Friday morning, while comedian-turned-activist Chelsea Handler tweeted that she actually prefers Kim to Trump, asking if we can “trade.” Actor Michael Rapaport said Trump and Kim were involved in “Twitter beef,” and referred to it as “keyboard karate.”

But to Gainor, “it shows just how demented American journalism has become when they pretend Trump is just the same as Kim Jong-un.”  

Trump made headlines around the world earlier this week by referring to Kim as “Rocket Man,” while warning in his U.N. speech that the U.S. could "totally destroy" North Korea. The speech was praised by Trump supporters, and condemned by the left.

Kim fired back with his "mentally deranged U.S. dotard" comment, while threatening to blow up a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.

The “dotard” reference in particular caught the attention of the media, and was a top search term across the internet. The Times “dotard” headline, sent out on the paper’s verified Twitter account, prompted comments from readers favorably comparing Kim to Trump.

One user wrote “Maybe Kim Jong-in is not as crazy as we thought. He sure pegged Trump! His vocabulary is certainly better!”

Other comments include Times’ followers claiming the “truth hurts” and proclaiming that dotard is their new “favorite word.”

A Times reporter took to Twitter to make his own joke. “Damn. ‘Mentally Deranged U.S. Dotard’ was going to be the name of my dad band, a kind of funk/math rock thing, and now I've gotta change it,” national correspondent John Schwartz wrote

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News.

Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.