GREENSBORO — Many Donald Trump supporters said Friday that they already knew what he has started to claim on the campaign trail: The media is working together with Hillary Clinton and elite corporate leaders in a game that is rigged to defeat their candidate.
“It ain’t just because Trump says it” that the conspiracy is real, said Curtis Essick, of Greensboro, outside the venue. “Trump’s just the one who’s finally put it all together.”
“The emails show that,” added Essick, referring to emails apparently from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, that were published by Wikileaks this week. (The US government has said the Russian government has been behind many leaks with the intent to undermine the election.)
On Thursday, Trump said that the leaked emails show “Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.”
He added that she has "deployed" the press against him, a claim he repeated Friday.
“No paper is more corrupt than the failing New York Times,” Trump said in Greensboro. “The largest shareholder in the Times is Carlos Slim. Now, Carlos Slim, as you know, comes from Mexico.”
He added, “He’s given many millions of dollars to the Clintons and their initiative... so Carlos Slim, largest owner of the paper, from Mexico.”
Trump has fanned the conspiracy line amid widespread outcry by fellow Republicans and others upset by comments he made about forcing himself on women in a 2005 hot mic recording. With a growing list of women coming forward to tell stories of Trump’s alleged sexual assaults, he unveiled the aggressive new line of attack Thursday at rallies in Florida and Ohio.
Trump accused the women of fabricating their stories as part of a vast, global conspiracy that wraps in Hillary Clinton, the global business elite, bankers and the news media — all dead-set, he said, on “destroying our movement.”
Trump continued the theme Friday, though in more measured tones, asking the crowd if they really thought he would have forced himself on “that” — referring to a woman who told the New York Times he had groped her on an airplane decades earlier. He dismissed another woman, who told the Washington Post that he groped her at a New York City nightclub, saying the woman described him sitting alone, but he rarely sits alone.
Outside the venue in Greensboro, some supporters described the situation more cautiously.
“I think that companies that can afford to will ‘pay to play,’” said Jane Horn, of Greensboro, who attended with her husband, Don. “But I wouldn’t label it a conspiracy.”
Robin Renée, a retired social services worker handing out CD singles of her original, Trump-inspired song, “Make America Great Again,” said she already understood before Trump said it that Clinton and the media are in cahoots.
“I’m just glad he’s letting everybody know what’s really going on in Washington,” she said, adding that she believes it is “just so obvious” that women speaking out against Trump are being paid by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“I think she’s working it — she’s going to do whatever it takes to be president,” Renée said.
Proof of the conspiracy is apparent in the way the media focuses on negative stories about Trump, said a local Greensboro resident who declined to give his name. He said there’s never anything negative about Clinton in the news, but “they’ll run with any improper accusation [about Trump] with no merit, blowing it out of proportion,” he said.
While the news media is picking apart Trump, the man said, “the world is going to hell in a handbasket.”
In Charlotte, North Carolina, at an event later that day, rally attendees agreed that Trump hasn't been getting a fair shake in news coverage.
"The media is totally trying to get Clinton elected," said Gerald Goodman, who works in sales and marketing. "But the media has been controlled by Democrats for a while now."
Connie Zmijewski, a mental health counselor, said she believes Trump supporters have been portrayed as "uneducated, deplorable bigots," and that "there are elites in our own country trying to keep Trump out."
"The media is downplaying the recent leaks against Clinton campaign," said Matt Zmijewski, her husband. "I've gotten to a point where I can't even listen to the news anymore, and that includes the Fox channel."
Cora Lewis contributed reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Daniel Wagner is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Daniel Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cora Lewis is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Lewis reports on labor.
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