Donald Trump's insult strategy grows like a virus.
I'm no fan of Trump, but I was surprised that a New York Times headline Wednesday morning called him a gorilla. What's happened to the Times bullpen?
Trump with his orange hair has been compared to an orangutan, a favorite joke of Bill Maher, making the headline a personal attack in the Trump mode. An apparent effort at light-heartedness, the headline clashed with the Times' standards of scrupulous fairness.
The Times headline calling Trump an "800-pound media gorilla" was even more jarring in wake of the killing of a rare gorilla at the Cincinnati zoo after fears that the animal would fatally injure a 3-year-old boy who had wandered into the animal's enclosure.
Animal rights groups protested, and even Trump expressed sympathy for Harambe, the slain 450-pound silver back gorilla. The animal's species is endangered. With Harambe's story raising the emotional climate, the headline was tone-deaf.
The headline appeared on a James Poniewozik column dissecting a Trump news conference at which he expressed hostility toward reporters. The news conference was also the subject of a front page Times article.
At his news conference, Tump singled out one correspondent from ABC and one from CNN for special doses of his anachronistic insult style, which uses adolescent cliches that went out of style in 1965, if not 10 years earlier.
The Trump news conference was called after the Washington Post reported that Trump had reneged on pledges to give donations to veterans' groups. Because of the Post article, Trump hastily wrote a personal check to a veterans group connected to one of his supporters.
Trump had previously threatened Post owner Jeff Bezos after a similar report exposing Trump's elastic relationship with the truth. This time, the Amazon owner escaped Trump's calumny.
The Times front page article and the Poniewozik column looked like thrown gauntlets. The pieces criticized Trump for not understanding the basic role of the press. The Times also published a lead editorial criticizing Trump.
The articles' tone showed an assumption that American citizens understand and support the press' function. But polls show widespread public distrust of the media.
Most Trump supporters agree with him that the press should "be nice" to him, not raise pesky questions about the truth of his statements. Average Americans believe that networks, newspapers and Internet media sites should be curbed.
Trump's appeal is based on a fantasy of a 1950s America that his invective recalls. His backers don't want that fantasy broken.
Belying campaign promises that Trump would be more "presidential," the candidate spent the last week insulting a variety of political foes, including Mitt Romney and the governor of New Mexico.
He admitted he won't change his style if elected president. If he wins the White House, It would be easy to see him touching off constant diplomatic crises insulting Merkel, Putin, Xi, Cameron, Hollande, etc., if they disagreed with his policies in any way.
Even gorillas won't escape. Trump's family loves killing big game animals in the wild.