MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Why The Media Should Cover Trump More

chris hayes on 2024 election

If you follow politics or regularly consume the news, you might feel like Donald Trump is all around you. As you read this, you might well be imagining, with unsettling precision, the former president’s voice billowing filth and invective in your brain. 

Chris Hayes, the MSNBC primetime host, thinks about Trump a lot — and he’s sick of it. “It’s a kind of prison,” he tells Rolling Stone of his, and the nation’s, preoccupation with the former president. 

Yet, Hayes says, the media needs to cover Trump more

The host of “All In with Chris Hayes” realizes that is a “counterintuitive take” — but he might also have a point (or two).

“The feedback I get from viewers is, why are you covering Trump so much?” he says. “Because he’s the most singular threat to the American constitutional order since the Civil War. That’s my answer to that question — which is, I think, absolutely true.”  

The second argument, one which defies conventional wisdom about how nonstop media attention aided Trump’s rise, is that Hayes believes more media coverage is what’s necessary to end his hopes of winning another term as president. “He is fundamentally an aberrant individual who has never won a majority of voters for a reason,” says Hayes. “He has very high unfavorables — because he’s aberrant. And any time the attention is mostly on him, his political standing erodes.”

Hayes, who has hosted “All In” since 2013, spoke with Rolling Stone last week, in advance of the New Hampshire Republican primary. On Tuesday, Hayes and his fellow MSNBC primetime hosts — Rachel Maddow, Ari Meber, Joy Reid, Lawrence O’Donnell, Alex Wagner, and Stephanie Ruhle — will lead the network’s special coverage of the primary results, beginning at 6 p.m. ET.

It’s a good time to get the team together in one place, since this might well be the final chance to host 2024 primetime presidential primary coverage. If New Hampshire goes as expected, and Trump defeats former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, his only remaining Republican challenger, the primary season will likely come to a quick close. 

Soon, we should arrive at the race observers have long expected: a rematch between President Joe Biden and Trump, in a contest that will likely be far uglier and have even greater stakes than in 2020. This time, Trump is running for president while facing a series of criminal indictments, including charges related to his efforts to overturn the last election. 

In this latest, darker campaign, Hayes believes Trump is not being covered enough — and it’s letting him off easy. 

chris hayes on 2024 election 2

Chris Hayes on set before taping his January 19 show at 30 Rock in New York City.

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

“I think there’s this sense… that he is essentially an attention monster who lives off attention, which is true at a sort of psychological level, but that his political power derives from it,” says Hayes. “I think it’s actually the opposite. I think, actually, he has been under-covered, which I think accounts for his strong political standing.”

He points to recent data, compiled by a Bloomberg economist, comparing the number of mentions of Trump and Biden in The New York Times. During the 2020 campaign, which Trump lost, his coverage in the Times far and away dwarfed the newspaper’s coverage of Biden. In recent months, the Times has mentioned Biden more often than Trump.  

“[Trump] is not the center of the national conversation — and many people are very happy for that because he [is] exhausting,” Hayes says, adding: “The fact of how malevolent he is is very easy to forget. And I think the degree to which he’s actually been under-covered has been an enormous political boon.”

If there was ever a question of the threat level posed by Trump, Hayes says the debate was “definitively” resolved by the former president’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump whipped thousands of his supporters into a frenzy before many of them violently stormed the United States Capitol, just as lawmakers were preparing to certify Biden’s victory.

Now, Hayes says, Trump “is running to finish the job of Jan. 6,” adding: “He clearly, to his cells, does not believe in democracy, he believes in dictatorship by him, and that is the explicit project of this campaign. He says it every day.”

“Today, he said that presidents have to have total immunity, even if they crossed the line into illegality, and compared himself to a ‘rogue cop,’” Hayes continues. “They say they’re going to declare the Insurrection Act. He says he’s going to be a dictator on ‘day one.’ He’s signing the backpacks of Jan. 6 insurrectionists and promising them pardons. It couldn’t be any clearer.”

Hayes notes that we got lucky many times throughout the Trump presidency that it was not even worse. The crazed Trump supporter who mailed homemade bombs in 2018 to the former president’s political opponents didn’t make them correctly, so they didn’t detonate; pipebombs left outside the Democratic and Republican national committees on Jan. 5, 2021 did not blow up; no lawmakers were hurt during the events of Jan. 6; Trump didn’t actually succeed in overturning the 2020 election. 

“There’s a degree to which luck has been mistaken for providence, or stability,” says Hayes. 

“Precisely the level of narcissism, malevolence, cruelty, and unfitness that was documented all along exploded in a moment of crisis in precisely the way that the most hysterical anti-Trumpers warned,” he adds. “Now, we all have the benefit of having lived through that. What do you think is gonna happen again?”

It’s not clear to Hayes that the U.S. justice system can handle Trump 2024, a campaign in which a candidate is motivated to run for president, in part, because it represents his best shot to avoid going to prison.  

“There’s this very clear inflection point and clear tasks for the system, which is, can it undertake the orderly administration of justice, with subsequently sufficient dispatch, to render determination prior to the election?” he says. “That’s a huge task.”

Is the Biden campaign up for the challenge? “I don’t know,” says Hayes, though he notes there is “some demonstrated success,” after Democrats performed much better than expected in the 2022 midterm elections. “I think the the possibility of improved economic performance this year is pretty strong, and you would imagine provide some ballast,” he says. Still, he notes, “the polling right now is just absolutely worrying.”

Then, there’s the question of whether the election system can withstand the ongoing efforts by Trump and his allies to preemptively sway the 2024 election results, or another, better organized election denial campaign. 


After the 2020 results, Team Trump schemed and failed to overturn the votes in seven states. What if 2024 is close? What if it comes down to one state, like Florida in the 2000 election?

“Part of the reason Jan. 6 failed — although it wasn’t guaranteed to — it was basically too little, too late,” says Hayes. “But put that into a statehouse that’s trying to figure out a vote count that’s genuinely very close [and] going to determine the national election. That’s nightmare fuel. If you re-run it, and there’s one state with a few thousand votes, it gets way, way scarier.”

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