President Donald Trump’s shocking request Thursday on the White House lawn that not only Ukraine, but also China, should investigate the Bidens, may have shown his open defiance of impeachment threats, but it also gave major air time to the innuendo the president and his allies have been trying to spread about Hunter Biden’s links to a company funded by a Chinese investor.

While the substance of news reports focused on the brazenness of the president’s publicly calling on foreign governments to investigate a rival, their headlines and chyrons often communicated a simpler message: “Trump: Ukraine & China Should Investigate Joe Biden and Son,” as CNN put it.

While the media’s interest was sparked by the possibility of wrongdoing by Trump, the casual reader watching TV with the sound off or scrolling the headlines on a news site might well have assumed the greater scandal was about Biden.

The media’s reaction to Trump’s China comments is a particularly dramatic example of what some writers and media specialists have discerned as a key to the president’s successful communications: He understands that readers no longer consume entire articles or watch lengthy news discussions. Rather, they pick up stray impressions from what they see or hear on the go, which then add up to concrete ideas that may not fully comport with facts or reality.

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