Dan Rather: Trump Has Made ‘Some Headway’ in Undercutting Legitimacy of the Press

Dan Rather: Trump Has Made ‘Some Headway’ in Undercutting Legitimacy of the Press
Dan Rather is seen during The Miami Book Fair presented by Miami Dade College on Nov. 12, 2017.(Sipa via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – Longtime CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather said that President Donald Trump has waged war on the press and argued that he’s attempting to “undermine the public’s trust in the rule of law.”

“Trump has this war on the press. It’s so vital to understand what’s happening with that war, as you say, a combined campaign to undermine the public’s trust in rule of law and the press,” Rather said while leading a discussion on former CBS and NBC correspondent Marvin Kalb’s new book, The Enemy of the People: Trump’s War on the Press, the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy.

“Now, when people say, I get it, the war is on, we’re going to change the war and how do we change it? The mind, sometimes, depending on your political point of view, goes to, oh, well, in terms of the overall votes in the last presidential election – and this has happened before recently – that the votes were not for Donald Trump but he is in because of the Electoral College,” he added.

Trump won the Electoral College in the 2016 election, which determines who is elected president, but lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. Former President George W. Bush won the Electoral College in 2000 but lost the popular vote to Al Gore.

Rather said he personally has “concerns” about the Electoral College system but cautioned against eliminating it altogether.

“I personally am loathed to change it because it comes down to, change it to what? Number one, I do think the talk is, frankly, in some ways, I won’t say a waste of time, but we have to be careful because it would require a constitutional amendment. And if you do the math on states likely to vote for or against, I won’t say it’s more likely that water would run uphill before you get that; no, I don’t mean to joke about it but, as a practical matter, I personally don’t think it’s a good idea,” Rather said.

“I understand the argument for doing away with it but, number two, we can waste a lot of time on something that the odds are so strongly against getting enough states to approve a constitutional amendment that we, and this is my own opinion, we should concentrate on those things where there’s a chance to affect real change,” he added. “Not only do I not think it’s a good idea to change it, personally, but I think the chances of changing it are slim to none.”

Kalb said Trump “really does need” the media even though he has a massive following on social media with whom he can directly communicate.

“He proves that every single day by this love-hate relationship that he has with the standing media. The New York Times is the ‘failing New York Times,’ but he’s desperate to get an exclusive interview with the Times. I mean, in the last couple of weeks he’s been giving exclusive interviews, it seems, to everybody,” he said.

“He uses the press regularly and the press, I don’t think we use him, I think we are trying to cover him, but he makes it very, very difficult, so news organizations today have to enlarge their bureaus covering the White House,” he added.

Kalb continued, “We are at a point now where the media is there in its new, rich form to be exploited by someone who knows how to use that instrument… We’re going to be enjoying, suffering, the victim of, the beneficiary of, his management of the new media. And that is tricky and, I think, rather explosive, myself.”

Kalb mentioned that the Washington Post and New York Times subscriptions have increased due to their coverage of President Trump.

“Certainly the media needs him to make the kind of money that they are making right now. It is sad to say, but Donald Trump is one of the principle reasons why the New York Times, the Washington Post, other major newspapers, the three large cable news operations, are all making the kind of money they are making now,” he said. “Even if you opposed him, you were somehow fascinated by the guy, he was simply interesting, the same way that he is today. There is a fascination he provides to many people, even to those that cannot stand him.”

Rather said Trump has been focused on trying to “delegitimize” the media and “undercut the legitimacy of the press” while in office.

“Now, whether we like or not he has made some headway on this. Honest people can differ on how much headway, but he’s made some,” he said. “How much of that does the media have only itself to blame for? Because in many ways Donald Trump is a creation of the media. He exploited it very successfully and freely all during the campaign. So while we’re lamenting what has happened, and raising signals about the dangers of what has happened, what about our responsibility?”

In response, Kalb said the media shares “a considerable responsibility for the election for Donald Trump.”