They’re one of the most popular shows on cable news and some networks want to stop broadcasting them live.
They’re the White House press briefings by the president’s coronavirus task force. The president frequently makes an appearance at these briefings, which is what the networks are seething about.
After listing all of Trump’s sins committed during these briefings, Washington Post’s media critic Margaret Sullivan lowers the boom.
The press — if it defines its purpose as getting truthful, useful, non-harmful information to the public, as opposed to merely juicing its own ratings and profits — must recognize what is happening and adjust accordingly. (And that, granted, is a very big “if.”)
Business as usual simply doesn’t cut it. Minor accommodations, like fact-checking the president’s statements afterward, don’t go nearly far enough to counter the serious damage this man is doing to the public’s well-being.
Radical change is necessary: The cable networks and other news organizations that are taking the president’s briefings as live feeds should stop doing so.
Sullivan thinks that the briefings have become a platform for Trump’s “self-aggrandizement,” “media bashing,” and “exaggerations and outright lies.”
You mean a president running for re-election blows up his own role in the crisis and tries to make himself look good? That’s never been done before in history! Or, at least since Barack Obama took credit for killing bin Laden.
Is calling out the media for being hysterical and so besotted with Trump-hatred that the crisis itself gets shortchanged the same as “media bashing”?
And it may be true that Trump exaggerates, but “outright lies”? Saying stupid things is not the same as “lying.” Claiming an unproven drug is a possible cure for COVID-19 is not a lie — it’s just dumb. The reason it’s dumb is because some people are even dumber than Trump and will take too much of it, or a poisonous version of it. That’s why it’s clinically, scientifically tested in controlled circumstances.
Trump’s shocking irresponsibility in promoting an unproven “cure” is ignorant, but not a lie.
What CNN and MSNBC are worried about is that Trump is becoming hugely popular as a result of these briefings. Unpresidential though they might be, Trump has defied conventional wisdom, shrugged off the virulent, unbalanced criticism from the press, and has toned down his act enough to appear calm and confident. People don’t care so much what Trump says, they care how he says it. And the president, to his credit, has been very good at these briefings at exuding confidence and a take-charge persona.
So, after spending three years railing against Trump for not holding daily briefings, they now want him to shut up.
An NBC News insider, however, said the White House briefings should be not be ignored, but instead thoroughly covered and aired, albeit with journalistic vetting and fact checking. “I completely get the criticism of the performance,” this person said. “But let’s remember that the White House press corps absolutely torched the Trump White House for eliminating the daily briefings. Now there’s a high-profile daily press briefing that often includes the president and vice president, so you can’t have it both ways.”
But the networks don’t like the “misinformation” that a sometimes confused Trump utters during these briefings, and they’re too damn lazy to correct it. Rather than do their jobs, they just want the whole thing to go away.
Six million people tuned into Fox News earlier this week to watch the briefing. Similarly, large audiences gather to watch Trump on other networks. Is the hubris and arrogance of the media so profound that they think they know better than the people what they want to watch? Let the people decide if Trump is lying. Let them discover “truth” on their own. The media aren’t lecturers or teachers, or priests in the pulpit preaching their message. They are fact gatherers and reporters.
Stick to that, guys, and you’ll be alright.