Trump Actually Treating Media Better Than They Deserve

U.S. President elect Donald Trump reacts to a crowd gathered in the lobby of the New York Times building after a meeting in New York, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTSSUB4

Thanksgiving week started off with some wonderful drama between President-elect Trump and various members of the mainstream media. The latter have spent eight years more or less on vacation. All they’ve really done since January 20th, 2009, is slightly modify White House press releases then release them as “news.” MSNBC didn’t even do that, opting instead for simply repeating administration talking points verbatim every night.


Two weeks ago, the laziness of the narrative mongers was fully exposed. Rather than pay attention to what was going on around them throughout the campaign, they clung harder to a story that they’d written and, just like in every Dan Brown novel, they didn’t have much of an ending planned. In fact, they were so invested in that story that it never occurred to them that their reality would be uncomfortable should their fairy tale ending not pan out.

Let me insert a disclaimer here for the perpetually obtuse: I am in no way advocating for government power over the press. A free and responsible press is essential in this country. Unfortunately, the responsibility train left the station long ago.

The week began with Trump meeting an array of television news hacks who were then treated to something they’ve never experienced before: an incoming Republican president who didn’t have a “bygones be bygones” switch.

It had all the trappings of a high-level rapprochement: President-elect Donald J. Trump, now the nation’s press critic in chief, inviting the leading anchors and executives of television news to join him on Monday for a private meeting of minds.

On-air stars like Lester Holt, Charlie Rose, George Stephanopoulos and Wolf Blitzer headed to Trump Tower for the off-the-record gathering, typically the kind of event where journalists and politicians clear the air after a hard-fought campaign.

Instead, the president-elect delivered a defiant message: You got it all wrong.

Mr. Trump, whose antagonism toward the news media was unusual even for a modern presidential candidate, described the television networks as dishonest in their reporting and shortsighted in missing the signs of his upset victory. He criticized some in the room by name, including CNN’s president, Jeffrey A. Zucker, according to multiple people briefed on the meeting who were granted anonymity to describe confidential discussions.


The First Amendment doesn’t offer freedom from criticism, but you wouldn’t have known that from the reactions yesterday.

Donald Trump scolded media big shots during an off-the-record Trump Tower sitdown on Monday, sources told the Post.

“It was like a f−−−ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter.

“Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said, ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’ ” the source said.

“The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down,” the source added.

A second source confirmed the fireworks.

“The meeting took place in a big boardroom and there were about 30 or 40 people, including the big news anchors from all the networks,” the other source said.

“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room, calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.

“Trump didn’t say [NBC reporter] Katy Tur by name, but talked about an NBC female correspondent who got it wrong, then he referred to a horrible network correspondent who cried when Hillary lost who hosted a debate — which was Martha Raddatz, who was also in the room.”


If the “source” is accurate in recounting what Trump says then I do see a real problem…with anyone who thinks he was out of line.

Katy Tur was especially awful, so if Trump was referring to her he wasn’t being mean, he was being honest. Most of her reporting was about how Trump’s rally crowds and the campaign were affecting the reporters. It was one one of the most tedious and prolonged cases of journalistic navel gazing in history, if not the longest. On Election Night, Tur was visibly distraught and did little more than repeat the list of reasons that the media thought people shouldn’t vote for Trump every time she was on air. That was annoying earlier in the evening, and maddening in the hours after the election had been called. It seemed that she thought she could undo the results if she just whined enough. She was filled with angst-ridden complaints. She wasn’t reporting at all.

That’s just one example. I could fill a book with what I watched on Election Night alone.

Trump moved on to the print media Tuesday, scheduling a meeting with The New York Times. Before the meeting, something happened that he didn’t like and he called it off, announcing it on Twitter in very Trumpian fashion:


He could have left it at that and let his people get to work on ironing things out, but he’s still the same guy from the campaign, so he got in a couple more digs.

Surely the venerable Gray Lady wouldn’t let the president-elect push them around, right?

Trump then gave the Times a long interview and if he was rough on them too they didn’t report about it.

What all of this means is that the media’s days of operating in a biased, knee-capping fashion towards a Republican president with impunity are over, at least while Donald Trump is that Republican. Hopefully, the GOP will learn some lessons along the way and start calling out the media when they are lying. Prior to Trump the only Republican who consistently rejected false premises and biased questions was Newt Gingrich. The rest of the GOP pretended to be above the fray, not willing to engage hostile adversaries, which is precisely what most of the press who cover the White House and Capitol Hill are.


Trump got into the fray and it ruffled the delicate sensibilities of people on both sides who were used to the game being played a certain way. That game’s rules don’t favor Republicans though, and it was well past the time when the party needed a candidate who didn’t play by them.

The media complaints about being called out by the president-elect, as well as the implication that it’s unprecedented are just more disingenuous behavior. If anyone out there has a recent total of the number of times President Obama has singled out Fox News I’d like to have it, as I lost count years ago. When he isn’t complaining about them, he’s leveling an accusatory gaze at talk radio. Here he is in a post-election interview with The New Yorker reminiscing about his Senate win and presidential campaign in ’08:

“People didn’t see me coming,” Obama said as we drove through the night. “In southern Illinois, in those counties I won, I was at V.F.W.s and fish fries hearing people’s stories and talking to folks, so that they knew me. They weren’t getting me through Fox or Rush Limbaugh or Breitbart or RedState.

“In ’08, they saw me coming, but I was a guy named Barack Hussein Obama coming up against the Clinton machine, so no way! So they weren’t focussed on me, and I established a connection. Then came the stuff: Ayers and Reverend Wright and all the rest. What I’m suggesting is that the lens through which people understand politics and politicians is extraordinarily powerful. And Trump understands the new ecosystem, in which facts and truth don’t matter. You attract attention, rouse emotions, and then move on. You can surf those emotions. I’ve said it before, but if I watched Fox I wouldn’t vote for me!”


Grudge list much, Mr. President?

The fears of heavy-handed government involvement in the press are laughable too, given that the press got into bed with the Democrat side of government years ago, and has practically operated as a de facto wing of the White House Office of Communications for the past eight years.

Trump’s social media habits scare them the most, because as we saw with the New York Times meeting, he can take his case directly to the public. That connection has a lot of people freaked out because it seriously upsets the old order. No longer is everything filtered through the MSM. I’ve been saying since the beginning of the campaign that political science students will be studying Trump’s use of social media in this election for years to come.

Republicans who were uncomfortable with Trump’s rough style during the campaign and longed for Mitt Romney’s class and decency seemed to have forgotten that Romney’s fortunes turned on a dime because Candy Crowley ran interference for President Obama during a debate, fact-checking something Romney had asserted. One small problem, her fact-check was a lie. He essentially lost the election to a CNN reporter.

But, hey, above the fray and whatnot, right?

If the only thing Trump accomplishes in office is giving the GOP some lessons in handling the derelict, irresponsible MSM then he will have given the party a lasting gift that will reap rewards for it far into the future.


If some feelings are hurt along the way, they probably needed to be.


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