The Past, Present, and Future of Trump’s Troubling Attitude Toward the Press
After a whirlwind first weekend containing both the historic inauguration of Donald Trump and a global, record-breaking protest led by women, it is perhaps surprising that one of the most important news developments is perhaps months or years old: Trump’s treatment of the press.
Throughout the campaign and after the election, Donald Trump and his surrogates bemoaned inaccurate presentation and biased coverage ― regardless of whether news outlets were reporting facts or not. Most recently, Press Secretary Sean Spicer spoke on misrepresentations of the inauguration’s size and scope ― demonstrating that the administration is more interested in “alternative facts” that make them look good.
Though the election made it more than clear that most major news organizations lean left, it is undeniably dangerous for the president and his administration to proceed with their current relationship with the press.
Should his past behavior continue, news organizations big and small might struggle to obtain unbiased, truthful information. It is important to review the past, present, and potential future of Trump’s dealings with the American political press to determine the best way to protect our First Amendment right.
Trump’s Prior Press Relationship
As a celebrity, Donald Trump has almost always had a difficult relationship with the press.
Trying to balance a positive public reputation with outlandish private behavior, Trump often found himself a villain in the mainstream media, even before his decision to run for president. In 1973,
Trump earned his first media mention in a New York Times piece about housing discrimination, and in 1988, Trump garnered more media attention for a tone-deaf demand to execute the Central Park Five (who were, in fact, innocent). Though celeb news lauded the man for his wealth and status ― making him somewhat of an anti-hero among the public ― the press hardly painted him as a beloved American protagonist.
From the start of his campaign, Trump complained of the “dishonest” media that failed to accurately report the content and popularity of his rallies ― all while banning certain shots and cameras that might capture the high levels of attendance.
He bullied reporters and browbeat entire outlets; the most famous example is Megyn Kelly and Fox News, but there are others, including Katy Tur from NBC and Serge Kovaleski from the Washington Post.
Several times, Trump has suggested broadening libel laws to pursue news organizations and reporters whose stories he deems false.
Perhaps most importantly, Trump often fled his press corps during the campaign, leaving reporters uncertain of the candidate’s whereabouts ― which not only places Trump in physical danger but demonstrates his disinterest in transparency.
Distressing Similarities to Other Regimes
As president-elect and president, Trump has behaved little better.
His insults directed toward the press have continued ― if not grown in frequency and intensity.
For example, a sizeable portion of Trump’s first and only press conference as president-elect ― and his first press conference in nearly a year ― Trump devoted an undue amount of time berating BuzzFeed and CNN, even yelling “You are fake news” at a reporter asking for a question.
Worse still, the media faces near-constant opposition from the White House.
Several federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, have been served with gag orders, so that many leading officials are banned from talking to the media (the Department of Agriculture’s was lifted).
Some rumors suggest that Trump’s administration is considering cherry-picking reporters who can attend press conferences, potentially silencing organizations with disagreeing political opinions. It isn’t inconceivable that White House correspondents, even political experts, like longtime Capitol Hill Correspondent Kelly O’Donnell, might lose access to Trump and his team in the coming years.
To many, Trump’s attitude toward the press is reminiscent of a distressing figure in modern politics: Vladimir Putin.
Further, the Trump administration’s reluctance to affirm facts is a well-known tactic of the Kremlin, meant to spread confusion and discord amongst the population.
His unwillingness to answer direct questions, his disdainful tone, and his belligerence toward uncooperative organizations even reminds Russians of their beloved president, causing many Americans, Russians, and other world citizens to wonder what Trump will do next.
Author: Dave Thomas