The Media Today

The media today: Trump’s press attacks are boring, and dangerous

March 12, 2018

President Trump spent Saturday evening in western Pennsylvania, ostensibly in support of a struggling Republican congressional candidate. But, as has become expected at his campaign-style rallies, he quickly veered off script, turning his ire on the news media. In a profane tirade, Trump called Meet the Press host Chuck Todd “a sleeping son of a bitch,” and derided CNN as “fake as hell.”

On Sunday, he continued the verbal assault on individual journalists, responding to a New York Times report that he was in discussions with Bill Clinton’s impeachment lawyer by tweeting that Maggie Haberman was “a Hillary flunky,” who “knows nothing about me and is not given access.” Haberman, of course, is one of the most respected, deeply sourced journalists on the Trump beat, and she’s spoken with the president in the Oval Office and on the phone numerous times. (Her response to his ridiculous barb: “Lol”.)

RELATED: Assessing Trump’s press freedom record, one year on

Trump’s attacks on journalists have become such a regular part of his act that it can be difficult to feel outrage when he deploys them as applause lines at another rally, but there’s a danger in growing inured to the damage he causes. Beyond the possibility of physical harm to those covering his events, Trump’s message sows distrust of the media among his supporters and gives other politicians the leeway to make their own “fake news” claims.

And as the Associated Press reports, elected officials around the country are taking up attacks on reporting to excuse their behavior. “President Donald Trump’s campaign to discredit the news media has spread to officials at all levels of government, who are echoing his use of the term ‘fake news’ as a weapon against unflattering stories,” writes the AP’s Ryan J. Foley. “It’s become ubiquitous as a signal to a politician’s supporters to ignore legitimate reporting and hard questions, as a smear of the beleaguered and dwindling local press corps, and as a way for conservatives to push back against what they call biased stories.”

Below, more on the president’s attacks on the press.

  • Morning-after response: After Salena Zito brushed off Trump’s comments at his rally as part of his “shtick,” April Ryan shot back. “This is not shtick. It’s not comedy. This is real and it’s dangerous,” she said on CNN’s Reliable Sources.
  • Pushing back: Kudos to MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt, who shut down former Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci when he tried to invoke Trump’s preferred phrase. “We don’t use the term ‘fake news’ on this show,” Hunt interjected.
  • Speech overview: In addition to his profane press criticism, Trump touted his accomplishments and spoke in favor of foreign countries that impose the death penalty on drug dealers.
  • Global concern: In CJR’s most recent print issue, Ravi Somaiya examined the influence of Trump’s media approach on leaders around the globe. “The world’s authoritarians are watching the attacks on the press in the US—transforming the role of journalism and of reality itself,” he writes.
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Other notable stories

  • The New York Times’s Farhad Manjoo wrote a widely read column about unplugging from social media as a way to improve the quality of his news consumption. But for CJR, Dan Mitchell notes that he “remained a daily, active Twitter user throughout the two months he claims to have gone cold turkey, tweeting many hundreds of times.” On Sunday, Manjoo responded, tweeting, “I never said I was going offline. I explained I used the internet. I ran into tweets. I tweeted….There’s a difference between tweeting and consuming the Twitter stream for news.”
  • With former LA Times publisher Ross Levinsohn in a new role as chief digital officer of Tronc, NPR’s David Folkenflik looks at the newspaper company’s transformation, and questions whether Levinsohn will repeat his past mistakes. “Levinsohn stands to influence what tens of millions of Americans read under the brand of some of the nation’s most respected regional dailies,” Folkenflik writes.
  • The New York Times’s Sydney Ember reports from Des Moines, Iowa, where the Meredith Corporation continues to weather the storms of the magazine business. The company is completing a review of newly purchased Time Inc. titles, and could sell off iconic brands like Sports Illustrated and Time.
  • As 60 Minutes moves forward with plans to air an interview Anderson Cooper conducted with pornographic film star Stormy Daniels, BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner reports that President Trump’s lawyers are considering legal action to stop the broadcast. “Any litigation aimed at stopping CBS News from airing Cooper’s interview likely would be an uphill battle, given protections for press freedom against prior restraints,” Geidner writes.
  • The New York Times already conquered the world of the daily news podcast, and now it’s taking on narrative nonfiction. Caliphate will follow Rukmini Callimachi, the paper’s ISIS expert, “as she searches building after building in the city of Mosul, collecting thousands of pages of secret papers from al-Qaeda’s North African branch, showing how they governed and answering the disturbing question of their longevity,” according to a press release. A preview of the show, which launches later this spring, is up now.

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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.