The Media Today

Surreal moments and a rare press conference highlight Trump-Kim summit

June 12, 2018

Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un concluded the day of talks by signing an agreement in which Kim promises to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons. Trump called the agreement “very comprehensive” in a press conference following the signing ceremony, but the text of the document contains no mention of concrete steps the North Korean regime would take to fulfill that pledge.

The whirlwind day in Singapore concluded with the president taking nearly an hour of questions from journalists, his first solo press conference in more than a year. Trump appeared confident, celebrating his administration’s accomplishments and brushing off concerns about the US conceding to end military exercises that the US and South Korea conduct in the region. He also claimed that he raised concerns about the North Korean regime’s human rights violations “at length,” though the issue was not mentioned in the agreement.

The meeting with Kim began with a handshake, broadcast across the US on network news reports and cable stations (ABC even cut into The Bachelorette to cover the moment). Trump and Kim then walked together to a private meeting, joined only by their respective interpreters. Throughout the day, including at a working lunch with various aides, Trump and Kim were depicted as peers, world leaders discussing issues of global consequence. That, in itself, is a victory for Kim; no sitting US president has ever met with a North Korean leader.

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While Trump and Kim were meeting, cable news was left with hours of breaking news airtime to fill. In a surreal moment, CNN’s Chris Cuomo, anchoring from New York in his new evening role, spoke with former NBA star Dennis Rodman, one of the only people to have met with both Trump and Kim. Wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and a T-shirt advertising a marijuana-focused cryptocurrency, Rodman became emotional while speaking about the North Korean dictator’s love for his country. Cuomo then cut to commentary from former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who admitted that Rodman possesses unique knowledge of both leaders’ personalities.

Trump’s post-meeting press conference began with a propaganda-style video, prepared by the US, painting a rosy picture of North Korea’s possible future. The president then referred to himself as “an emissary of the American people to deliver a message of hope and vision, and a message of peace,” before taking questions from more than two dozen reporters. He appeared relaxed, teasing The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker about negative stories, telling CNN’s Jim Acosta, “Be nice, be respectful,” and thanking One American News’s Emerald Robinson for her network’s favorable coverage. Praising his own deal-making ability and instincts, Trump framed the meeting as a success, and said it was possible he would invite Kim to the White House or travel to Pyongyang himself.

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After a meeting that seemed unimaginable only a few months ago, there will be plenty to analyze in the hours and days ahead. Details of the agreement Trump and Kim signed are currently being debated on cable news. As for Trump, he closed his press conference by answering a shouted question about his thoughts on the summit, saying, “I feel good. I feel very good.”

Below, more on the coverage of the Trump-Kim summit.

  • ABC’s interview: In a rare televised non-Fox interview, Trump sat down with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos. “Maybe in a year you’ll be interviewing and I’ll say I made a mistake. It’s possible,” Trump said. “We’re dealing at a high level, a lot of things can change; a lot of things are possible.”
  • A new chapter?: The New York Times’s Mark Landler called the meeting “a momentous step in an improbable courtship that has opened a new chapter for the world’s largest nuclear power and the most reclusive one.”
  • From North Korea: The Washington Post’s Anna Fifield shared images from North Korean newspapers. “Simply extraordinary: North Korea’s main newspaper today features color photos of Kim Jong Un walking around Singapore, a breathtaking, modern city with an electricity supply that North Koreans can only dream about. Plus crowds taking photos of the ‘Respected Leader,’” she tweeted.
  • A gambit for the midterms?: Politico’s Eliana Johnson, Nahal Toosi, and Nancy Cook write: “Trump’s meeting with Kim gave him the opportunity to play the role of statesman and dealmaker ahead of the crucial 2018 midterm elections—even if critics worried the summit was more of a photo-op than any substantive discussion to delay a potential military conflict.”
  • Hannity interview coming tonight: Fox News’s Sean Hannity also scored a post-meeting interview with Trump. It won’t air until tonight, but Axios has a preview.


Other notable stories

  • Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is donating $20 million to CUNY’s journalism school, which will be renamed the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, according to Poynter’s David Beard. Newmark has provided support for numerous journalism institutions, including CJR, and the gift to CUNY marks his largest donation. “We are living in a time of crisis,” Newmark told Poynter. “We need a lot more people coming in the field doing good journalism.”
  • Vox’s Lauren McGann tells Jezebel’s Anna Merlan that she was the victim of a smear campaign after reporting on allegations against The New York Times‘s Glenn Thrush. The Times launched an investigation into Thrush’s behavior after McGann’s story, eventually suspending him for two months and moving him off the White House beat.
  • For CJR, Farai Chideya says that coverage of Kate Spade’s death reveals the need for media diversity. “A story on the death of a prominent businesswoman and designer is certainly worthy of coverage, even front-page coverage,” Chideya writes. “The issue here is a dissonance between the exclusionary sense-of-belonging cues and the broad news audience the Times
  • New York’s Josef Adalian has a deep dive into Netflix’s business model on the cover of the magazine’s new issue. “Netflix is hiring everybody in and out of Hollywood to make more TV shows than any network ever has,” Adalian writes. “And it already knows which ones you’ll like.”
  • CJR columnist Trevor Timm argues that there are important lessons from Obama’s mistakes in Trump’s new crackdown on leaks. “While Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are undoubtedly responsible for this brazen attack on press freedom, the groundwork for the current moment came from decisions by the Obama administration,” Timm writes.

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