MSNBC’s recent decision to not carry live from the White House Sarah Sander’s briefing with reporters represented a long overdue course correction for how the press covers this radical president.
By opting not to give Sanders a national platform, where she does little but evade reporters’ questions when not trafficking in obvious lies, MSNBC made a conscious decision to change direction and break from the media pack.
Increasingly, we’re seeing promising signs of change, as reporters more directly confront the avalanche of White House lies.
Still, Trump represents a five-alarm fire for this country, and it’s disturbing that some journalists are just now sliding down the pole at the station.
Cutting the cord on press briefings represented a much-needed move — and we can hope MSNBC’s competitors will follow. Because what the press has been doing for two years with its Trump coverage isn’t working.
In age of 24/7 Trump media, we already forget that cable news channels didn’t use to cover White House briefings live and in their entirety. That was invented for the Trump administration. So if the press can invent new norms for Trump, they can also unplug them, which is what MSNBC wisely chose to do.
That move came on the heels of the decision by news organization to take collective action and support CNN’s legal battle to reinstate Jim Acosta’s White House press credentials, after they were yanked following a contentious back-and-forth with Trump at a televised press conference.
That too, was a long overdue move by media outlets to band together and fight Trump’s relentless bullying. They should have done that three years ago when the Trump campaign was herding reporters into metal pens at his rallies, limited the access journalists were allowed to have to report on his events.
It’s an absolute certainty that if Hillary Clinton’s campaign had ever infringed on reporters that way in 2016, the press would have raised holy hell. (The media cried foul over a simple Clinton rope line at a Fourth of July parade.)
But intimidated by Trump, and the right wing’s relentless campaign to delegitimize the press, news outlets have let Trump push them around, relentlessly, for far too long.
Thankfully, we’ve seen some other recent examples of reporters finally emerging from their shell.
During a recent interview with Ivanka Trump, ABC News confronted the first daughter with video proof after she claimed her father never suggested migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. might have to be shot.
(Unfortunately, ABC News in the same interview did a much poorer job holding Ivanka accountable for the private emails she’s been using.)
Meanwhile, at CBS News, reporter Paula Reid managed to fact-check Trump in real time after he lied about his radical immigration policy.
“Obama had a separation policy; we all had the same policy,” he claimed while addressing a gaggle of White House reporters.
“Sir, it was different. You decided to prosecute everyone at the border,” Reid responded.
Highlighting the exchange, the Washington Post reported, “The president ignored Reid’s follow-up comments, but she was praised for pointing out to the president that what he said was wrong.”
I join in the praise of Reid, and ABC’s firm handling of Ivanka’s attempted immigration whitewashing. And that MSNBC decision to leave Sarah Sanders out in the cold. And the collective push to support Acosta in his battle with the White House.
My praise is tempered though, by the frustration that all of these obvious moves should have been made many, many months ago — and it shouldn’t be considered ‘news’ in late 2018 that a reporter held a congenital liar like Trump accountable.
My praise is also tempered by fear that the media’s attempted course corrections in Trump coverage might just be too late.