Now the collective outrage about President Trump’s many attempts to bully journalists needs to be institutionalized. It needs to be backed up by the power and prestige of the country’s largest news organizations. In other words, it’s time for institutions to take collective action and fight back.
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile,” Steve Bannon told The New York Times. “I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
The Trump team’s refusal to appear on CNN came one day after it declined to air the live feed of Spicer’s first press conference after the inauguration, where Spicer blatantly lied about the size of inauguration crowds. This presumed blackout of CNN comes after escalating attempts to delegitimize the network, brand it as “fake news,” and avoid questions from CNN reporters.
According to a handful of lawyers specializing in First Amendment and press issues, Trump is primed to use his office’s great power to intimidate, obstruct, censor, spy on, and silence the media. In the most visible instances, bullying, the president faces no restrictions on his speech, regardless of its truth or who he victimizes.
Facing the reality of President-elect Donald Trump’s impending inauguration, traditional media outlets can either band together in the face of Trump’s bullying anti-press tactics or risk being steamrolled by the incoming administration. Reporters need to be ready to recommit to solid, rigorous reporting to hold Trump accountable.
The Trump administration’s reported proposal to move the White House press briefing to a large room that can accommodate pro-Trump sycophants and propagandists is brazen and destructive. But it’s also not entirely new — the Bush administration adopted a similar strategy in 2004.
President-elect Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel is banning reporters from its premises during inauguration week. The move underscores the incoming president’s personal hostility toward the press and raises First Amendment issues, as the hotel space is leased by the president-elect from the federal government.
Donald Trump is fulfilling the role of an authoritarian demagogue so thoroughly that if this whole disaster were a movie, it would be criticized for being formulaic and cliched. His frequently expressed hostility toward the media comes right out of a well-worn copy of the Dictator’s Playbook, and he has repeatedly revealed himself to be an enemy of a free press.
Esquire magazine reported on Saturday that the Trump administration planned to relocate White House reporters from the press room to the White House Conference Center or the Old Executive Office Building next door. Such a move would mark a potential change in access for reporters as the current briefing room is only steps from the Oval Office.
Trump sought to use yesterday’s press conference to conflate the two stories and employ them to shatter the credibility of the news outlets that published them. The result was a horrifying day for press freedom. Trump will be sworn in as president in eight days. Things can still get much, much worse.
The lesson from Trump is that he won’t accept the sort of adversarial journalism CNN has engaged in here, which is necessary and vital for a modern, functioning democracy. But if you suck up like Breitbart did (and has done), you will be perfectly fine.