Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

#EndorseThis: ‘President Show’ Trump Calls Press “Worst Hate Group Of Them All”

In deep-character as “the second president of the Confederate States of America,” President Show host Anthony Atamanuik addressed the violence in Charlottesville.

Challenged by a “reporter” about his coziness with white supremacists, Atamanuik-as-Trump denounced “the worst hate group of them all: the press.”

“I don’t side with white supremacists, honey,” he told a female “reporter.” “I don’t see color. I can’t. Because on Monday I stared directly into the sun.”

Why The Press Shouldn’t Believe Anything The White House Tells Them

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

Sitting down for his first presidential phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart “vowed to repair relations between the countries,” during a “warm” hour-long discussion, The New York Times reported.

The two men promised “to join forces to fight terrorism in Syria and elsewhere, according to the White House and the Kremlin,” noted The Washington Post, and the confab was “positive,” according to a White House statement quoted by NBC News.

Reuters agreed: “Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to try to rebuild U.S. Russia ties and to cooperate in Syria, the Kremlin said on Saturday.”

Virtually all the coverage of the Putin-Trump phone call was identical and had the same feel-good vibe, because the information about the call all came from the same two sources: a statement released by the White House, and one put out by the Kremlin. (“The chat took place in a positive and business-like tone.”)

Noticeably absent from the phone call? According to the White House, Putin and Trump did not talk about U.S. sanctions currently in place against Russia and whether Trump will lift them, even over objection from members of his own party. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus “refused to say whether” there was discussion during the call of U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia made a concerted effort to influence the November election in favor of Trump. The White House and Kremlin accounts suggest they never talked about news that two Russian intelligence officers who had worked on cyber-operations had been arrested on treason charges, in a move that some observers think may be related to Russia’s attempts to influence the U.S. election, or that there was any discussion of allegations that Russian operatives “claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.”

Instead, there wasn’t even a hint of discord between the two leaders, according to the press reports. And maybe there wasn’t any. But again, journalists received all their call information from aides who crafted public statements, which reporters then typed up as fact.

That in and of itself is not unusual. Reporters have routinely relied on the White House to release information about diplomatic calls and other commonplace events not witnessed by journalists. It represents a fairly routine interaction between the two sides.

But we’re in a new, drastically more dishonest era now, and it’s time for reporters to question even the most customary communications released by the White House, or background information offered up by aides.

As Dan Pfieffer, a former senior advisor to President Obama, suggested:

This shift represents another way the press needs to rip up the old rules for covering the White House, simply because we’ve never had a White House staffed with so many dishonest people embracing “alternative facts”; dishonest people whose fabrications are easily and quickly disproven. (Even regarding statistics.)

The problem isn’t just Trump. During his first week serving as White House press secretary, Sean Spicer became well known for the lies he told on behalf of his boss.

The reporting on the Putin-Trump phone call might seem like a small matter, but the context looms large: Even the most pedestrian interactions between the White House and the press are now open to suspicion. And it’s time to retire the idea that just because a White House statement asserts a fact, that reporters ought to relay it as one.

For instance, here’s how NBC News reported on the phone Putin-Trump phone call:

The approximately hour-long call was described as “positive” and “a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair,” The White House said in a statement.

A more accurate wording would have been this (emphasis added):

The approximately hour-long call was described as “positive” and “a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair,” The White House claimed in a statement.

It may seem minor, but it represents an important signal for the press to send Trump and his team, that after less than two weeks in office they have done very little to prove that they can regularly tell the truth about much of anything. What we’re seeing isn’t the traditional dance between the White House and the press, where aides spin on behalf of their boss and reporters parse out the truth. Instead, we’re seeing a non-stop attempt to steamroll — to gaslight — the press.

And here’s what was telling. The same day the Times relied on a White House statement to give the paper details about the Putin-Trump call, details that the Times then presented as fact to its readers, the paper ran a front-page story that basically detailed Trump’s long-time habit of lying about everything, all the time:

[T]he mystifying false statements about seemingly trivial details, the rewriting of history to airbrush unwanted facts, the branding as liars those who point out his untruths, the deft conversion of demonstrably false claims into a semantic mush of unverifiable “beliefs.”

So if newsrooms understand that falsehoods are the currency that Trump and his White House aides trade in each day, then reporters should stop treating unconfirmed claims from the White House as fact. Even when the supposed facts revolve around everyday matters like diplomatic phone calls.

IMAGE: White House spokesman Sean Spicer holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Journalists Speak Out On How The Press Should Cover Trump

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America

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.

In interviews with Media Matters, journalists and other media experts argue that reporters need to be ready to recommit to solid, rigorous reporting to hold Trump accountable and to stand together in the face of the Trump administration’s inevitable anti-press crusade.

Since being elected, Trump has continued to lash out at critical media outlets through his Twitter account. At his long-delayed first press conference as president-elect last week, Trump berated CNN reporter Jim Acosta, refused to let him ask a question, and dubbed his network “fake news.” Other journalists who were gathered for the press conference essentially just watched.

Several experts told Media Matters that the Acosta incident highlights the need for journalists to stand up to Trump.

“Part of the problem here is the press is walking into a buzzsaw,” said Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker. “There is a large percentage of the population that don’t believe us. Anytime a Jim Acosta raises his hand and tries to get the attention of the president-elect, there is a sizeable part of the population that says, ‘There they go again.’”

“You don’t get the public to pay attention by caving. We can’t be intimidated,” he said. “The fourth estate has a role to play. That role is we are representatives of the public — we are supposed to ask the question to better inform the public.”

In an open letter to Trump, Columbia Journalism Review Editor-in-Chief Kyle Pope argued that the days of Trump trying to pit journalists against one another “are ending. We now recognize that the challenge of covering you requires that we cooperate and help one another whenever possible.” He added, “So, when you shout down or ignore a reporter at a press conference who has said something you don’t like, you’re going to face a unified front.”

Pope elaborated on his proposal in comments to Media Matters, writing, “Working together at press conferences could mean not asking a question until a shunned organization has had a chance to be answered; it could mean actually jointly working on stories that are beyond the capabilities of a single news organization, much like ProPublica and the NY Times do now; it definitely means calling attention to good work from our competitors that may not otherwise get adequate notice.”

Adam Clymer, a former longtime New York Times political reporter, said press organizations need to unify and keep tabs on Trump’s anti-press treatment, recalling when the National Press Club once issued a report on President Nixon’s lack of press conferences.

“In a public setting, a little solidarity is probably called for,” he said. “In public, they should not tolerate his picking on one person. That is intolerable.”

Walter Shapiro, a Roll Call correspondent whose experience also includes stints at The Washington Post and Time, predicts, “It is going to be more anti-press. … It is really important for the press to stand together.”

Media Matters president Angelo Carusone recently launched a petition on MoveOn.org calling on news organizations to stand up to Trump’s attempts to blacklist or ban critical news outlets. (As of January 19, the petition has more than 285,000 signatures.)

Lynn Walsh, president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), told Media Matters that her group has heard from journalists who “feel threatened” by Trump’s behavior, and they are “talking internally about how we respond.”

She also said reporters must support each other, citing Shepard Smith of Fox News’ quick defense of Acosta last week. SPJ is one of several journalism groups expected to co-sign a joint letter to Trump that raises concerns about his treatment of the press and his moves and plans to limit access, including possibly evicting journalists from the briefing room in the White House.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) and the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) issued a joint statement of concern last week about Trump’s press treatment following a meeting of 50 such groups last week.

It said, in part, “In discussing top priorities as the Trump administration takes shape, the group agreed that countering legal threats to reporters – such as leaks investigations, libel suits, and a disregard for the Freedom of Information Act – and promoting a public policy in support of the public’s right to know are crucial areas that require a unified response.”

The journalists Media Matters spoke to also highlighted Trump’s regular disregard for the truth and his complex conflict-of-interest entanglements as challenges media outlets need to overcome in order to properly cover a Trump administration.

“I think it is going to be very challenging. We have to develop new ways of getting around” attempts to limit access, said George Condon of National Journal, who has covered the White House since 1982 and served as WHCA president in 1993 and 1994. “We will see how much access we have, how the press conferences are and the daily press briefing. If something becomes a pattern, we’ll react. You have to do your job — find out what the president is proposing, what it will cost, who it will affect.”

During the campaign, several veteran political reporters and journalists told Media Matters that one of the main deficiencies of media coverage of then-candidate Trump was a routine failure to follow up on important investigative reporting on Trump in favor of latching onto his outrageous comment du jour.

Steve Scully, C-SPAN senior executive producer and political editor and a former WHCA president, urged reporters to pick and choose what is important to cover and not get drawn into the outlandish story: “Don’t necessarily go for the shiny object; cover the substance. Is it harder? It is harder because he is very adept at trying to redirect the news cycle. We’ve never had somebody quite like Donald Trump in the White House. It is a whole set of new standards.”

As Media Matters and others have noted, during the transition, outlets have routinely dropped the ball — especially in headlines — by parroting Trump’s spin on current events without providing necessary context.

Lynn Walsh argued that media outlets need to be aggressive about highlighting falsehoods from the administration.

“If he is saying something that is incorrect, we have to say that is not true,” she said. “If it is incorrect or false, we absolutely have to say that is not true. We have to be better than we’ve ever been. We have to be accurate in our reporting and don’t put information out there that is false or misleading.”

“This is, I’m sure, going to be the most difficult administration ever to cover because of Trump, because of the internet, because of his apologists,” said Walter Mears, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press political reporter from 1956 to 2001. “I don’t think there is any question.”

“All you can do is listen, write down what he says, and be as aggressive as possible in finding out what’s behind it,” Mears added. “He’s already demonstrated that he can misrepresent anything by simply saying his version of truth and he’s got a lot of people who will believe it.”

Several major news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico, have already announced plans to increase White House staffing, doubling it in some cases.

David Folkenflik, NPR’s media correspondent, said it’s going to be “very important to follow his business entanglements and legislation. The important thing is not to let the Trump administration off the hook and keep your eye on the ball. We have not heard a full picture of Trump’s relationship with the Russians.”

He added, “News organizations are going to have to scrutinize and disentangle some of the business relationships, his foreign entanglements, and policy decisions.” Given the “combination of the lack of previous scrutiny of Trump and many of his most important figures and the skepticism to contempt he has for the roles the press plays in accountability and transparency,” media will “have to be willing to forgo access in order to serve the larger job.”

Trump’s Hotel Bans Press For Inauguration, Raising First Amendment Concerns

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

President-elect Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel is banning reporters from its premises during inauguration week, according to Politico’s Daniel Lippman. 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.

Throughout the 2016 campaign and into the transition, Trump has made his hostility to the press a centerpiece of his political strategy. Trump declared war on the press, which included mocking specific reporters as “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time.” He retreated to softball interviews during the final weeks of the campaign with largely friendly interviewers, Fox News, and fringe media. Since the election, Trump has lashed out at The New York Times several times for its “BAD coverage.” Trump’s own incoming press secretary also admitted that he threatened to remove a journalist who was trying to ask the president-elect a question, and prominent Trump supporter and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich applauded the threat, calling it “a signal, frankly, to all the other reporters that there are going to be real limits” for proper behavior.

Moreover, as Politico notes, Trump’s D.C. hotel is under “a 60-year lease with the federal General Services Administration, which owns the property.” Given that arrangement, a blanket ban on the press raises First Amendment concerns. Trump’s D.C. hotel has also been an ethical sticking point during Trump’s transition, as some in Congress have raised concerns about a conflict of interest between the president-elect’s business interests and his administration’s influence over the General Services Administration. From Politico’s January 18 article:

The Trump International Hotel in Washington is banning the media from its premises during inauguration week.

“Media is not allowed in this week in respect of the privacy of our guests,” Patricia Tang, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing wrote in an email.

A POLITICO reporter attempted to enter the hotel Wednesday morning for a previously scheduled breakfast meeting but was stopped at the door. He then identified himself as a journalist and was told “media” was not allowed.

President-elect Donald Trump and his three adult children own the project after winning a 2012 bid to redevelop D.C.’s Old Post Office. They have a 60-year lease with the federal General Services Administration, which owns the property.

IMAGE: Flags fly above the entrance to the new Trump International Hotel on its opening day in Washington, DC, U.S. September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo