Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.
During Donald Trump’s press conference, the president-elect criticized CNN for reporting on alleged contacts between his campaign and the Russian government, and then CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask a question. Trump refused Acosta’s repeated requests. Soon after, Trump solicited a question from Matthew Boyle of the embarrassingly pro-Trump Breitbart News, who served up a softball.
On Tuesday, CNN reported that “classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” The documents also reportedly included “allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Buzzfeed followed CNN’s article by publishing pages of raw memos related to the allegations.
At his press conference, responding to a question from CBS’ Major Garrett, Trump elaborated on a tweet he sent out on Wednesday morning in which he wrote, “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
Trump said BuzzFeed would “suffer the consequences” for publishing the memos and that CNN went “out of their way to build it up.”
CNN reporter Jim Acosta then attempted to ask Trump a question, noting, “Since you’re attacking us, can you give us a question?” Trump refused and waved him away. Acosta persisted, and Trump refused and said CNN is “terrible,” told Acosta to be quiet, and said, “You are fake news,” before moving on to another reporter.
A few minutes later, Trump turned to Matt Boyle of Breitbart.com, who proceeded to ask Trump about “all the problems that we’ve seen throughout the media over the course of the election” and “what reforms do you recommend for this industry here?”
It would hardly be possible to ask a more sycophantic and fawning question, but coming from Breitbart, it’s not surprising.
Breitbart has become the all-but-official voice of Trump over the past two years. The site has tied itself into absurd knots to defend him and attack his opponents in both the Republican and Democratic parties, while also mangling and inventing stories to serve his campaign’s narrative.
Stephen Bannon, Trump’s incoming chief White House strategist, has been the chairman of Breitbart and has overseen its transformation from a more traditional conservative outlet to what he described as a “platform” for the so-called “alt-right,” whose noxious brand of white nationalist nativist politics now dominates the conservative movement.
Breitbart’s dedication to Trump and its vilification of his perceived enemies were reflected in its writeup of the contentious exchange between Trump and Acosta, headlined “Trump to CNN: You Are Fake News.” Breitbart.com also posted the following headlines on its front page:
In turn, Trump has often used the millions of followers he has on social media to direct web traffic toward Breitbart stories promoting him and his conspiracy theories.
Later on CNN, Acosta reported that Republican National Committee communications director and incoming Trump press secretary Sean Spicer told him that if he were to persist in asking Trump questions in the same manner, he would be “thrown out of this press conference.” (After his combative exchange with Acosta, Trump later fielded a question from CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond.)
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.
IMAGE: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump argues with CNN’s Jim Acosta during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson