Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
In the week following the election, President-elect Donald Trump’s actions in curtailing the access of the press and continuing to lash out at media outlets have demonstrated the need for journalists to take a stand before those restrictions and behaviors are codified under a Trump administration.
So far during his transition period, Trump has violated the norms of any president or president-elect when it comes to his relations with the media. Most recently, on November 15, Trump left his home to get dinner without his press pool, after his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, had told reporters that nothing else would happen that day. As the Huffington Post wrote, “Private events, such as family dinners, can be closed to the press, but reporters should be made aware of them.” CNN’s Brian Stelter explained that Trump’s behavior “breaks with well-established norms governing a president’s relationship with the press corps,” adding, “Those same norms are also applicable to the president-elect.” The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Jeff Mason, criticized Trump’s actions as “unacceptable,” while Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, noted on Twitter that Trump should have told the press where he was going and “a press van would normally be included in the motorcade” even if “the pool waits outside” the restaurant.
This was hardly the first instance in the past week where Trump made his hostility to the press known. On November 10, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Trump “refused to allow journalists to travel with him to Washington for his historic first meetings with President Barack Obama and congressional leaders” after his aides “rebuffed news organizations’ requests for a small ‘pool’ of journalists to trail him as he attended the meetings.” The Washington Post noted that later in the day, “Trump ditched the media again” and provided the press with no information about his whereabouts. The White House Correspondents’ Association said in statement at the time that they were “deeply concerned” by his disregard for the press.
Since the election, Trump has taken to Twitter several times to lash out at The New York Times for their “BAD coverage.” In a November 13 tweet, Trump falsely claimed that the Times was “losing thousands of subscribers because of their very poor and highly inaccurate coverage” about him, despite the fact that the paper is adding subscribers.
Trump also has not held a news conference since being elected, which NBC News explained is “the longest any recent president has waited to speak to the press.” In fact, Trump’s last press conference was in July. NBC added, “The media covering the president-elect have also not yet been offered briefings on his transition efforts, which was a typical practice for past presidents that allowed the public to keep apprised of the details of the new government.”
In addition, Trump is reportedly considering conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham to serve as White House press secretary, despite Ingraham’s hostility and disdain towards media, especially Spanish-speaking outlets, which she has claimed are “toxic” and “revile the American experience.”
Trump’s campaign for the White House offered no positive signs for the future of his relationship with media. 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.
Trump also argued in favor of making it easier to sue the media for libel, even threatening to sue The New York Times for a report in which two women say he groped them. The Trump campaign also released a statement threatening that a Trump administration would “break up” media conglomerates that criticized him.
During the campaign, the Committee to Protect Journalists declared Trump an “unprecedented threat” to free press. So far, his transition has indicated that won’t be changing anytime soon.
IMAGE: Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Sacramento, California. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson