First Amendment Watch: November 2016

Trump Ditched His Press Pool And Repeatedly Bashed NY Times And CNN On Twitter

During his 2016 campaign for president, Donald Trump launched an unprecedented war on the press. Since his election, Media Matters has tracked his and his team’s continuing attacks on the media as well as his breaking of presidential norms regarding press access, a dangerous threat to our First Amendment freedoms. Following is a list of President-elect Donald Trump’s attacks on the media -- and demonstrations of disregard for the press -- from Election Day through the end of November.

November 10

Trump Broke Protocol By Not Bringing Press Pool To Historic Meeting With President Obama. The Associated Press reported that “Trump departed New York Thursday morning, breaking protocol by not bringing journalists in his motorcade or on his plane to document his historic visit to the White House.” [The Associated Press, 11/10/16]

Trump Accused Media Of Inciting Opposition Protesters After The Election.

November 13

Trump Repeatedly Attacked NY Times On Twitter. Trump sent a flurry of tweets on November 13 attacking The New York Times as “dishonest” and falsely claiming that the Times was “losing thousands of subscribers because of their very poor and highly inaccurate coverage.” In fact, the Times has been adding subscribers since the election. [Media Matters, 11/16/16]

Trump Blamed Media For Making Minority Groups Fear His Presidency. According to The New York Times, Trump was asked during his 60 Minutes interview “why African-Americans, immigrants and Muslims have expressed fear of his presidency.” Instead of addressing his own rhetoric during his presidential campaign, Trump responded by saying, “I think it’s built up by the press.” [The New York Times, 11/22/16]

November 15

Trump Ditched Press Pool For Dinner At New York Restaurant. The Hill reported that Trump “left Trump Tower without his press pool on Tuesday to have dinner with his family, according to reporters. The president-elect reportedly received a standing ovation and cheers upon arriving at 21 Club, a New York City restaurant, an hour after his spokeswoman had called a ‘lid,’ signaling to the reporters following him that he was in for the night.” [The Hill, 11/15/16]

November 16

Trump Again Bashed NY Times, Media In General On Twitter Over Transition Reporting. Trump continued his crusade against the “failing” Times on November 16 with a series of tweets that claimed the paper was “so totally wrong” in its reporting on his transition and argued that the Times was “just upset that they looked like fools in their coverage of me.”

November 17

Trump Refused Press Access To Meeting With Japanese Prime Minister. CNN’s Dylan Byers reported that the press wasn’t given access to Trump’s November 17 meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe:

Video and images of President-elect Donald Trump's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday will not be seen on most major U.S. news outlets.

The reason? Trump and Abe did not give the press access to the meeting. Instead, the Japanese government provided a video of the meeting, which in the eyes of the press corps amounts to government propaganda.

“A handout photo amounts to a visual press release and is not a substitute for independent coverage of the president-elect,” Jeff Mason, the Reuters White House correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents Association, said in a statement. “We will continue to push for full coverage of the president-elect to ensure the public has access to information about his meetings and whereabouts.” [CNN Money, 11/18/16]

November 21

Trump Blasted Television Media Outlets For Their Coverage Of Him During The Campaign. In a meeting with executives and top anchors from multiple broadcast and cable news networks, Trump reportedly blasted television news coverage of him during the campaign, particularly targeting CNN and NBC. According to The New Yorker, Trump unleashed an “astonishing aria of invective and resentment aimed at the media” during the meeting and “railed about ‘outrageous’ and ‘dishonest’ coverage” for more than 20 minutes. From The New Yorker’s November 21 article:

First came the obsessive Twitter rants directed at “Hamilton” and “Saturday Night Live.” Then came Monday’s astonishing aria of invective and resentment aimed at the media, delivered in a conference room on the twenty-fifth floor of Trump Tower. In the presence of television executives and anchors, Trump whined about everything from NBC News reporter Katy Tur’s coverage of him to a photograph the news network has used that shows him with a double chin. Why didn’t they use “nicer” pictures?

For more than twenty minutes, Trump railed about “outrageous” and “dishonest” coverage. When he was asked about the sort of “fake news” that now clogs social media, Trump replied that it was the networks that were guilty of spreading fake news. The “worst,” he said, were CNN (“liars!”) and NBC.


Participants said that Trump did not raise his voice, but that he went on steadily at the start of the meeting about how he had been treated poorly. “It was all so Trump,” one said. “He is like this all the time. He’ll freeze you out and then be nice and humble and sort of want you to like him.”

“But he truly doesn’t seem to understand the First Amendment,” the source continued. “He doesn’t. He thinks we are supposed to say what he says and that’s it.” [The New Yorker, 11/22/16]

Trump Decried “Crooked Media” Investigating His Business Conflicts Of Interest.

November 22

Trump Canceled Meeting With NY Times With A Tweet, Falsely Claiming The Paper Changed The Terms And Conditions. Trump announced he was canceling his meeting with The New York Times, claiming the paper had changed “the terms and conditions of the meeting … at the last moment,” adding “not nice,” and accusing the paper of covering him “inaccurately and with a nasty tone.” Hours later Trump reversed his decision; it was reported that Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, had “erroneously” told the president-elect that the Times had changed the conditions. [The New York Times, 11/22/16

Trump Complained About “Very Rough” Treatment by NY Times And Wash. Post In Times Interview. Trump went to The New York Times on November 22 for an interview with select reporters, editors, and opinion columnists from the newspaper. During the interview, he complained about coverage from both the Times and The Washington Post, and he singled out columnist Maureen Dowd because “she treats me too rough.” From The New York Times’ transcript of the interview:

TRUMP: O.K. Well, I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special. I think I’ve been treated very rough. It’s well out there that I’ve been treated extremely unfairly in a sense, in a true sense. I wouldn’t only complain about The Times. I would say The Times was about the roughest of all. You could make the case The Washington Post was bad, but every once in a while I’d actually get a good article. Not often, Dean, but every once in awhile.


TRUMP: And by the way, if you see something or get something where you feel that I’m wrong, and you have some info — I would love to hear it. You can call me, Arthur can call me, I would love to hear. The only one who can’t call me is Maureen [Dowd, opinion columnist]. She treats me too rough.

I don’t know what happened to Maureen! She was so good, Gail [Collins, opinion columnist]. For years she was so good. [The New York Times, 11/23/16]

Wash. Post Debuted Timer Chronicling Trump’s Failure To Hold A Press Conference: 126 Days And Counting. The Washington Post on November 22 created a timer showing how long it has been since Trump held a press conference. On November 30, the timer had reached 126 days.

[The Washington Post, 11/22/16]

November 27

Trump Claimed “Serious Bias” In Media For Not Reporting On Non-Existent “Serious Voter Fraud” In States He Lost.

November 28

Trump Retweeted Attacks On CNN And Its Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny For Questioning Trump’s Unsubstantiated Claims Of Voter Fraud. As noted by Politico, Trump “lashed out on Twitter … over a CNN report refuting his unsubstantiated claims of mass voter fraud on Election Day.” Trump quoted other tweets directed at CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, including one from “a 16-year-old Twitter user who cast Zeleny as a ‘bad reporter.’” [Politico, 11/28/16]

November 29

Trump Continued Criticizing CNN, Claiming The Network Has Gotten “Worse” Since The Election.