Mainstream media figures criticized presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s attacks on the press during a May 31 press conference as showing “a fundamental misunderstanding of reporters’ roles” and “little regard for … the legitimate role of a free press in a free society,” while right-wing media lauded the attacks as a “smart move” against the “corrupt media.”
Trump Attacks The Media During Press Conference
Associated Press: Trump Calls Media “Disgusting” And “Unbelievably Dishonest” At Press Conference. The Associated Press reported that Donald Trump “reached new heights” in his “war with the media” during a May 31 press conference regarding his donations to veterans groups. Trump, according to AP, called the press “unbelievably dishonest” and “disgusting,” and called one reporter “a sleaze.” From a June 1 AP report:
Donald Trump's heated war with the media reached new heights as he turned the brag-worthy feat of raising $5.6 million for veterans' charities into a sparring match with reporters pressing him on the issue.
“The press should be ashamed of themselves,” a defensive Trump railed during a Tuesday news conference at Trump Tower, called to announce a list of 41 charities that received a cut of the money he raised during a highly publicized January fundraiser.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee had previously declined to disclose which charities had received the $6 million he'd claimed to have raised, and his campaign had gone back and forth about how much pledged money had come through. The Washington Post had pressed for an accounting of the donations, and several charities said they received checks just last week.
Throughout Tuesday's 40-minute question-and-answer session, Trump accused the media of being “unbelievably dishonest” in their treatment of him.
“I sent people checks of a lot of money. ... And instead of being like, 'Thank you very much, Mr. Trump,' or 'Trump did a good job,' everyone's saying: 'Who got (the money)? Who got it? Who got it?' And you make me look very bad,” he complained. “I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.”
While Trump has frequently made the media a punching bag, calling out reporters during his signature rallies, the taunts Tuesday were intense, even for him. The billionaire mogul interrupted his recitation of the list of groups receiving portions of the money to complain about the way reporters had called up charities to try to verify his contributions. He called the political press “disgusting” and dismissed one ABC News reporter as “a sleaze.”
Trump, who has refused calls to moderate his tone and temperament, also said he has no plans to change his tone with the press if he's elected to the White House.
“Yeah, it is going to be like this,” he said of potential future news conferences led by a President Trump. [Associated Press, 6/1/16]
Media Denounce Trump For Having “Little Regard For” And “A Fundamental Misunderstanding” Of “The Legitimate Role Of A Free Press”
Boston Globe: Trump’s Attacks On The Press Are “Setting A New Standard For Dishonesty.” Boston Globe contributor Michael A. Cohen wrote that Trump is not “misspeaking” or “exaggerating,” but that for him the “truth is a moving target” Cohen went on to call Trump “a liar - plain and simply.” From the May 31 opinion article:
How can you tell when Donald Trump is lying?
His lips are moving.
This is an old joke about politicians. But forever more it should be used to refer exclusively to Trump, who in an occupation already known for obfuscation and truth-shading, is setting a new standard for dishonesty.
For Trump, the only honest reporter is one who reports the news exactly as Trump wants at that exact moment. In fact, maybe the only truthful thing that Trump said at the press conference was his pledge that, if elected president, he will “continue to attack the press.”
How can one reasonably report on Trump’s public statements without pointing out that the truth for him is a moving target? A few weeks ago ago, The Washington Post published a story that showed Trump had regularly posed as a public relations executive named John Barron or John Miller. That morning, Trump went on the “Today’’ show and blatantly denied the charge, even though he’s previously admitted that it’s true.
Last year, we marveled at Trump’s statements that he saw video of American Muslims celebrating the fall of the World Trade Center. When it was pointed out that this could not be true since no such video exists, Trump continued to make the false claim.
He’s not misspeaking, he’s not exaggerating, and a dishonest press is not misquoting him. Donald Trump is a liar — plain and simple. [The Boston Globe, 6/1/16]
Wash. Post Editorial Board: Trump’s Media Attacks Show “Little Regard For Democratic Accountability” And “The Legitimate Role Of A Free Press In A Free Society.” The Washington Post editorial board wrote that Trump’s “threats and personal insults” against the press show "little regard for democratic accountability” and “the legitimate role of a free press in a free society.” From a May 31 editorial:
“YES, IT is going to be like this,” Donald Trump said during a news conference Tuesday, after a reporter asked if he would be as hostile to legitimate scrutiny once elected as he is now. His honesty offered a bracing counterpoint to the pusillanimous Republican leaders who continue to insist that the reality-television star would be different once in office.
Mr. Trump savagely attacked the “dishonest” media for asking honest questions, at one point calling a reporter “sleazy.” He suggested that recent political reporting is “libelous” and therefore not protected by the First Amendment, and he continued his assault on the federal judge overseeing one of the lawsuits against Trump University. The threats and personal insults show little regard for democratic accountability, the legitimate role of a free press in a free society and the importance of an independent judiciary.
This is not the first time that Mr. Trump has attempted to chill press coverage by waving the term “libel.” In a March interview with The Post, Mr. Trump insisted he would “loosen” libel laws so that journalists could be attacked more easily. On Tuesday, his anger was directed at questions about his donation drive for veterans’ charities — how much he raised, how much he disbursed, and to whom — that he and his campaign have struggled to answer. These are legitimate questions. Mr. Trump’s over-the-top response shows he does not have the restraint, the openness or the values every modern president has shared. [The Washington Post, 5/31/16]
CNN's Dana Bash: Trump Has “To Be Ready To Take Questions” Because “It Is A Fundamental Requirement And Responsibility Of A Free Press.” CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash explained that while “the press is an easy target,” Trump “has got to be ready to take questions” because “It is a fundamental requirement and responsibility of a free press” to question presidential candidates. Bash also noted that it is a free press that “makes us different than North Korea.” From the May 31 edition of CNN’s At This Hour with Berman and Bouldan:
DANA BASH: You know, I pride myself as we all do on being dispassionate, but this is a situation where I don't think we should be dispassionate, and the reason is because -- let's just take a step back to where we were and where you guys were in New York leading into this press conference. It was Drew Griffin who was one of the people who not only asked the questions about where this money was going or how much was raised by Donald Trump, but go back a year plus, he was the one who exposed the problems in the VA in the first place. A member of the press corps. That was going to be, we all thought, the story of the day. A good news story for Donald Trump, that, yes, as Drew Griffin said, it was bumpy, it wasn't necessarily the cleanest way to do it, but at the end of the day he raised almost $6 million for veterans groups.
Instead, what did he do? He attacked the press, as you said, as “sleazy,” as “dishonest,” multiple times. And not to get too corny about it, but it is the press. Number one, it is our job to ask questions, particularly of public figures, especially somebody who wants to be the leader of the free world. When they make a promise and they do it in a very public way like he did with this big rally for veterans, it is our job to say where is the money, where did it go, how much did you raise? It is a fundamental requirement and responsibility of a free press. It's what makes us different than North Korea or other places, and he hasn't had to answer questions like this in his prior life. He's been a public figure for decades and he hasn't had to answer questions because he's been a public figure in the press, if you will, but he's been a private citizen. It's a different ball game now, and so it is up to us to ask the questions and I think it's because people like Drew Griffin and others were asking questions about where this money is going that these veterans' groups were able to get this money and he was able to give all of these big dollar amounts to all of these fabulous organizations. So I think we should just be clear here that the press is very easy target. I get it, we all get it, we all understand why. And it's understandable why he's doing that, but in this particular case, he is somebody who has got to be ready to take questions, and on this particular issue, the press did its job and did it pretty well. [CNN, At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan, 5/31/16]
Huffington Post’s Calderone: Trump “Shows A Fundamental Misunderstanding Of Reporters’ Roles.” Huffington Post senior media reporter Michael Calderone wrote that Trump “shows a fundamental misunderstanding of reporters’ roles.” Calderone added that “The news media isn’t just there to promote” Trump “but to vet him … as he seeks the nation’s highest office.” From a May 31 article:
Donald Trump repeatedly attacked the “dishonest” press on Tuesday for pressing him to explain where the nearly $6 million he claimed he’d raised for veterans had gone.
The business mogul’s open hostility toward reporters was on full display throughout the press conference at Trump Tower — a contentious performance he suggested would continue if he is elected president.
Trump’s view that “the press should be ashamed of themselves” for following up on his claims shows a fundamental misunderstanding of reporters’ roles. The news media isn’t just there to promote his candidacy, but to vet him … as he seeks the nation’s highest office. [The Huffington Post, 5/31/16]
Univision’s Enrique Acevedo: “Not The First Time” Trump “Attacks The Press For Doing Our Job. Can’t Have A Functional Democracy Without Accountability.”
This is not the first time @realDonaldTrump attacks the press for doing our job. Can't have a functional democracy without accountability.
— Enrique Acevedo (@Enrique_Acevedo) May 31, 2016
La Opinión Editorial Board: Trump Needs “To Get Comfortable With” Getting Press Questions Because “The White House Is Not A Place For Authoritarians.” La Opinión’s editorial board criticized Trump’s comments, calling them “unfair because “The media has helped the candidate’s popularity grow by giving him a stage that no other candidate has enjoyed.” The board noted that if Trump is “not used to these dynamics” of being asked questions, he will “need to get comfortable with [them], as the White House is not a place for authoritarians.” From the May 31 editorial:
The truth is that, if anyone has benefited from media coverage during this election cycle, it is Trump. In the beginning, he was granted an unusual amount of attention and airtime because, unlike his fellow runners, the mogul has been a TV and New York celebrity for 30 years, during which gossip about him, his marriages and his entrepreneurial ups and downs have been the talk of the Big Apple.
Later, when he started to gain momentum in the polls and the primaries, the political phenomenon he unleashed became the center of attention. However, having an interview with Trump over the phone or broadcasting him making a speech or debating has allowed media outlets to reap the benefits of the increased ratings caused by the spectacle of his unpredictable statements. The media has helped the candidate’s popularity grow by giving him a stage that no other candidate has enjoyed.
That is why Trump’s criticism of the media is unfair. In this case, it is known that this is, in part, a conservative scheme to accuse the “liberal media” of persecuting and victimizing that group. But the other part is the candidate’s personality, which does not let anyone examining his actions go without an insult.
The media’s job is to ask questions to presidential candidates to allow voters to learn as much as possible about them before casting their ballot. This is a method of achieving transparency that candidates who are not used to these dynamics need to get comfortable with, as the White House is not a place for authoritarians. [La Opinión, 5/31/16]
Several Right-Wing Media Figures Lauded Trump’s “Smart” Attacks On The “Corrupt” Media
Rush Limbaugh: “This Is Why People Love What Trump Is Doing.” Rush Limbaugh lauded Trump’s remarks, saying, “This is why people love what Trump is doing here. He’s not standing up here and taking it. He’s firing right back at [the press] .” From the May 31 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show:
RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): But Trump is right. “OK so you think I deserve scrutiny? Where is the scrutiny of Bernie Sanders? Where’s the scrutiny of Hillary Clinton? Where is one-half of the interest in this whole email scandal of hers that you’re showing in whether I’ve donated to the vets or not?” Look, everybody knows the game here. This is why people love what Trump is doing here. He’s not standing up here and taking it. He’s firing right back at them. He’s letting them know he knows it’s an unlevel playing field. He’s going to treat them accordingly. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 5/31/16]
Wash. Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington: “It’s A Smart Move” For Trump “To Attack The Media.” Washington Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington said that “it’s a smart move” for Trump “to attack the media” because “the majority of Americans” have “a low opinion of the mainstream media.” From the May 31 edition of Fox News’ The Real Story:
ELIZABETH HARRINGTON: I think it’s a smart move to attack the media, because when Donald Trump says he has a low opinion of the mainstream media, he's with the majority of Americans who feel that way. I mean, the media's favorability rating is at historic lows. So it’s really a win-win for him, because he gets to go out there, attack journalists, attack the media, which many Americans feel the same way, that they don't have a lot of trust in them. And then at the same time he says, “Look, I raised $5.6 million for vets. I didn't have to do it.” And that makes him look good as well. So I really think it’s a smart move and it’s really a win-win for him. [Fox News, The Real Story, 5/31/16]
Fox’s Charlie Hurt: “Attacking The Media Is Never A Bad Idea For A Politician” And Trump “Does It Brilliantly And … Forcefully.” Fox News contributor and Washington Times columnist Charlie Hurt praised Trump’s attacks on the media, explaining that “attacking the media is never a bad idea for a politician” and Trump “does it brilliantly and he does it forcefully.” From the May 31 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now:
JON SCOTT (HOST): Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, delivering a news conference there at Trump Tower in New York City outlining the $5.6 million he says that he raised for veterans groups, a 1 million of it he says donated by him personally.
A.B. STODDARD: Well I think you're going to see a lot written about he is not going to change, he doesn't want to change, that he's being criticized for not uniting behind the Republican Party, and criticizing people who are his critics. But I think he probably ended the controversy over raising money for veterans and then the money not making it to the groups. For months, there were questions to the campaign about which groups had received them and then no answers came. So it became an ongoing story with Trump admitting last week he hadn't yet given his own million.he put it to rest. He gave all the amounts, all the organizations, and I think that he said he's done this big thing and I think that's the end of that story.
SCOTT: Did he put the questions to rest, Chuck?
CHARLIE HURT: Yeah, I mean and this is vintage Donald Trump. What we have seen for the last 11 months or 12 months now. What started as a scandal, what started as The Washington Post had a story last week raising all these questions about the money and how much was raised and whether it was given and all this kind of stuff. And Donald Trump just takes it and he makes a big spectacle out of it. He holds a big press conference and he takes on the media. And attacking the media is never a bad idea for a politician. And he does it and he does it brilliantly and he does it forcefully and he does it in a way that makes people sitting at home cheer because they share so much of that disdain for the media and it's just amazing to watch. And as A.B. said, I think he put all those questions to bed and then not only that, had a 40 minute press conference where he was able to showcase his devotion to the vets and his charity to the veteran organizations. [Fox News, Happening Now, 5/31/16]
Fox’s Pete Hegseth: Trump Is “Fighting Back In A Way A Lot Of Conservatives Wanted To See Candidates Fight Back.” Fox contributor and guest co-host Pete Hegseth claimed that Trump with his press attacks was “fighting back in a way conservatives wanted to see candidates fight back,” adding that “people are drawn to” Trump’s “chutzpah.” From the June 1 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): He's fighting back in a way a lot of conservatives have wanted to see candidates fight back. It may be a little on the sharp side, you might say. But it's fighting back and that chutzpah, I think, is something a lot of people are drawn to. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/1/16]
Fox’s Peter Johnson Jr.: Trump Is “Saying, ‘I’m Not Going To Be A Victim’” Of The “Corrupt Media.” Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. lauded Trump’s press attacks at his press conference, saying Trump was “saying, ‘I’m not going to be a victim, no way, no how’” ” of the “corrupt” and “‘fixed’” media. From the June 1 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
PETER JOHNSON JR.: He's on to American history. There’s a history in this country, something called yellow journalism. There’s a history in this country called a corrupt media, about publishers that own candidates, about publishers that -- I don't want to say a bad word, but proselytize certain parties. There's a double standard in this country in terms of the media, that you go after Republicans, you go after conservatives, you go after middle of the road people, and you try and crucify them if you can. So Donald Trump is responding to American history and he's saying to the American people, “Listen, I'm going to go toe to toe with the press. I'm going to use intemperate language when I think they’re engaging in intemperate conduct towards me or anyone else. I'm going to go over the bounds when I think they go over the bounds.” So in spite of their symbiotic situation where they live off each other, Trump and the media, it's also a Texas cage deathmatch, in that one of them needs to come out alive, and Donald Trump says to the media, “You're not going to eat me alive.” And yesterday was an eat me alive press conference where the press thought that they had the goods on Donald Trump and were going to take him down in his own building. And he said“not going to happen today, boys.” And that's what happened yesterday.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Even if it means that they might go back to their newspapers and write negative stories about him?
JOHNSON: Absolutely. There’s a famous Indiana congressman, he said you don't fight with the press because they buy ink by the barrel. But Donald Trump has made the decision, à la Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, to say, “I can take on the bosses, I can take on the fixed media.” Fox News did it, and in response to Fox News, the Clinton team, the Clinton machine, came up with an organization called Media Matters.
JOHNSON: And their people financed it. And so they said, “Let's take Fox News down.” There's an effort by the mainstream media and the mainstream liberal Democratic establishment to take down candidates and take down media. And what Donald Trump is doing in his intemperate way, with some of the language that may have been above board, because I don’t think we should be criticizing folks personally, but in his jawboning way, he is pushing back, and he’s saying, “I have a message, you may not like it, but you’re not going to take me down. I will be heard fair and square. I will either win or lose. But I will not lose because of an unfair media.” And the American people like that message. Even a lot of Democrats like that message because they’ve seen an unfair media for a long, long time. In fact, people have been victimized by it. You ever seen those buttons, victim of the press? Yeah, there are victims of the press. Trump saying, “I’m not going to be a victim, no way, no how. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/1/16]
This post has been updated to include additional examples.