Trump’s base of support have developed a remarkable ability to take what Trump says and replace it in their minds with their own interpretation of what Trump means.
This is not surprising because right-wing media have been doing this since the start of Fox News. They manipulate facts to support a larger political agenda.
Ethical media, however, are seriously challenged when their fact-based reporting is regularly challenged as biased because the facts themselves are consistently less favorable to the current administration than the spin that right wing media and Trump’s own supporters employ.
One obvious example is Kellyanne Conway. Her role in the current administration isn’t clear, but until recently she was a frequent defender of all things Trump on national TV. Her statements, however, became so unreliable and seemingly out of step with what others in the White House said, that the programs that otherwise would book her are now not interested. They have determined that she can’t effectively speak for the White House because the White House has contradicted so many of the things that she has said.
This is evidence of how the relationship between the press and the White House is changing. There used to be this cozy exchange of information that allowed the White House to leverage the media to get their message out. This White House isn’t interested in that relationship. They would prefer to go directly to the people using social media and their own array of spokespeople. The problem is that they are not all delivering the same message.
The media has responded by reporting on these discrepancies in messaging and finding the “inside information” that is news from unofficial sources. They have returned to good old investigative journalism of the sort that was glorified in the “All The President’s Men” days.
When the White House WAS a reliable source of information for the press, they were much more concerned about losing that source. The result was a cozy symbiotic relationship where both the White House and the press worked together to give a consistent message to the country on what was going on.
The press is no longer concerned about losing a relationship with their White House sources. They have no relationship. This has freed the press to perform the role that they are supposed to perform – holding elected official accountable for what they say and how they act. The result is that interactions with the press both in print and broadcast sources is MUCH more confrontational. They are willing to ask tough questions when the conflicting messages come out of the White House.
Trump partisans interpret this renewed activism as evidence that the press has a liberal bias because they are treating the Trump administration MUCH more aggressively than they treated the Obama administration. The reality is much less conspiratorial. The Trump administration created this atmosphere by creating an adversarial relationship with the press and failing to manage their internal messaging. The Trump administration left the press no other choice because the press needs news every day. When conflicting messages come out of the White House, that quickly becomes news.
Here’s just one example of how that plays out.
One of the questions circulating in the press is how close the Trump administration is to the nation’s anti-Semitic groups. That is a legitimate question because of Bannon’s past history of providing a platform for anti-Semitic groups. A recent rash of attacks gave the press an opportunity to explore this concern.
Trump’s first response to a question on this subject was to talk about his popularity. The implication of that response was that he doesn’t have to address this issue. As he continued to be asked, he modified his response to say that this racism and other forms of discrimination are nothing new. The implication of that answer was that Trump was saying that he wasn’t responsible for the recent spike in anti-Semitism. The next day when asked by a Jewish reporter about a spike of bomb threats being received by synagogues across the county, Trump said that he was “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”
Finally four days later, he had a typical political response condemning anti-Semitism and saying the “it’s going to stop”.
Spicer then took a swing at this in response to a critical press release from the Anne Frank Center.
SPICER: Look. The president has made clear since the day he was elected — and frankly going back through the campaign — that he is someone who seeks to unite this country. He has brought a diverse group of folks into his administration, both in terms of actual positions and people that he has sought the advice of. And I think he has been very forceful with his denunciation of people who seek to attack people because of their religion, because of their gender, because of the color of their skin.
It is something that he’s going to continue to fight and make very, very clear that [it] has no place in this administration. But I think that it’s ironic that no matter how many times he talks about this that it’s never good enough.
Today I think was an unbelievably forceful comment by the president as far as his denunciation of the actions that are currently targeted toward Jewish community centers, but I think he’s been very clear previous to this that he wants to be someone that brings this country together but not divide people, especially in those areas.
So, I saw that statement. I wish that they had praised the president for his leadership in this area. Hopefully as time continues to go by they recognize his commitment to civil rights, to voting rights, to equality for all Americans.
- The polls document that Trump has failed to unite the country. He has ignored and criticized those that oppose him. He and his administration has gone so far as to suggest that his opposition include paid provocateurs. The message from his administration has consistently been that either you get with the program or shut up. That same attitude is reflected in Spicer’s comment that the Anne Frank Center should be praising Trump for his “leadership”.
- Trump’s cabinet is not diverse. Until the recent nomination of a Hispanic to replace Pudzer, this cabinet was the most white male cabinet since Reagan. Spicer did include the “people that he has sought the advice of” – but we don’t know who those are.
- Finally Spicer throws another bomb at the media claiming that Trump has been “very forceful with his denunciations” and that “no matter how many times he talks about this that it’s never good enough.” The facts don’t support that claim.
Even when a Jewish reporter interviewing Melania Trump was attacked by anti-Semitic Trump supporters, Trump told Wolf Blitzer that “I don’t have a message to the fans. A woman wrote a — a article that was inaccurate. Now, I’m used to it. I get such bad articles. I get such — the press is so dishonest, Wolf, I can’t even tell you. It’s so dishonest.”
In summary, the press has become more aggressive. To those interested in an active independent free press, that’s a good thing. Holding elected officials accountable is what the press is supposed to do. The REASON the press has become more aggressive is simple. First the press can’t depend on the White House for consistent messaging, so White House can’t use ACCESS as a method to manage the news cycle. Second, in the absence of consistent messaging the press are forced to dig up their own news. Third, the White House continues to be fact-challenged. Those are easy stories for the press to write.
There is not a vast left-wing conspiracy in the press. They are simply doing their job. They are responding to a White House that has chosen to cut the press out of the loop. They think they can win with their base by claiming the press is biased against them. We’ll see how wise that decision was.