UPDATE (6/13/16): Donald Trump has revoked the Washington Post’s press credentials. The original post below was published on May 31.
Donald Trump launched a vicious attack on the media, who have, until this point, been treating him with kid gloves and disproportionately favorable coverage. It was a chilling view into how a Trump administration would try to undermine, intimidate, and silence the press.
During a press conference, reporters asked Donald valid and routine questions about his disbursements of charitable donations to veterans’ groups—questions necessitated by his campaign’s failure to provide straightforward and consistent answers on this fundraising for months. Donald went on an extended tirade against the press, calling them “sleazy and dishonest” and sarcastically telling CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta that he’s a “real beauty.”
At the end of his press conference, during which he unleashed a bullying jeremiad of antagonism toward the media in response to basic questions seeking accountability, Donald was asked if the exchange could fairly be seen as a preview of what it would be like covering him as president. Yes, he replied matter-of-factly. “I find the political press to be unbelievably dishonest.” Watch:
Needless to say, the media were none too thrilled about being viciously attacked for doing their jobs. CNN immediately convened a panel for discussion, where they categorically rejected Trump Senior Adviser Barry Bennett’s attempt to deflect by accusing media of criticizing Donald for raising money. “The media’s job is to hold powerful people accountable.” Watch:
I certainly agree that the media’s job is to hold powerful people to account. And perhaps this will be the turning point at which the media stop giving the odious Donald less negative coverage than Hillary Clinton. Maybe now they’ll be more inclined to broadcast Hillary giving a speech to a union instead of “a live feed of an empty podium in North Dakota, on a stage where Mr. Trump was about to speak.”
Because, so far, the corporate media have not seemed disposed toward being very critical of Donald—which is part of the reason he went off on them for asking the most basic questions to try to get straight answers during a press conference. He’s not used to being challenged at all.
And they need to challenge him. They need to be doing their jobs. They need to hold him to account, on every issue, especially those much larger than the disbursement of charitable donations—not just because he is running for president, and every candidate should face such routine scrutiny, but because Donald has now repeatedly signaled a grave hostility to the press and its freedom.
When he attacks the media just for doing their jobs, he is trying to bully them into silence and capitulation. That is not someone with respect for the First Amendment and the freedom of the press it guarantees.
To the absolute contrary, that sort of incitement against the free press leads us in the direction of totalitarian regimes that do not brook questioning or dissent, and punish—often violently—any member of the press who refuses to fall in line.
That is anathema to both democracy and press freedoms, and Donald’s threats to both cannot and should not be abided.
Today, the media saw their future if they continue to defer to Donald and aid his political ascendancy. They have a choice to make moving forward—to continue to treat him with kid gloves, or to take the gloves off at long last. I certainly hope they choose wisely.