A column in USA Today filed under the headline “Trump, Clinton both threaten free press” is emblematic of everything wrong with the media coverage of this election: In their desperation to turn it into a horse race, the media continually draw utterly unjustifiable false equivalencies.
Here is the basis of the argument that Donald and Hillary are both threatening free press:
The public’s right to know is infringed if certain reporters are banned from a candidate’s events because the candidate doesn’t like a story they have written or broadcast, as Donald Trump has done. Similarly, refusing to regularly answer questions from reporters in a press conference, as Hillary Clinton has, deprives the American people of hearing from their potential commander-in-chief in a format that is critical to ensuring he or she is accountable for policy positions and official acts.
First, let us start with the casual diminishment of Donald’s posture toward the press. “Certain reporters are banned,” they write, with a link leading to a Politico article headlined “Washington Post ban is latest battle in Trump’s war with the press,” in which are detailed more than a dozen instances of Donald denying or withdrawing media access. In several cases, reporters were removed from Donald events after asking a question or having published an article Donald didn’t like.
And Donald’s war on the media hardly stops with blocking access. Until he unceremoniously fired his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for entirely different reasons, Donald was willing and eager to defend Lewandowski against charges he assaulted a female reporter, and evidently had no issue with Lewandowski’s being accused of “pushing a CNN reporter who tried to ask the candidate a question; physically confronting an aide for a rival campaign in a post-debate spin room; publicly shouting threats over the phone at a restaurant; making sexual comments about female journalists; and calling up women in the campaign press corps late at night to make unwanted romantic advances.”
Donald himself has launched incredible personal attacks on members of the press, openly mocking disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski; saying Fox debate moderator Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever”; ginning up outrage against the press at campaign events; and launching an all-out jeremiad against the media during a press conference, during which he called the press “sleazy” and “unbelievably dishonest.”
Meanwhile, Donald’s shiny new running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence once tried to launch “a state-run taxpayer-funded news outlet [to] make pre-written news stories available to Indiana media,” which independent press expert Jack Ronald described as “a ludicrous idea [which] is antithetical to the idea of an independent press.”
By comparison, Hillary doesn’t hold press conferences.
Seriously. That’s the sum total of the argument against Hillary, used to draw an equivalence with Donald in order to accuse them both of threatening the free press.
As we have previously noted, Hillary has made it a priority to listen to and take questions from her constituents one-on-one (and in town halls) as often as possible. She has not made herself inaccessible to voters, nor has she “deprive[d] the American people of hearing from their potential commander-in-chief in a format that is critical to ensuring he or she is accountable for policy positions and official acts.”
That’s an argument that presupposes the people she meets and talks to every day do not have the capacity to ask her tough questions. They do, and they have.
Hillary’s real sin seems to be that she doesn’t share the media’s opinion that they must be the gatekeepers between a candidate and her constituents. They resent that she doesn’t avail herself of them via official press conferences, but that is not, in fact, a threat to the free press.
And, really, can any member of the media really wonder why it is that Hillary seeks to circumvent them, when this is how they treat her?
Perhaps if the press had collectively ever given Hillary reason to believe a press conference would be something other than another opportunity for them to subject her to mendacious narratives–and false equivalences–she’d be more inclined to give one. Just a thought.