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Trump vs Mainstream Media: an ongoing crusade

By Emily Granger, Public Affairs Intern

Throughout his campaign and first six months of his administration, President Donald Trump has fought a war with the mainstream press such as CNN, The New York Times and many other outlets. He has called them biased, “failing” or outright liars, and in almost any other world it would seem such an attack from the president could hurt credibility and eventually readers and viewers.

However, this prospect does not seem to faze Mr Trump. He decided to renew his attack by posting on Twitter an old video clip of him performing in a WWE professional wrestling match, but with a CNN logo superimposed on the head of his opponent. In the clip, Trump is shown slamming the CNN avatar to the ground and pounding him with simulated punches and elbows to the head. Trump added the hashtags #FraudNewsCNN and #FNN, for “fraud news network.”

Surely after 5 months in the White House the public deserve to see something more constructive than disagreeable statements with and against the press. Compared to Trump’s boasting during the campaign – and ever since – what he’s accomplished given the power at his disposal and that he has a GOP-led Congress behind him makes both he and his Congress seem to be woefully under-performing. They appear to both lack significant political prowess to fulfill their agenda. For his part, it’s mostly braggadocio and bravado, which Trump excels in.  

One might question whether Mr Trump has his priorities right. Instead of preparing for his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is instead involved in juvenile behaviour far below the dignity of his office. However, Trump’s ongoing crusade to attack mainstream media could be viewed as a good thing. Despite the content of the tweet, Trump has generated an ability to communicate directly with the public. Whilst some may hold the view that it is an achievement for the President to develop a Twitter and a social media platform where he can talk directly to the American people, others are appalled.

The sheer outburst from the public as a result of his tweet signals a mood of unified disbelief that Trump could be capable of such immaturity and infamy. How can this be though? It certainly is not the first time Trump has used the media as his punching bag. During his presidency campaign, he repeatedly made outrageous claims that many thought were false and simply outrageous. His supporters let it slide, with the view that, “he’s over the top, but we get what he’s saying”, and of course the opposite with progressives, who viewed it as dangerous and outrageous. When the press called him on his behavior and outright lies, (which is well documented might I add), he began the fake news mantra, and began calling them the enemy, and outright insulting and attacking individual reporters.

More recently, Trump’s war on the media took a graphic turn when the president launched a highly personal attack on a female host of MSNBC’s morning talk show. In a series of tweets, Mr Trump lashed out at Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of Morning Joe, stating that she was “crazy” and has a “low IQ” and announced that he had refused to see her at his Mar-a-Lago resort at New Year’s because she had been “bleeding badly from a facelift”. It didn’t end there. He went on to brand her co-host and fiancé, Joe Scarborough, “psycho” and dismissed their programme as “poorly rated”.

The uncouth comments are similar to Trump’s disrespectful and sexist remarks towards Megyn Kelly, another prominent female TV news host. After the first Republican primary debate in August 2015, Mr Trump said that Ms Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever” in what many people inferred as a reference to menstruation. Is a man so uncivilized really fit to be a president? I am certain that many who voted for him are questioning whether they made the correct choice.

Whilst Trump’s battle with the press is epic in its ferocity, this is not the first time a president has had a problem with the media. George Washington believed that he was treated unfairly in print. Even Thomas Jefferson, who praised newspapers as the greatest tool for protecting liberty, changed course with some of his statements about the press once in office. The principle of a president defending themselves from the media is not exclusive to just Trump. In some ways, Trump is taking after previous administrations with his efforts to bypass mainstream media by establishing “Skype” seats for the daily press briefings at the White House. The key difference between Trump and past presidents is the magnitude of his attacks. Unlike the former commanders in chief, Trump is obviously turning his attacks on the press into a crusade. No other president has gone to the lengths as Trump and that is the key reason that Trump’s behavior is so controversial.

The press has a responsibility to call out any president on falsehoods, unpresidential behavior, disregard for the decency required by the office, or outright lies. That has always been the case, but now it is such an endless cycle of ridiculous behavior and dysfunction to report on, that it appears that he is being constantly attacked, rightly or wrongly. It is an endless, self-perpetuating cycle and the media will remain as his enemy.

All there is really left to say is this; if you elect a clown, don’t be surprised when you get a circus.

 

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