The media: A damaging spate of mistakes
President Trump spent last weekend “moonlighting in one of his favorite jobs: media critic,” said Brent Griffiths in Politico.com. The president seized on three reporting mistakes by news organizations that he described as “purposely false” and a “stain on America.” The biggest blunder came from CNN, whose source wrongly claimed that Trump campaign officials were emailed an encryption key to access hacked Democratic National Committee emails before WikiLeaks published them online. In fact, the email had been sent the day after their publication. Trump called CNN “out of control” and demanded that ABC fire reporter Brian Ross, who was suspended for botching the timing of events in another Russia-related report. The president also called for the firing of a Washington Post reporter who had tweeted—and then quickly deleted—a misleading photo of a near-empty arena at a recent Trump rally. Trump is “winning the Fake News wars,” said Adriana Cohen in the Boston Herald. He has always insisted the mainstream media is biased against him—and these rushed “botch jobs” prove him right.
“These were big mistakes, no question,” said Rex Huppke in the Chicago Tribune. “But in journalism, as in any business, mistakes happen.” The errors weren’t “remotely malicious,” and they were quickly corrected. Trump, in contrast, has spewed out hundreds of falsehoods—claiming President Obama tapped his phones, for example, or that millions of people voted illegally in the election—and has never corrected a single one. How can you shriek “Fake News!” when you’re a fake yourself? Trump’s only goal is to delegitimize the press—one of the few institutions capable of constraining his power, said Damon Linker in TheWeek.com. That’s “authoritarian” behavior, “more common to dictators than American presidents.”
Trump’s attacks on the media often go too far, said Mary Katherine Ham in TheFederalist.com, but they’re effective because trust in the media is already low. Most conservatives gave up on CNN, ABC News, The Washington Post, and other mainstream news organizations years ago. Clustered in big coastal cities, these organizations are staffed by reporters and editors who “share the same viewpoints and biases” and show little interest in representing the views and problems of people in rural red states. Unless media companies realize that their trust and credibility problem “predates” Trump—and take steps to address it—it will remain long after he leaves office. ■