Beat the Press
April 14, 2020

After President Trump played a campaign-style video touting his administration's response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak at Monday's White House press briefing, CBS News correspondent Paula Reid noted that the video jumps from Feb. 6 to March 2, a pretty critical time when the virus was spreading through the U.S. — as The New York Times detailed over the weekend in an article that apparently prompted Trump's anger.

"February, the entire month of February — your video has a complete gap," Reid said. "What did your administration do in February with the time that your travel ban bought you?" "A lot, a lot, and in fact we'll give you a list," Trump said. "What we did — in fact, part of it was up there," in the video. "It wasn't, the video had a gap," Reid noted. Trump pivoted: "Look, you know you're a fake, you know that. Your whole network, the way you cover it, is fake."

Trump's re-election campaign did release a list after the briefing.

Whereas The New York Times' timeline of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic mentions Trump just twice in February — the Trump administration asked Congress for $1.25 billion to respond to the virus on Feb. 24 and strongly advised Americans against traveling to areas in Italy and South Korea on Feb. 29, also banning foreign visitors from Iran — the campaign's timeline includes things like Trump promising to "take all necessary steps" against the coronavirus in his Feb. 2 State of the Union speech, telling reporters Feb. 7 that the U.S. was working with China on the coronavirus, and discussing coronavirus containment efforts in India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Feb. 26.

Trump also publicly downplayed the outbreak throughout February in comments to the press and during the five campaign rallies he held around the country. On Feb. 26, for example, he told reporters: "When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done." Peter Weber

April 30, 2018

President Trump communicates with the public all the time, mostly over Twitter but also in the occasional TV interview, answer to shouted question from his press pool, or response to a question from a typically friendly news outlet at a joint news conference. But he hasn't held a solo press conference in more than a year, The Associated Press notes, which is "a dramatic departure from historic precedent, according to records kept by The American Presidency Project and dating back to Calvin Coolidge. In their first years alone, President Barack Obama held 11 solo news conferences, George W. Bush held five, and Bill Clinton a dozen. Trump held just one."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insists Trump "is more accessible than most modern presidents and frequently takes questions from the press," and former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer tells AP that "the public gets its accountability through other tactics beyond formal long-winded news conferences." But, AP notes, in the interactions Trump does have with the press, he "can easily ignore questions he doesn't like and dodge follow-ups in a way that would be glaring in a traditional news conference." And Trump would appear to agree with that assessment:

Trump seemed to actually enjoy his only presidential press conference, AP says. On Late Night in February, New York Times reporters Maggie Haberman, one of the journalists who knows Trump best, told Seth Meyers she thinks Trump would hate it most of all if the press simply stopped writing about him. "Even as president I still think he has that fear," she said. "I had an ex-aide say to me at one point that he can't go more than a few days without seeing his name in the news." Peter Weber

August 11, 2016

Donald Trump is now openly hostile toward the press, vilifying the "rigged" and "dishonest" media at every event. His supporters agree with him, blaming media bias for Trump's recent slide in the polls. But covering Trump isn't exactly a cakewalk for the journalists assigned to his campaign, either, as NBC News reporter Katy Tur recounts in an essay at Marie Claire. Tur is probably best known for this exchange with Trump over his suggestion on July 27 that Russian hacker find and leak Hillary Clinton's deleted emails:

Tur, a London-based foreign correspondent assigned to the Trump campaign mostly because she happened to be in NBC's New York newsroom at the right (or wrong) moment, describes the Trump campaign as "like covering a hurricane that makes landfall on a daily basis," moving from one rally to the next and one controversy to another. "I've lost a diamond earring, a gold ring, a glove, two hats, a blazer, and one boyfriend (au revoir, Benoit), who said of my schedule: 'This is not what we do in France,'" she writes. "Friends and family have married, divorced, given birth, and died during this campaign, and I've missed it all."

There are also "memories I'll never lose with people I'll never forget," but Trump's propensity to single out reporters for criticism at his rallies can be downright frightening, she says, citing an event in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, last December:

Trump was telling the world he wanted to ban Muslims from entering the United States. "It's temporary," he later tried to soften. And then I heard my name. "She's back there. Little Katy. She's back there." I was six months into covering the Trump campaign for MSNBC and NBC News, and there I was, in the belly of a World War II battleship, in a press pen made out of bicycle racks, surrounded by thousands of whipped-up Trump supporters ... The crowd, feeding off Trump, seemed to turn on me like a large animal, angry and unchained. It wasn't until hours later, when Secret Service took the extraordinary step of walking me to my car, that the incident sank in. The wave of insults, harassment, and threats, via various social-media feeds, hasn't stopped since. [Marie Claire]

Nice work if you can stomach it? You can learn more about covering Trump's unusual campaign in Tur's essay at Marie Claire. Peter Weber

April 25, 2016

To celebrate the return of Game of Thrones, The Washington Post handed a list of quotes to four two-reporter teams and asked them to guess if the person who said it was a 2016 presidential candidate or a character from Game of Thrones. It's harder than may seem obvious, though some of the quotes are general enough it really could go either way. The reporters did all agree on one thing, however: "The Trump factor makes politics very Throne-ish," said David Betancourt. "The right answer is always Donald Trump," said Chris Cillizza. "I mean, Donald Trump is, like, 75 of these." That's an exaggeration, but if you want to try to beat Cillizza and the professional political observers, watch below. Peter Weber

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