President Donald Trump’s spokesperson Sean Spicer has become a bit of a laughingstock for some of his Saturday night comments to the media.
Politico wrote a scalding piece called “Sean Spicer told 5 untruths in 5 minutes,” while CNN had their own “Reality Check” piece covering most of the same items. Spicer deserves this criticism for basically coming off like a cheap version of his boss (albeit with better hair). Trump has long liked to present rather misleading numbers about how big his crowd sizes are (his campaign sent out nightly emails trumpeting how his crowd sizes were larger than Hillary Clinton’s). It shouldn’t be surprising to see this continue now that he’s president.
Trump’s war on the media is something which also shouldn’t be surprising. He railed against them during the campaign (while enjoying the benefits of their free advertising), and it appears his administration is going to do something similar. Trump loves using the media as example numero uno of how things just “aren’t fair,” and how the press is out to “get” him. Spicer’s own comments from yesterday show Trump is going to engage is some sort of war against the press.
“There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable. And I’m here to tell you that it goes two ways. We’re going to hold the press accountable, as well. The American people deserve better, and as long as he serves as the messenger for this incredible movement, he will take his message directly to the American people where his focus will always be.”
Spicer could be suggesting Trump will indeed launch the Trump News Network as the “only official location to get updates from the White House.” The platform already exists at WhiteHouse.gov, and it’s possible Trump decides to just release information through that and other allied websites. Jessica Szilagyi wrote at AllonGeorgia.com she believed journalists were going to lose more rights than women. I 100% agree with this (mostly because of Trump’s waffling on whether Planned Parenthood should be defunded), and Spicer’s comments from yesterday only support our beliefs that Trump doesn’t really support free speech.
But let’s be honest here: Trump is only continuing a war set up by his predecessors in office, specifically Barack Obama.
Obama had his own war against the press, but it was something which didn’t always get a ton of attention. Kirsten Powers famously told Fox News it seemed like the only time people found out about the Administration was when something got leaked. Former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie Jr. wrote at Committee to Protect Journalists how the Obama Administration promised to be transparent, but really didn’t deliver (emphasis mine).
In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press. Those suspected of discussing with reporters anything that the government has classified as secret are subject to investigation, including lie-detector tests and scrutiny of their telephone and e-mail records. An “Insider Threat Program” being implemented in every government department requires all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues…
The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post’s investigation of Watergate. The 30 experienced Washington journalists at a variety of news organizations whom I interviewed for this report could not remember any precedent.
“There’s no question that sources are looking over their shoulders,” Michael Oreskes, a senior managing editor of The Associated Press, told me months after the government, in an extensive leak investigation, secretly subpoenaed and seized records for telephone lines and switchboards used by more than 100 AP reporters in its Washington bureau and elsewhere. “Sources are more jittery and more standoffish, not just in national security reporting. A lot of skittishness is at the more routine level. The Obama administration has been extremely controlling and extremely resistant to journalistic intervention. There’s a mind-set and approach that holds journalists at a greater distance.”
It’s possible no one really talked (or cared) about this war on the media during the Obama Administration because the media was mostly friendly towards the former president. But it’s also possible some journalists were also friendly because they didn’t want to lose sources, access, or become the next James Rosen (who was called a “co-conspiractor” by DOJ for doing his job).
How did Obama decide to get a lot of his information out? More from Downie.
The Obama administration has notably used social media, videos, and its own sophisticated websites to provide the public with administration-generated information about its activities, along with considerable government data useful for consumers and businesses. However, with some exceptions, such as putting the White House visitors’ logs on the whitehouse.gov website and selected declassified documents on the new U.S. Intelligence Community website, it discloses too little of the information most needed by the press and public to hold the administration accountable for its policies and actions. “Government should be transparent,” Obama stated on the White House website, as he has repeatedly in presidential directives. “Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing.”
It’s easy for people to sit there and say, “Damn the lamestream media, they’re just a buncha sycophants for the Left’s agenda.” There’s certainly plenty of media bias out there, and this is why I have more respect for places like Mother Jones, Think Progress, National Review, and Reason because they admit their biases, but shutting them out isn’t the way to solve the problem. Let outlets be honest with their biases, and let people decide who they want to pay attention to.
But don’t go to war with the press. All it will do is inflame more anger and rage. But this is Trump, so he probably wants that.