The guy to read on this is Rory Cooper, who’s honoring the occasion of today’s guild shrieking by recalling some of the media’s greatest press-conference hits during the Obama era.
Read his Twitter timeline for more examples. The difference between Trump calling exclusively on ideologically sympathetic outlets at his pressers and the average Obama press conference is … what? That Obama occasionally allowed a question from Fox News?
Watch Jim Acosta declare that the fix is in, a sentiment echoed across big-name platforms this afternoon:
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) February 15, 2017
So — the two reporters called on today: Christian Broadcasting Network and Town Hall. No question on Trump/Russia contacts.
— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) February 15, 2017
Town Hall and Christian Broadcasting Network.
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) February 15, 2017
Remarkable how the conservative media Qs to Trump are shaped to make no real news
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) February 15, 2017
Townhall is our sister site, of course, represented at today’s presser by Katie Pavlich. To read the criticism, you’d think Pavlich had asked Trump what kind of tree he wishes he could be or which of his children is his favorite. (Which would actually be a tough question for any politician except him. It’s Ivanka, of course.) Instead see for yourself what she asked. It was a two-parter: One, she wanted to know from Trump exactly which compromises he expected Israel and the Palestinians to make as part of a peace deal, a fair topic for a president who famously eschews specifics. And two, she asked Netanyahu what he expects from Trump specifically in rolling back the Iran deal, which is bound to be a key subject for U.S.-Israeli cooperation in the near term. Trump’s answer, in fact, produced what one NBC staffer called a “remarkable” statement about the degree to which Palestinians are culturally conditioned to hate Israel.
There’s no “fix,” especially when you remember that Pavlich contributed to National Review’s “Against Trump” issue last year. She’s not in the tank for the White House, which is the crux of the “Trump’s only calling on conservatives!” accusation. She proved it again yesterday when she asked Sean Spicer about the touchiest subject in the White House right now, the resignation of Mike Flynn, wondering if Trump is worried that Flynn might have “inadvertently” misled him on other matters besides the call with the Russian ambassador. Intriguingly, Spicer wouldn’t flatly deny it. (“Regardless of whether it is or isn’t a single situation…”) No “fix” in that question either. Stephen Miller has a healthy perspective on today’s reaction, as usual:
"Townhall is not a legitimate media source. Only we from NBC who edited 9/11 audio calls and rehired Brian Williams should ask questions"
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) February 15, 2017
All that said, while Pavlich was the wrong person to call on if the White House is looking for softballs, it may well be that they’re hoping for softballs in calling exclusively lately on outlets whom they know support Republicans. Since Friday, Trump has limited his questions only to right-wing media. It’s hard to believe that’s a coincidence; probably he’s hoping for the Hannity treatment, whether he gets it or not. Needless to say, if the outlets he calls on pass on a chance to ask him respectful but challenging questions in order to play pattycake with him, the rest of the media will make that fact widely known to the general public (as they’re attempting to do today, unfairly). For the sake of the genre’s remaining credibility, I hope they rise to the occasion.
One curio about the White House and the media, since we’re on the subject. Axios claims that Steve Bannon is enraged at a story published yesterday in … Breitbart, which laid the blame for the Flynn fiasco squarely at the feet of Bannon friend/rival Reince Priebus. How likely is it that Breitbart would take it upon itself to lob a grenade at Priebus, which was guaranteed to complicate Bannon’s life inside the White House, without clearing it with Bannon first?