One good thing about being on the receiving end of the Trump treatment is that it can make or advance a journalists’ career. Would CNN’s Jim Acosta (Trump’s original whipping boy) have gotten a book deal if Trump hadn’t lit him up so many times? I have my doubts. Would Megyn Kelly (his hate object in the 2016 campaign) have reaped $69 million in a jump to a new network without having first exchanged fire with the caustic president? Impossible. Trump lifted Acosta and Kelly with his truculence and he’s doing the same thing for Fisher, Alexander, Karl, Chambers, Alcindor, or whoever else he ends up feeding to the woodchipper. By roasting Karl at the coronavirus pressers, Trump has given added legs to Karl’s new book Front Row at the Trump Show. If Alcindor doesn’t have a book in the works, she will, and a fatter (and well-deserved) contract with a commercial broadcaster. If Alexander and Chambers aren’t counted among America’s most beloved reporters by the time 45’s presidency concludes, I’ll eat a briefing transcript.
What Trump refuses to understand is that punishing reporters for asking direct questions doesn’t deter them, it only encourages them to put sharper points on their questions. It also inspires other reporters to continue to do the same at the briefings. Since moving into the White House, Trump has insisted that his beratements of the press were designed to instill “respect“ for the presidency but what he really wants—and he has said it himself—is obedience and “nice,” “congratulatory” questions from reporters. Maybe he could get away with that sort of scripting while taping episodes of his show, The Apprentice, where the cast worked for him. Trump needs to accept that a press briefing is not a reality series. It’s reality.