To say that the atmosphere between the new White House administration and the media has been a bit frosty is an understatement. Donald Trump spent a significant part of his campaign railing against the dishonest media, a move which only seemed to draw their cameras to him more and more. That attitude doesn’t seem to be changing now that he’s the 45th President and CNN has drawn his ire in particular. In response to what he perceives as unfair treatment, Politico is reporting that the White House has effectively shut the network out of the usual rounds of interviews, refusing to send official representatives to sit down and talk to CNN’s anchors.
The White House has refused to send its spokespeople or surrogates onto CNN shows, effectively icing out the network from on-air administration voices.
“We’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda,” said a White House official, acknowledging that CNN is not such a place, but adding that the ban is not permanent.
A CNN reporter, speaking on background, was more blunt: The White House is trying to punish the network and force down its ratings.
“They’re trying to cull CNN from the herd,” the reporter said.
To be fair, CNN has brought some of this on themselves at times. There have been more than a few instances of #FakeNews showing up on the network, such as when Manu Raju ran that story about Tom Price buying stock in a company shortly before introducing legislation which drove up its value. (It was almost immediately discovered that his broker had made the trade as part of a large shift done for many clients and Price didn’t find out about it for nearly a month.)
But not all of CNN’s coverage is fake or even unfair. Instead, they sometimes hammer the Trump administration over self-inflicted wounds which the White House could easily have avoided with a bit more planning. One example is Jake Tapper’s recent segment where he showed various administration officials using the word “ban” over and over again, spliced in with Sean Spicer insisting that it wasn’t a ban at all.
CNN’s Jake Tapper played footage Tuesday afternoon of White House press secretary Sean Spicer describing President Trump’s executive order on immigration as a “ban” on multiple occasions.
Earlier Tuesday, Spicer said Trump’s executive order temporarily prohibiting entry of refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority to the United States was not a “ban” — even after Trump called it one on Twitter. He charged that the media is using a biased description when it calls the action a ban.
This sort of thing seems to infuriate the Trump administration, but in reality it’s what we used to call, “harsh but fair” in social media circles. The real question is whether or not a White House plan to “cull the herd” or drive down their ratings would actually work. At least in Tapper’s case it doesn’t seem to be having any effect. Over the past couple of weeks (while this storm was fully in motion) his Sunday State of the Union show has been performing well, with even the noon re-runs beating all of their competitors, including Fox.
That’s only one item leading me to believe that this might not be the best strategy on the part of Trump’s team. Talk about playing small ball. He’s got an entire nation to run and getting into a fight with the network may not exactly paint the best picture. I realize the base loves to see him go after the press, but having strong surrogates show up on CNN and go to battle on behalf of the administration would surely deliver more of a punch than what amounts to the governmental equivalent of the silent treatment.
On a more positive note, the administration is admitting that this isn’t a permanent situation. Let’s hope they get it resolved quickly. The other piece of this formula is the fact that if you don’t send someone to tell your side of the story, the network gets to fill the space with somebody else to tell it for you. Not an ideal situation, guys.