Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Donald Trump and Journalists, ‘or another beauty!’

@realDonaldTrump
Donald Trump being interviewed on Fox News Channel. Image: @realDonaldTrump

It is something of an understatement to say that the inauguration of a Donald Trump has begun a new chapter in US Presidential and media relations.

The message from the new President is getting louder and clearer. He thinks many journalists are dishonest, and peddlers of ‘fake news.’

He has his favourites. For example, Fox News gets his approval. But as for the American networks CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and others, his Twitter account @realDonaldTrump leaves no room for misunderstanding:

TrumpTweetCNNdismissed

‘Journalist, Radical Centrist, and Public Policy Researcher’, Simon Hedlin responded with some traditional US journalistic fact checking:

Conspiracytheoriesexchange

Veteran Channel Four news-caster, Jon Snow, is arguing that Trump’s bullying and menacing intimidation of mainstream news media is being toned down by BBC coverage.

It is almost as if the accusation and denunciation is being meant as a joke. But Snow insists ‘He didn’t. He meant it. He really hates us.’

What does this mean for journalists and publishers he ‘really hates’?

Certainly, the protocols of courtesy and good manners that characterized White House media conferences under previous presidents have given way to sarcasm and put downs.

The BBC has been given the Trumpian sobriquet ‘another beauty,’ whenever North American Editor Jon Sopel asks critical questions:

Trump: Where are you from?
Sopel: Ah. BBC.
Trump: Ok. Here’s another beauty.
Sopel: It’s a good line. Uh. ‘Impartial, free and fair.’
Trump: Yeah, sure.
Sopel: Mr President?
Trump: Just like CNN, right?
Sopel: On the travel ban – We could banter back and forth – On the travel ban, would you accept that that was a good example of the smooth running of government?

The exchange has become rather iconic. But was the President really ‘bantering’ when he compared the BBC to his ‘fake news’ bête noire CNN?

When Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg bombarded Trump with the long question: ‘Mr President, you’ve said before that torture works, you’ve praised Russia, you’ve said you want to ban some Muslims from coming to America, you’ve suggested there should be punishment for abortion. For many people in Britain those sound like alarming beliefs. What do you say to our viewers at home who are worried about some of your views and worried about you becoming the leader of the free world?,’ he joked with Prime Minister Theresa May ‘There goes that relationship.’

On the surface it all seems light hearted. Sopel tweeted that his flinty exchanges with the President had earned him a new line in business cards.

JonSopelnewbusinesscardtweet

Trump does, of course, have his admirers and supporters in Britain. They include former UKIP leader and now LBC broadcaster, Nigel Farage, and former Daily Mirror editor and television presenter Piers Morgan.

Farage and Morgan argue that Trump is being trivialized and demonized unfairly.

He has been in office barely a few months and difficult questions are being raised: the judicial thwarting of his policy on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the resignation of his National Security Advisor, and the problem of leaks about Russian interference in US politics.

Trump is making it very clear how he is going to deal with this:

Spotlightonleakers

Were there to be a heightened clamp-down on leakers with federal prosecutions Donald Trump would be simply following in the footsteps of Barack Obama.

After Barack Obama entered the White House in 2009, his administration waged a war against whistleblowers and official leakers.

There were eight prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act on his watch which was more than double those under all previous presidents combined.

Perhaps President Trump is going to do his best to break this record. Whereas, Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning from a 35-year-jail sentence for feeding Wikileaks, Trump ramped up the rhetoric on Edward Snowden to the extent of implying he deserves the death penalty.

And there have been reports that Trump’s friend in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, has been considering gifting the renegade CIA contractor to further future détente.

In the meantime journalists and the Institute are watching closely to find out if the sulphurous rhetoric meted out by the new President on the fourth estate ever materialises into sticks and stones instead of words.

DonaldTrumpsigningexecutiveorderJan262017
Donald Trump signing executive orders within days of taking office. Journalists are hoping his bark is worse than his bite in his relations with the media. Image: @realDonaldTrump