The Guardian reports: The Trump administration should “act as a champion of press freedom”, a senior member of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Saturday, rather than prosecute a war with mainstream US media that could “send a signal to other countries that it is OK to verbally abuse journalists and undermine their credibility”.
Rob Mahoney, deputy executive director of the CPJ, a nonprofit that promotes press freedom worldwide, told the Guardian Trump’s attacks on the press do not “help our work trying to deal with countries like Turkey, Ethiopia or Venezuela, where you have governments who want to nothing more than to silence and intimidate the press.”
Mahoney also said attempts to favour conservative press outlets and declare the mainstream media the “enemy of the American people” looked like a deliberate effort by the White House to “inoculate itself from criticism”.
“Any time the press now uncovers an scandal or wrongdoing the administration can dismiss it as false,” he said. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: President Trump turned the power of the White House against the news media on Friday, escalating his attacks on journalists as “the enemy of the people” and berating members of his own F.B.I. as “leakers” who he said were putting the nation at risk.
In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Trump criticized as “fake news” organizations that publish anonymously sourced reports that reflect poorly on him. And in a series of Twitter posts, he assailed the F.B.I. as a dangerously porous agency, condemning unauthorized revelations of classified information from within its ranks and calling for an immediate hunt for leakers.
Hours after the speech, as if to demonstrate Mr. Trump’s determination to punish reporters whose coverage he dislikes, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, barred journalists from The New York Times and several other news organizations from attending his daily briefing, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps.
Mr. Trump’s barrage against the news media continued well into Friday night. “FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth,” he wrote on Twitter shortly after 10 p.m., singling out The Times and CNN. “A great danger to our country.”
The moves underscored the degree to which Mr. Trump and members of his inner circle are eager to use the prerogatives of the presidency to undercut those who scrutinize him, dismissing negative stories as lies and confining press access at the White House to a few chosen news organizations considered friendly. The Trump White House has also vowed new efforts to punish leakers. [Continue reading…]
Trump’s temper tantrums are bound to escalate because while he has the power to do things like selectively exclude journalists from press briefings, he doesn’t have the power to control the coverage he gets on television — the source of validation and visibility on which his career and core identity utterly depend. Indeed, the harder Trump throws his counterpunches, the more they will empower Jake Tapper and others who refuse to be silenced.
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) February 24, 2017
The Washington Post reports: The White House on Friday barred news outlets — including CNN, the New York Times, Politico and the Los Angeles Times — from attending an off-camera press briefing held by spokesman Sean Spicer, igniting another controversy concerning the relationship between the Trump administration and the media.
The Wall Street Journal, which did participate in the briefing, said in a statement that it was unaware of the exclusions and “had we known at the time, we would not have participated, and we will not participate in such closed briefings in the future.”
The Washington Post did not have a reporter present at the time of the gaggle. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: William H. McRaven, a retired four-star admiral and former Navy SEAL, defended journalists this week, calling President Trump’s denunciation of the media as “the enemy of the American people” the “greatest threat to democracy” he’s seen in his lifetime.
That’s coming from a man who’s seen major threats to democracy.
McRaven, who was commander of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, is the man who organized and oversaw the highly risky operation that killed Osama bin Laden almost six years ago. The admiral from Texas had tapped a special unit of Navy SEALs to carry out the May 2011 raid on the elusive terrorist’s hideout, a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock reported shortly after bin Laden’s death.
McRaven left the military in 2014 after nearly four decades and later became chancellor of the University of Texas System. The UT-Austin alumnus, who has a bachelor’s degree in journalism, addressed a crowd at the university’s Moody College of Communication on Tuesday.
“We must challenge this statement and this sentiment that the news media is the enemy of the American people,” McRaven said, according to the Daily Texan. “This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.” [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: The reporter who helped expose an infamously paranoid, manipulative and destructive president said Sunday that Richard Nixon had nothing on Donald Trump.
“Trump’s attacks on the American press as ‘enemies of the American people’ are more treacherous than Richard Nixon’s attacks on the press,” former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein said Sunday on CNN.
Trump’s comments — made publicly, whereas Nixon attacked his enemies in private — brought to mind “dictators and authoritarians, including Stalin, including Hitler,” Bernstein said. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sunday that he does not see the media as the enemy of the American people, disagreeing with a claim made Friday by President Trump about numerous outlets.
Mattis, asked directly about Trump’s criticism of the media, said he has had “some rather contentious times with the press” but considers the institution “a constituency that we deal with.” The defense secretary added: “I don’t have any issues with the press myself.”
The comments came during a trip to Europe and the Middle East intended to reassure allies and gather information about ongoing operations. Mattis, a retired Marine general, also acknowledged concerns about the administration raised by Army Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas, the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command. Thomas said at a conference Tuesday that “our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil” and that he hopes “they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war.”
Mattis said Sunday that he has been talking with a “fair number of military commanders around the world” and believes Thomas was “probably taken a bit out of context because we all want to see everything moving smoothly.” But Mattis also acknowledged the chaotic nature of Trump’s administration so far.
“Welcome to democracy,” Mattis said. “It’s at times wildly contentious. It’s at times quite sporting. But the bottom line is this is the best form of government that we can come up with. So, the military’s job is to hold the line, and to hold the line, and to hold the line while our government sorts out the way ahead and our people speak. We don’t have any disarray inside the military, and that’s where my responsibility resides.” [Continue reading…]
Robin Wright writes: Trump’s baffling foreign policy is a central focus of the annual Munich Security Conference this weekend. Top officials from almost fifty countries — including Mattis and Vice-President Mike Pence — are attending the three-day event, which is the premier global forum on security policy. The preparatory report — written by an international team as the official “conversation starter” — uses stark language about the new American President. “The worries are that Trump will embark on a foreign policy based on superficial quick wins, zero-sum games, and mostly bilateral transactions — and that he may ignore the value of international order building, steady alliances, and strategic thinking,” it says. “Or, maybe worse, that he sees foreign and security policy as a game to be used whenever he needs distractions for domestic political purposes.” The report, “Post-Truth, Post-West, Post-Order?” adds candidly, “What is uncertain is how Trump’s core beliefs will translate into policy (and whether policies will be coherent).”
In an ominous introductory note, the conference’s chairman, Wolfgang Ischinger, a widely respected former German Ambassador to Washington, warns of the dangers to global order if the United States reneges on international commitments and pursues a more unilateralist and nationalistic agenda. He writes, “We may, then, be on the brink of a post-Western age, one in which non-Western actors are shaping international affairs, often in parallel or even to the detriment of precisely those multilateral frameworks that have formed the bedrock of the liberal international order since 1945. Are we entering a post-order world?” [Continue reading…]
Thomas Jefferson (1787): “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) February 18, 2017
The Washington Post reports: Sen. John McCain spoke out Saturday in defense of the free press after President Trump lashed out against the news media several times over the past week, at one point declaring it “the enemy of the American People!”
Such talk, McCain (R-Ariz.) said on NBC News in an interview set to air Sunday, was “how dictators get started.”
“In other words, a consolidation of power,” McCain told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd from Munich. “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.” [Continue reading…]
On Saturday in Florida, Trump continued with his vilification of the press:
CBS News reports: Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, advised Americans to take President Trump’s attacks on the media “seriously,” following the president’s denunciations of the press as the “enemy.”
“There’s been a debate about when to take the president seriously,” CBS’ John Dickerson said in a “Face the Nation” interview with Priebus Saturday. “He recently tweeted that the press was the enemy of the American people. Should we take that seriously from him?”
“Well, I think you should take it seriously,” Priebus replied. “I think that the problem we’ve got is that we’re talking about bogus stories like the one in the New York Times, that we’ve had constant contact with Russian officials. The next day, the Wall Street Journal had a story that the intel community was not giving the president a full intelligence briefing. Both stories grossly inaccurate, overstated, overblown, and it’s total garbage.”
Sources told CBS News there is a “chill” in the flow of intelligence to the White House, both because of comments from the president about the intelligence community and anxiety over the handling of sensitive information about Russian interference in the 2016 election. [Continue reading…]
Thomas Jefferson (1823): “the only security of all is in a free press. the force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed. the agitation it produces must be submitted to. it is necessary to keep the waters pure.”
Nate Cohn writes: Donald J. Trump won the presidential election as the least popular candidate in the polling era. He assumed the presidency with the lowest approval rating of any incoming president.
And his ratings have continued to fall. The question isn’t whether it’s bad for Mr. Trump and the Republicans, but how bad.
Usually, presidents ride high at the start of their terms. After one month, presidents average around a 60 percent approval rating. Even re-elected presidents with considerable baggage, like Barack Obama or George W. Bush, still had approval ratings around or over 50 percent.
The worst data for Mr. Trump comes from live interview telephone surveys like Pew Research and Gallup, which pin his approval rating among adults around 40 percent.
The most recent Gallup survey, the first conducted entirely after the resignation of Michael Flynn as national security adviser, has Mr. Trump’s approval rating down to 38 percent, with 56 percent disapproving (a differential of minus 18).
Mr. Trump’s ratings aren’t just bad for an incoming president. They’re bad for a president at any point in a term. [Continue reading…]
The ability of a loudmouth in the Oval Office to assemble a few thousand gullible supporters in Florida does not show that the force of public opinion is on Trump’s side. On the contrary, by employing the same power dynamics used by terrorists (drawing national and international attention to local events), Trump is merely using his ability to dominate media coverage as an instrument for amplifying the range of his desired influence.
Following Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s last minute decision to attend a G20 gathering of foreign ministers in Germany — his first trip overseas as America’s top diplomat — the New York Times describes his meeting with Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson: At the beginning of their meeting, a small group of reporters was ushered in to take photos of Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Johnson sitting across from each other. One reporter shouted a question to Mr. Tillerson asking what message he was sending to his colleagues about President Trump’s executive order on travel and refugees.
Mr. Tillerson remained mum.
“Good try,” Mr. Johnson said to fill the silence, as others in the room nervously chuckled.
The reporters were brought back into the room at the end of the meeting, and this time a shouted question — How would the turmoil in Washington affect the trans-Atlantic alliance? — was directed at the normally voluble Mr. Johnson. This time even he was silent.
As the reporters were leaving, however, Mr. Johnson was heard to ask: “Are we still being recorded?”
To which Mr. Tillerson, whose two-week tenure has not included a single news conference, press availability or routine briefing, replied, “They never give up.”
Later, during his meeting with Mr. Lavrov, — the first face-to-face high-level encounter between Russian and Trump administration officials — the news media pool was ushered into a small room to witness Mr. Lavrov give his usual flowery introduction. “I would like to congratulate you once again,” Mr. Lavrov said to Mr. Tillerson.
Invariably in such meetings when one side gives introductory remarks, the other side does as well. But as soon as Mr. Lavrov was finished, State Department press aides asked reporters — including a bewildered-looking Russian news crew — to leave.
While the reporters were herded out, Mr. Tillerson said: “Thank you, Mr. Lavrov, it’s a pleasure to see you.” And then he stopped. Just as the reporters reached the door, Mr. Lavrov was heard to ask Mr. Tillerson, “Why did they shush them out?”
After the meeting, Mr. Tillerson gave his statement calling on Russia to honor its commitments to Ukraine, but took no questions. [Continue reading…]
Jack Shafer writes: Donald Trump and his forthcoming presidency may be the greatest gift to Washington journalism since the invention of the expense account. His unorthodox approach to politics and governance has vaporized the standard, useful, yet boring script for reporting on a new administration’s doings. At his news conference last week, Trump began the process of washing the press completely out of his fake hair as he castigated CNN and BuzzFeed for reporting on the oppo-research dossier compiled on him. “Fake news,” said the man who has appeared on InfoWars and commended the outlet’s efforts.
Trump’s surrogate Newt Gingrich took to Sean Hannity’s program on Fox to assist in the maiming of the media. Trump and his team “need to go out there and understand they have it in their power to set the terms of this dialogue,” Gingrich said on the Jan. 11 episode. “They can close down the elite press.” Next up came Reince Priebus’ announcement that Trump might evict the presidential press corps from the White House for lesser lodging in the adjacent Old Executive Office Building, and Sean Spicer’s admonition that reporters “adhere to a high level of decorum at press briefings and press conferences,” according to a readout of his two-hour summit with the head of the White House Correspondents’ Association. (Or else what, one wonders?)
Now, before the Committee to Protect Journalists throws up the batsign and the rest of us bemoan Trump’s actions as anti-press — which they are — let’s thank the incoming president for simplifying our mission. If Trump’s idea of a news conference is to spank the press, if his lieutenants believe the press needs shutting down, if his chief of staff wants to speculate about moving the White House press scrum off the premises, perhaps reporters ought to take the hint and prepare to cover his administration on their own terms. Instead of relying exclusively on the traditional skills of political reporting, the carriers of press cards ought to start thinking of covering Trump’s Washington like a war zone, where conflict follows conflict, where the fog prevents the collection of reliable information directly from the combatants, where the assignment is a matter of life or death.
In his own way, Trump has set us free. Reporters must treat Inauguration Day as a kind of Liberation Day to explore news outside the usual Washington circles. He has been explicit in his disdain for the press and his dislike for press conferences, prickly to the nth degree about being challenged and known for his vindictive way with those who cross him. So, forget about the White House press room. It’s time to circle behind enemy lines. [Continue reading…]
Margaret Sullivan writes: At the northeast corner of the National Archives building sits Robert Aitken’s sculpture “The Future,” inscribed with some famous words from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”: “What is past is prologue.”
If you buy that, it’s possible to have a solid idea of what Donald Trump’s presidency will be like for the American media and for citizens who depend on that flawed but essential institution.
The short form: hellish.
Consider, for example, the saga of Serge Kovaleski, the highly regarded New York Times reporter whose disability limits the use of his arms.
Yes, this is the reporter whom Trump mocked during the campaign — waving his arms in a crude but unmistakable imitation of Kovaleski’s movements. When criticized for doing so, Trump vehemently denied that mocking Kovaleski was even possible because he didn’t know him. (Which was also a lie.) All this, because Trump wanted to promote a myth — talk about “fake news” — that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated 9/11, which he falsely claimed Kovaleski reported while working at The Washington Post. Any reasonable person looking back at the facts would find that absurd.
What can this small chapter tell us about what’s to come?
That Trump will be what columnist Frida Ghitis of the Miami Herald calls “the gaslighter in chief” — that he will pull out all the stops to make people think that they should believe him, not their own eyes. (“Gaslighting” is a reference to the 1940s movie in which a manipulative husband psychologically abuses his wife by denying the reality that the gaslights in their home are growing dimmer and dimmer.)
“The techniques,” Ghitis wrote, “include saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth.”
But that’s just part of what experience teaches us to expect from Trump. [Continue reading…]
Trump’s denigration of the media and of information itself is creating an environment that inoculates him from critical coverage
The Wall Street Journal reports: Turkish authorities detained a Wall Street Journal staff reporter for 2½ days this past week, without permitting him contact with his family or attorneys before releasing him.
The reporter, Dion Nissenbaum, 49 years old, left Turkey to return to the U.S. on Saturday. Police took Mr. Nissenbaum from his Istanbul apartment on Tuesday evening. He was released from a detention center on Friday morning.
A person familiar with the matter said he was held for allegedly violating a government ban on publication of images from an Islamic State video.
“While we are relieved that Dion was released unharmed after nearly three days, we remain outraged at his peremptory detention, without any contact with his family, legal counsel or colleagues,” said Gerard Baker, editor in chief of the Journal. [Continue reading…]
James Risen writes: If Donald J. Trump decides as president to throw a whistle-blower in jail for trying to talk to a reporter, or gets the F.B.I. to spy on a journalist, he will have one man to thank for bequeathing him such expansive power: Barack Obama.
Mr. Trump made his animus toward the news media clear during the presidential campaign, often expressing his disgust with coverage through Twitter or in diatribes at rallies. So if his campaign is any guide, Mr. Trump seems likely to enthusiastically embrace the aggressive crackdown on journalists and whistle-blowers that is an important yet little understood component of Mr. Obama’s presidential legacy.
Criticism of Mr. Obama’s stance on press freedom, government transparency and secrecy is hotly disputed by the White House, but many journalism groups say the record is clear. Over the past eight years, the administration has prosecuted nine cases involving whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined. It has repeatedly used the Espionage Act, a relic of World War I-era red-baiting, not to prosecute spies but to go after government officials who talked to journalists.
Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases. [Continue reading…]
Committee to Protect Journalists reports: More journalists are jailed around the world than at any time since the Committee to Protect Journalists began keeping detailed records in 1990, with Turkey accounting for nearly a third of the global total, CPJ found in its annual census of journalists imprisoned worldwide.
Amid an ongoing crackdown that accelerated after a failed coup attempt in July, Turkey is jailing at least 81 journalists in relation to their work, the highest number in any one country at any time, according to CPJ’s records. Turkish authorities have accused each of those 81 journalists–and dozens more whose imprisonment CPJ was unable to link directly to journalistic work–of anti-state activity.