For the news media, it’s been a rough couple of days. President Trump took a swipe at you, then White House Communications Director and Press Secretary Sean Spicer ripped you a new one, and then Spicer doubled down, saying that if you calculate those watching on mobile devices and tablets, Trump’s inauguration was probably was the most watched. Keep in mind; if this were taken into account for Obama’s first inauguration, those watching/attending would probably still be larger. Regardless, the president should be happy. He had a decent crowd attendance and he should move on to other things. Nevertheless, this new Trump White House isn’t going to stand idle when they feel the media is peddling. And this combative tone in general could be to the new administration’s advantage. Reporting on Spicer laying into the media dominated the news coverage, while President Trump’s executive order laying the foundation for Obamacare’s repeal went largely unnoticed. And we all know how the media reacts when you go after Obama's signature domestic achievement--by saying those who want repeal want people to die, or something.
The broadcast morning and evening news shows have spent 20 minutes and 18 seconds focusing on White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s comments about the size of Donald Trump’s Inauguration crowd. Meanwhile, when President Trump signed a far more consequential executive order that limits the penalties from the Affordable Care Act, the same networks spent only 1 minute and 39 seconds covering it – less than one-twelfth the coverage.
On Sunday's World News Tonight, for example, ABC correspondent Mary Bruce took this jab: "Today, the White House defended their denial of reality." All three networks showed NBC Meet the Press host Chuck Todd upbraiding White House senior aide Kellyanne Conway that the White House was peddling a "falsehood."
Mike Ciandella of Newsbusters crunched the numbers, but also cited The Federalists’ Mollie Hemingway, who noted the hypocrisy of the news media all of a sudden becoming guardians of the truth, when they let Obama’s lies, like being able to keep your health care plan if you like it, slide undetected.
Newsbusters executive editor Tim Graham, who was also a member of the White House Press Corps, also commented on how Spicer is shaking up the press briefing room, not calling on the Associated Press, ABC, NBC, or even CBS in his first official briefing yesterday. That apparently was a triggering event as well:
At his first White House briefing, Trump press secretary Sean Spicer drew nervous tweets from the liberal media for calling on sources outside their comfort zone. He didn’t start with the usual alphabet: AP, ABC, CBS, NBC. He started with the New York Post, whose representative asked him when Trump would start building that wall he promised on the southern border.
New York Times reporter Michael Grynbaum tweeted within minutes: “Priorities, Day 1: Spicer calls on NY Post, CBN, Univision, Fox News. So far top newspapers & broadcast networks shut out.”
CNN media reporter Brian Stelter was wowed: “He's literally AND symbolically going over the heads of the reporters from the biggest newspapers and TV networks.”
Spicer eventually came around to the front row. But this was a really refreshing start to the Trump press policy.
CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin questioned former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer with smirking condescension: “Listen, I’m all for bucking tradition and calling on different people. But the fact that Sean chose the New York Post to get the very first question, care to comment on that?” Fleischer acknowledged he and his boss observed the liberal-media tradition, but Trump is “entitled” to make changes. “Nothing is sacrosanct. It’s not written in stone.”
In my White House briefing days, and today, the liberal majority in the White House press corps think conservative media are going to ask softball questions to Republican press secretaries. But often – like the New York Post today – they end up pressing Republicans about their campaign promises to Republican voters, something liberal reporters will lobby to stop from happening.
And there is plenty for right-leaning publications to press the White House on for the next four years, especially on immigration, job creation, tax reform, and trade—issues that formed the bedrock of Trump’s political campaign.
Yes, Spicer might have unnecessarily fudged the numbers on the inauguration attendance; he didn’t need to because I think most would feel that the attendance was healthy. The White House, whoever occupies it, should be called out when they peddle a falsehood or commit executive overreach. But the folks who are largely doing it are the very people who let Obama slide for eight years on overreach and flat-out lies. For God’s sake, Dan Rather is saying that we need to call out Trump’s lies. Uh, Dan—you peddled fake documents to smear George W. Bush during the 2004 election. Remember that?