The media faces a conundrum as they are forced to choose either supporting the president's words and actions, which they hate, or supporting a Republican governor, which they also hate. As Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia chose to reopen his state ahead of the federal three-phase guideline, President Trump made it quite clear that he did not agree.
I (or @VP) never gave Governor Brian Kemp an OK on those few businesses outside of the Guidelines. FAKE NEWS! Spas, beauty salons, tattoo parlors, & barber shops should take a little slower path, but I told the Governor to do what is right for the great people of Georgia (& USA)!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2020
"I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he is doing," said the president at a White House briefing last week. "I think it's too soon." The president has said repeatedly that he would yield to the individual state governors to make the best decisions for their own state, but his difference of opinion from Gov. Kemp's was somehow a total shock to the media.
Left-leaning journalists have consistently disparaged suggestions of opening the economy before "widespread testing" was available and have been largely critical of any official suggesting that the testing capacity was ready. But when it came to Kemp bucking the White House guidelines, the media flipped the script.
"Donald Trump just threw Georgia's governor directly under the bus on coronavirus," claimed CNN's Chris Cillizza. "For Kemp, it's a painful lesson to learn: Loyalty is a one-way street for Trump. Trump expects totally fealty ... and feels no real need to reciprocate. You need to be loyal to him. He will be loyal to you -- as long as it serves his interests." Cillizza had been openly critical of Kemp's choice to reopen Georgia when he considered him to be a blindly obedient Trump surrogate.
"Kemp is seen as a Trump-loving governor who takes his marching orders from the president," Cillizza wrote after learning the governor was planning to reopen the state. Kemp was also criticized for ignoring health experts and data by pushing forward with business openings and lifting stay-at-home orders. But in the face of dissent from Trump just a few days later, Kemp became the protagonist.
The Daily Beast also found an atypical hero in Brian Kemp, portraying him as the most recent victim of the president's unpredictable vitriol. Their consistent writing against the early reopening of states took second chair to Kemp's waiver from unbroken Trump allegiance.
"Trump spits back at Georgia governor and local Republicans duck," a headline in the liberal magazine said. The article withheld any criticism of Kemp, which could look like agreement with Trump and instead framed the GA governor's decision as downright prudent.
"Brian Kemp, who is serving his first term as governor, announced earlier this week that selected businesses could reopen Friday including gyms, barbers, massage therapists, hair salons and bowling alleys," the article stated plainly. "He's also said the businesses would face 'specific restrictions, including adherence to Minimum Basic Operations, social distancing, and regular sanitation.'" The article goes on to point out that Trump's actions, not Kemp's, were causing unrest among Republicans in Georgia and other parts of the country.
"Even so," the Daily Beast claimed, "Trump's rebuke of Kemp was still a surprise, since the president is fretting about the economic impact of the coronavirus. He's also been more likely to scorn Democratic governors than directly challenge sitting Republicans." The magazine, which claimed, "Trump's culture warriors are a literal death cult now," after the White House announced the three-phase reopening guideline, had no direct criticism about potential safety hazards in Kemp's choice to reopen.
The media, seemingly, is unable to just say, "Hey, we actually agree with the president on this one." It is abundantly clear that skewering Trump takes priority over concern for the health of fellow Americans and truth in reporting. Even Gov. Kemp praised Trump for his principled stance and thanked him for yielding to the local governors, even though they didn't see eye to eye. The media saw it as yet another opportunity to rake the president over the coals.
CNN's Jim Acosta, who has repeatedly blamed the president for causing deaths and responding too slowly to the threat of infection from the Wuhan coronavirus, also declined to criticize Gov. Kemp. He blamed the president, instead, for reportedly changing his mind. The report Acosta cited was later discredited publicly by the president.
Trump reportedly called Brian Kemp on Tuesday night to praise him. Yesterday, Trump reversed course, saying he disagreed “strongly” with Kemp’s decision to open GA on Fri.— Vicky Ward (@VickyPJWard) April 23, 2020
Per @Acosta, it’s because Fauci stood up and said, “I cannot defend this publicly.” https://t.co/R2XcN0HPUM
Wow. Trump says he told Georgia. Gov. Brian Kemp he disagrees with his moves. "But at the same time, he must do what he thinks is right."— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) April 22, 2020
Trump is now throwing his own guy, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, under the bus. Did Kemp not see this coming? Trump always scapegoats his own loyal people, whenever he feels he needs to.— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) April 22, 2020