Our own Katie Pavlich was among a handful of journalists -- all representing non-"mainstream" outlets -- from whom President Trump took questions at yesterday's joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Cortney and Twitchy covered the legacy media's resulting conniption fits, including expressions of anger from aghast Democratic operatives. Some of these criticisms are valid; others are preposterous, insular, and arrogant. Assorted thoughts:
(1) It's fair to say that if President Obama had exclusively called on explicitly left-leaning outlets over the course of multiple consecutive press conferences (setting aside the question of prevailing left-leaning bias within the mainstream press), conservatives would have melted down. Many of us were very critical of some of the embarrassingly obsequious questions he fielded over the years, several of which Republican strategist Rory Cooper dredged up on Twitter yesterday in the midst of this MSM tantrum:
2nd Question to Obama at APEC presser: Are GOP candidates "Ill-informed, out-of-touch or irresponsible?" Seriously.— Rory Cooper (@rorycooper) November 14, 2011
First question: "Are you ready to call yourself the comeback kid?" -Media at the top of their game. Groan. #ObamaPresser— Rory Cooper (@rorycooper) December 22, 2010
Media doesn't get many opportunities to question President. Thankfully we got a question in on how much Obama loves Chicago.— Rory Cooper (@rorycooper) May 21, 2012
Hillary Clinton, who was famously stingy with her press access, sometimes got mind-blowing passes when she finally deigned to take questions. And the Obama administration initially attempted to freeze out Fox News, which it viewed as a hostile outlet. Those facts aren't a justification to toss softball questions in the other direction; they do, however, represent context. Overall, I think it's totally in-bounds for members of the media (and those who cover media) to object to what could be an emerging presidential strategy of avoiding major news outlets -- especially if it's 'punishment' for unfavorable coverage.
(2) Journalists who cried foul over Trump's selection of questioners often came across as aggrieved and bitter that they had been passed over, but I don't think personal pique was the top driving factor of their grousing. More likely, these reporters were angry that those who were called upon didn't ask the questions that they believed should have been asked. Specifically, they wanted a feeding frenzy on the New York Times and CNN reporting about Trump associates being in frequent contact (but not coordinating or colluding with) with Russian intelligence figures during the campaign. That's certainly an important story, even if the actual reported facts suggest that it has been overblown. I'd agree that someone probably should have asked Trump about it. But that doesn't mean that opting to go with inquires on other important and serious matters was a dereliction of journalistic duty.
(3) It should be noted that the 'we-know-better' professionals often go overboard in the opposite direction. For instance, earlier this week, a House GOP press availability about Obamacare repeal got overshadowed when every single question was about the Flynn imbroglio. Of course it was reasonable to seek answers from the Speaker of the House about that active controversy. But the assembled Republicans didn't get a single question about the highly relevant issue of healthcare. What is the timeline? What is the legislative strategy? Where is the replacement bill? What about recalcitrant conservative members who only want to vote on repeal legislation? How will people with pre-existing conditions be covered? Is the Trump administration's use of executive "discretion" that undermines the individual mandate appropriate and constitutional? These are questions to which a great many people would have liked answers, but instead, we got Flynn, Flynn and more Flynn. Does that approach serve the diverse interests of news consumers?
(4) The ugliest reactions to Katie's questions were tinged with deep-seated arrogance and ideological myopia. The DC press corps is an elite club, and some of its members truly believe that they're the only ones who are entitled to ask, or are even capable of asking, "important" questions. If they had a problem with the substance of Katie's questions -- aside from the fact that they didn't pertain to their current narrative -- that's one thing. But there was nothing, and I mean nothing, illegitimate about her two-part query. Watch:
Uh, @KatiePavlich asked DT what spec peace compromises he wants from each side & BN what he expects from new WH re: Iran deal. *100%* legit.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) February 15, 2017
From a journalistic perspective, these were solid, relevant questions on newsworthy topics -- especially in light of the pair of world leaders standing at their respective podiums. Trump had just mentioned "compromises" in pushing back against Israeli settlements (newsworthy!), so Katie drilled down for specifics. And the Iran nuclear deal was a major subject of intense debate during the campaign, with recent Iranian malfeasance drawing more attention to the issue. There's even a Flynn angle to the story, if people simply must write and talk about it through that lens. The journalists in that room, and those carping on Twitter, had zero substantive beef with her questions. "The fix" was not "in." In truth, it was the fact that she was offered that platform that offended their professional sensibilities. As if openly conservative journalists are genetically incapable of asking worthwhile or fair-minded questions -- unlike the Washington press gaggle, of course. They're just an overwhelmingly liberal tribe who wake up every morning convinced that their personal opinions will not color their coverage. Because they're the professionals. I'll leave you with this, via a former Reuters and ABC News journalist:
Don't think it' quite fair to attack the outlets rather than attack the questions if you find them too soft. https://t.co/XY7hU1WGMf— Alex Leo (@AlexMLeo) February 15, 2017
UPDATE - As fair-minded pressure mounted in resistance to Trump's apparent strategy of passing over "mainstream" outlets, the White House announced today that the president will give a solo press conference this afternoon. Good.