When it was revealed that President Richard Nixon kept an enemies list, Washington reporters who made the list gained a little bit more prestige and gravitas among their peers because they were thought to be tough on the president.
Reporters who didn’t make the list were almost ashamed because that implied you must have been a toadie to Nixon. Now, as the Trump administration settles into The White House, we may have a reversal of this situation.
It seems the Trump transition team was considering moving The White House briefing room farther from the Oval Office, and maybe even out of the building to accommodate the increased number of press who want to cover the president, according to Trump’s people.
The White House press corps, ever the jealous guardians of their perks and prerogatives, complained so loud that Trump cancelled the idea. Trump told “Fox and Friends” there will be more press than the room can handle, so he and his staff will decide who gets to attend press briefings, traditionally a chore handled by the White House Press Association.
This could create an interesting dynamic. It’s no secret that Trump loathes the press corps, particularly the ones who write or broadcast stories he doesn’t like. He regularly taunts and mocks the press, and even refused to take a question from CNN at his most recent press conference because of its coverage of the alleged Russian dossier.
So if Trump and his staff get to choose who attends the press briefings, guess who’s going to get in. The best seats will go to the media rooting for Trump–think Fox News, Breitbart News, Drudge Report, etc.–while the likes of CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times will be lucky to get standing room in the back.
The mainstream media that is granted access may not want to show up, less they be thought of as pawns of the new administration. Talk about damning with faint praise!
Access to the White House briefing room is overrated anyway, because these affairs are stage-managed events designed to make the administration look authoritative and in command, with the media serving basically as window dressing. As Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward proved during the Watergate scandal, the real story is to be found elsewhere.
With Trump at the podium, press conferences are likely to feature bluster and lying than any attempt to get close to the truth. While every administration tries to ignore inconvenient facts and present its own rosy scenario, we’ve never had a president who routinely lies like Trump does.
It fact, it has reached the point where the media is debating whether they should call Trump a “liar” in articles and television reports when–you know–he’s caught lying. The debate started when Gerard Baker, editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, was asked if the Journal would use the word in its news stories. As Baker wrote later in the paper:
“The word ‘lie’ conveys a moral as well as factual judgement. To accuse someone of lying is to impute a willful, deliberate attempt to deceive. It says he knowingly used a misrepresentation of fact to mislead for his own purposes.
“If we are to use the term ‘lie’ in our reporting, then we have to be confident of the subject’s state of knowledge and his moral intent.” Baker is content to let his reporters point out how a statement varies from the known facts and let the readers decide who’s lying.
But there’s an easier test than that. If somebody willfully misstates the facts–“I would have won the popular vote if it wasn’t for millions of illegal votes”–or makes no effort to verify a claim he’s going to make, then he’s lying. See how easy it is.