I believe this to have been a watershed week for the press when it comes to covering Donald Trump. It finally put its foot down. Finally. After all of these months treating Trump as if he were normal.
President Trump would have had a good first week in terms of optics if he could have just kept silent, and untweeted, but of course like an insecure little boy he can’t resist slapping back at anything that makes him feel diminished.
As for the good week part, he certainly appeared to be making things happen, what with meetings with auto execs, other business leaders, labor leaders, congressional leaders and undoubtedly others I’ve missed. Also, a slew of executive orders which, whether you like them or not, suggest things will be different just as he said they would in his campaign. No, same ‘ol, same ‘ol with him.
But he could not leave well enough alone. He just can’t get over the fact that his win wasn’t as impressive as he believes it should have been. The lying press just aren’t giving him enough credit. “They” just talk of Russian interference in the election, the relatively small size of his inauguration crowd, the fact that Hillary garnered more votes, and the huge number of women demonstrators decrying his policies the following day. All stuff that seems to cheapen his victory.
To counter balance that Trump has insisted that his inauguration crowd was bigger than the press reported, and for good measure, later repeated to some congressmen that he would have had the popular vote if it weren’t for some three to five million “illegals” who tipped the scales.
As for the first part, Chuck Todd on Meet the Press did something I have not seen another journalist do, he refused to let Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s whirling dervish of spin, get away with deflecting the question as to why in a statement to the press it was asserted that the crowd there was huge, when it was clearly far less than for Obama in 2009 as can be seen in a photo of each.
Todd never got her to answer the question, but he stuck with it for about 20 minutes prompting her to say that their portrayal came from “alternative facts”, to which Todd responded: “You mean falsehoods.” The words “alternative facts” captures much of what the Trump team does, as was clear when Trump made his statement about the illegal immigrants. He had said it before, but it wasn’t glommed onto then like now.
The New York Times called it a “lie” on its front page, and I’ve never seen them do that before. You see the main stream press avoids using the word “lie”, as if it were a four letter word, as it implies intentionality which gets tricky to assess. As Ben Mathis-Lilley argued in a piece in Slate yesterday, it was more B. S. than a lie, and I agree with him (check out the link), but let’s not quibble. “Lie” like in whopper, is often what the Trump team has gotten away with.
Of course, this all started years ago with the birther controversy that Trump kept fueling while never producing any facts, just indicating his investigative team was discovering things that made him question. I never saw anyone demand to see his research, or even who was doing it. He was good for ratings and kind of joke, nothing to really worry about, so why rock the boat.
Much more recently a TV commentator pressed Kellyanne Conway on the fact that despite Trump’s talking about being audited, no proof of that had been given. And Ms. Conway, with a look of shock (that would have made the “overrated” Meryl Streep envious) shot back: “Are you saying he is lying?” The flummoxed commentator backed off. You see, the press has not wanted to make that kind of accusation, which is why the Times headline is important.
Hopefully this is the beginning of a more feisty press corp that will actually keep pressing when fed a line of bull by this administration.