Trump War on Media Undermines Trust 01/23 06:03
Donald Trump's "running war" on the media is continuing into his presidency,
with statements over the weekend calling into question the extent to which
information from the White House can be trusted.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Donald Trump's "running war" on the media is continuing
into his presidency, with statements over the weekend calling into question the
extent to which information from the White House can be trusted.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday will hold his first daily
press briefing, at which he could face questions about a statement Saturday
night that included demonstrably false assertions about the crowd size at
Trump's inauguration and a promise by the new administration that "we're going
to hold the press accountable."
Some Trump supporters will no doubt cheer the continued antagonism toward
the media that was central to the Republican's campaign for president. Now the
stakes are higher.
Press secretaries have been lied to by their bosses, or misled reporters
through the omission of information, but veteran journalist Dan Rather said
Sunday it was the first time he could recall false material being delivered in
"I hope that people will stop, pull back for what we in television call a
wide shot and see what is happening," Rather said. "This is a deliberate
Spicer, a longtime Republican operative who most recently was the spokesman
for the Republican National Committee and also worked for President George W.
Bush, is known for fighting tenaciously for his employers. His briefing on
Saturday followed a Trump appearance at the CIA where the president criticized
the media for reporting his criticisms of the intelligence community. He also
took exception to stories saying the crowd for Friday's inauguration was
smaller than those for predecessor Barack Obama. Trump declared that
journalists are "the most dishonest human beings on Earth," saying "I have a
running war with the media."
Spicer made two unprovable statements in his briefing: that photographs of
the audience at Trump's inaugural were intentionally framed to minimize the
appearance of support, and that Trump drew the largest audience ever to witness
But he also made statements that were quickly disproven: that the Washington
Metro system recorded more riders on the day of Trump's inaugural than when
Obama was sworn in for his second term, that Friday was the first time that
white floor covering was used on the Washington Mall, amplifying empty spaces,
and that it was the first time spectators were required to pass through
magnetometers to enter the Mall.
Spicer's briefing, during which he did not take questions from reporters,
was televised live on Fox News Channel and MSNBC. CNN did not air the session
but showed highlights later.
Trump's first press conference after he was elected, held on Jan. 11, also
took aim at the media. Coming hours after news reports revealed intelligence
officials had presented Trump with unsubstantiated and salacious allegations
regarding his relationship to Russia, Trump and his team condemned news
organizations that disclosed details, calling out CNN and BuzzFeed as
"disgraceful" and refusing to take questions from a CNN reporter.
Confronted by "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd on Sunday with "falsehoods"
stated by Spicer, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway called them "alternative
facts." She accused Todd of laughing at her and said he symbolizes how Trump
has been treated by the media.
One person who has been in Spicer's position, former White House press
secretary Ari Fleischer, said it seemed clear to him that Spicer was acting on
orders from his boss. Press secretaries have to walk a fine line between
reflecting the thinking and wishes of the president while trying to help the
people covering him do their jobs, said Fleischer, who, like Spicer, worked for
George W. Bush.
Fleischer said he never knowingly delivered false information to the press
while at the White House.
"You can't do that," he said. "It will shorten your career."
When Spicer faces the press on Monday, he needs to elaborate on his
argument, "take the hard questions and demonstrate reasonableness," Fleischer
The conservative website breitbart.com led its site with an article
headlined: "White House press secretary Sean Spicer blasts media's
'deliberately false reporting.'" The article said that Spicer's "criticism of
the media's fake news reporting resulted in a media meltdown on social media."
It's a crucial time for Spicer's reputation. A press secretary whose word
can't be trusted has no value to anyone, said Terence Hunt, a longtime White
House correspondent and editor for The Associated Press who recently retired.
"You can't tell lies in the White House," Hunt said. "Somebody will smoke
you out, on issues large and small. The president's integrity and credibility
are at stake in everything you say, so be super careful."
If the White House can't be trusted to tell the truth on a relatively
trivial matter like crowd size, the public will wonder about the reliability of
information on important topics like terrorism or the nuclear capabilities of
North Korea, said Ben Mullin, a managing editor at the Poynter Institute who
does a podcast on the relationship between Trump and the press.
Rather, a former CBS anchor who famously tangled with the Nixon White House
during the Watergate era, said the situation saddened him.
"I don't think the American people as a whole, whether they supported Donald
Trump or not, want a situation where the press secretary to the president comes
out and knowingly tells a lie," he said.