Neil Foote, President & Founder, Foote Communications
The President of the United States has escalated his war on the press – and it’s only going to get worse as the newly minted Democratic majority of the House of Representatives settles in.
Oh, wait, not all press. Just everyone else who isn’t Fox News. I’m not being flip, just realistic. You saw the footage for yourself: Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro stumping with Trump at a pre-Election Day rally in Missouri. We know on a regular basis the Conservative-leaning station helps set the president’s daily agenda by the way it talks about immigration, the Mueller investigation and the Democrats. That’s just the way President Trump rolls – and that’s all very intentional.
Fox News issued a statement condoning Hannity’s and Pirro’s involvement. Hannity explained that he never intended to go on stage until the president invited him to join him. So he went anyway? Really, is that what journalists do now? That’s not what I learned as a reporter at The Miami Herald and the Washington Post. That’s not what I teach my students at UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism. The best journalists remain independent, doing their best to ask good question to pursue the truth.
Trump knows the more he bashes the press, particularly those from CNN, the New York Times and NBC, the more his supporters stand behind him. The numbers speak for themselves. A recent Axios Poll showed that 92 percent of Republicans think the “mainstream media” Intentionally reports fake news. A Gallup/Knight survey, “Indicators of News Media Trust,” revealed that nine out of 10 Republicans and conservatives say their trust in the news media has decreased in the past 10 years.
Look how the president treated CNN White House Reporter Jim Acosta who he ridiculed in a press conference, refused to answer his questions and then had his press credentials revoked temporarily. Add to the president’s rude, dismissive treatment of women reporters, particularly African-American women. He’s called April Ryan, the American Urban Radio Networks White House correspondent for more than two decades, a “loser” and recently Abby Phillip, the former New York Times, Harvard-educator reporter, that she asked a “stupid question”.
You might recall that last year, the president’s advisers floated the idea of banning the press from the White House – period. Looks like we may be closer to the notion of the president banning the media outlets and reporters from those outlets that he doesn’t like. Acosta today. Who is next? April Ryan? Abby Phillip? Kristen Welker? Buzzfeed? Los Angeles Times? Politico?
Sure, a president’s relationship with the White House press corps is naturally contentious. President Richard Nixon banned the Washington Post from the White House after the Watergate story broke in the mid 1970s. Timothy Naftali, a former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and now a professor of history at New York University, told the Los Angeles Times, “What’s unprecedented about Trump is the level of public animosity, which is a continuous drumbeat.”
Reporters covering Trump at rallies around the country are noticeable put on blast when Trump, like clockwork, points to the press corps, calling them “enemies of the people” and accusing them of reporting fake news. There are well documented instances of people in these rallies turning to the press, threatening them.
This has to stop. This is not good for the media. This is a disgrace to our democracy. This is an assault on all the good reasons the First Amendment exists in our Constitution. I’ve met journalists from some media in Africa and Mexico who fear for their lives because they are trying to report on actions of their governments and their officials. We know journalists have lost their lives – just doing their jobs. Please, somebody, whisper in the president’s ear, that he is making this country look like an authoritarian-led regime that is trying to quash the press because he only wants positive news about what he does and what he says. Remind the president that all of his predecessors would have loved to have that luxury. Most understood that without a fair and independent press, their jobs as president would be exponentially harder than it already is.
About the Author: Neil Foote is a veteran journalist and media executive. He draws from his experience at the Miami Herald, Washington Post, Belo Corporation and Tom Joyner’s Reach Media. He also teaches digital and social media for journalists, media management and business journalism at the University of North Texas’ Frank W. & Sue Mayborn School of Journalism and runs Foote Communications, a media consulting firm. The native of Brooklyn, NY also is president of the board for the National Black Public Relations Society and founder of PoliticsInColor.com