White House Ices Out CNN

The White House has refused to send its spokespeople or surrogates onto CNN shows, effectively freezing out the network from on-air administration voices.

“We’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda,” said a White House official, acknowledging that CNN is not such a place, but adding that the ban is not permanent.

A CNN reporter, speaking on background, was more blunt: The White House is trying to punish the network and force down its ratings.

“They’re trying to cull CNN from the herd,” the reporter said.

Administration officials are still answering questions from CNN reporters. But administration officials including White House press secretary Sean Spicer and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway haven’t appeared on the network’s programming in recent weeks.

Spicer, speaking at an event at The George Washington University on Monday, denied that CNN is being frozen out, pointing out that he’s answered CNN’s questions in the regular daily briefings.

But, he added “I’m not going to sit around and engage with people who have no desire to actually get something right.”

The last time an administration official appeared on CNN’s Sunday public affairs show “State of the Union” was Jan. 8 when Conway was interviewed. She also appeared on CNN the following Wednesday with Anderson Cooper, the day of then President-elect Trump’s news conference at which he derided CNN for airing a report that intelligence officials had briefed both Trump and then-President Barack Obama that the Russians might have negative information about Trump. At the news conference, the president-elect refused to take a question from CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, who shouted out to Trump to answer his question since Trump was attacking his news organization.

After his inauguration, Trump has continued blasting CNN as “fake news.”

Since then, Conway, Spicer, chief of staff Reince Priebus and even Vice President Mike Pence have made the rounds on the major Sunday shows with the notable exception of CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“State of the Union” anchor Jake Tapper said on his show and via Twitter that the White House has declined his invitations to appear.

“We invited the Trump White House to offer us a guest to provide clarity and an explanation of what the president just did, especially given so much confusion, even within its own government by those who are supposed to carry out this order,” Tapper said on Sunday as he introduced a segment about the Executive Order banning visitors from some countries and putting a hold on the United States’ refugee policy. “The Trump White House declined our invitation.”

Tapper had made a similar announcement the previous Sunday.

Last week, New York magazine reported that Trump’s feud with CNN has roots in his relationship with CNN President Jeff Zucker, a former NBC president who brought Trump’s television show “The Apprentice” to the network. Trump, the magazine reported, has told White House staffers that he feels personally betrayed by Zucker and that Zucker should tilt CNN programming more favorably toward him because of their long relationship.

In an interview with New York magazine, Zucker said he’s not worried about getting access to Trump.

“I think the era of access journalism as we’ve known it is over,” Zucker said. “I think our credibility is higher than ever, and our viewership is higher than ever, and our reporting is as strong as ever.”

“One of the things I think this administration hasn’t figured out yet is that there’s only one television network that is seen in Beijing, Moscow, Seoul, Tokyo, Pyongyang, Baghdad, Tehran, and Damascus — and that’s CNN,” he noted.

Part of the effort to ice out CNN may be related to ratings.

CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter wrote in one of his recent newsletters that an aide in “Trumpworld” told him that his ratings would likely be hurt “because no Trump administration officials had agreed to be interviewed.” Stelter said in that newsletter that his ratings were in fact his highest since last November’s election coverage at 1.3 million viewers.

It’s hard to tell whether “State of the Union” ratings have been affected by the lack of Trump officials, considering it’s less than two weeks since theinauguration. While far behind the broadcast shows and “Fox & Friends” on cable news, the past two weeks of “State of the Union” have seen higher ratings than on Jan. 8, the most recent time a Trump official appeared. They’ve also won the demo (the key age group advertisers use) over the past two weeks, and last Sunday the show had 1.25 million viewers during the 9 a.m. broadcast, and 1.42 million viewers in the noon rebroadcast.

It’s not unusual for an administration to tangle with certain outlets. The Obama administration, at times, had a rocky relationship with Fox News and limited its officials from appearing on its programs. Former Obama White House Communications Director Anita Dunn told The New York Times in 2009 that they were going to treat Fox “the way we would treat an opponent.”

“As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave,” she said at the time.

A former official in the Obama administration acknowledged that they had their “battles with Fox,” and that there may have been some times where “we sent people on other networks and not on Fox.” But as a general rule, the official said, officials would go on the network.

“I think, in my hazy recollection is it would be unusual to do all [the networks] except one. What drives that is sometimes amount of time available to the person doing them,” the official said. “If they are stiffing CNN intentionally, that is different than what normally happens.”

A spokesperson for Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A CNN spokeswoman declined to comment.

(h/t Politico)

Update

On Wednesday, the day after this article was published, the White House made Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a Deputy Assistant to the President for national security available for an interview.

Kellyanne Conway: Reporters Who ‘Talked Smack’ About Trump Should Be Fired

Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, on Sunday continued the administration’s attack against the media by claiming that network television reporters and commentators who “talked smack” about Trump before the election should be fired.

“Not one network person has been let go. Not one silly political analyst and pundit who talked smack all day long about Donald Trump has been let go,” Conway said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m too polite to mention their names, but they know who they are, and they are all wondering who will be the first to go. The election was three months ago. None of them have been let go.”

She added that the networks should be “cleaning house,” firing “these people who said things that just weren’t true.”

Conway accused the media of focusing too much attention on her attempt last week to defend press secretary Sean Spicer flagrantly lying to reporters — by claiming he was stating “alternative facts.”Trump and his administration spent much of his first week in office antagonizing the media. In his first White House press briefing on Monday, Spicer spent several minutes on what he deemed “demoralizing” coverage, and continued to defend his lying by claiming that “we can disagree with the facts.”

In an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, chief strategist Steve Bannon, who previously ran Breitbart, a site that traffics in white nationalism, called the media “the opposition party” and said it should be silenced.

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Bannon said.

(h/t Huffington Post)

Media

Trump Attacks NY Times, Washington Post in Tweets

President Trump took to Twitter early Saturday morning to attack two of the nation’s most prominent newspapers, the New York Times and Washington Post.

“The failing @nytimes has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Said I would lose the primaries, then the general election. FAKE NEWS!” Trump tweeted just after 8 a.m. Eastern on Saturday.

“Thr coverage about me in the @nytimes and the @washingtonpost gas been so false and angry that the times actually apologized to its … dwindling subscribers and readers.They got me wrong right from the beginning and still have not changed course, and never will. DISHONEST,” he added.

It was not immediately apparent what prompted Trump to launch his attacks. He frequently attacks the media in general and has specifically singled out both the Times and Post before, as well as CNN, NBC News, Fox News, BuzzFeed and others.

Both newspapers closely covered Trump’s Friday signing of an executive order suspending refugee entry into the U.S. and barring immigration from seven Muslim nations.

Despite his regular attacks, he granted an interview to the Times days ago.

(h/t The Hill)

 

 

Steve Bannon Says Media is “The Opposition” and Should ‘Keep Its Mouth Shut’

President Trump’s chief White House strategist Steve Bannon said the “media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile,” during an interview on Wednesday with the New York Times.

“I want you to quote this,” Bannon said, according to the Times. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

Bannon, who ran right-wing organization Breitbart News until joining Trump’s team, said during the phone interview that news organizations have been “humiliated.”

Tension between the media and Trump’s team has been tense, with the president recently referring to CNN as “fake news,” BuzzFeed as a “failing pile of garbage” and constantly pointing stories related to inauguration attendance that doesn’t coincide with Trump’s talking points.

Bannon rarely grants interviews and was seldom heard from during the campaign, although his tone is clear in a lot of Trump’s rhetoric. Bannon granted the interview with the Times to discuss Press Secretary Sean Spicer, but used the call as an opportunity to bash the mainstream media.

“The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong,” Bannon told the Times of the election. “The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign… Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: they were outright activists of the Clinton campaign.”

“That’s why you have no power,” Bannon told the Times, referring to the media. “You were humiliated.”

Bannon is a former Goldman Sachs investment banker known for his conservative views. When he was named CEO of Trump’s campaign in August, social media immediately went wild, accusing him of being racist and anti-Semitic.

Bannon’s ex-wife said in a 2007 divorce filing that he made anti-Semitic comments and didn’t want to send their daughters to a private Los Angeles girls school with Jews (which Bannon denied).

Bannon is also a former Naval officer and was special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations in the Pentagon who holds an MBA from Harvard.

(h/t AOL)

CNN Fires Back at Trump on Inauguration Ratings Winner

CNN fired back late Tuesday at President Trump, who said more people tuned in to watch his inauguration on Fox News than “FAKE NEWS” CNN.

“According to Nielsen cumulative numbers, 34 million people watched CNN’s inauguration day coverage on television. 34 million watched Fox News,” read the message tweeted from CNN Communications. “There were an additional 16.9 million live video starts on CNN Digital platforms. Those are the facts.”

The response followed a tweet from Trump’s personal account praising Fox News for “being number one in inauguration ratings.”

Earlier this week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended his claim that Trump had the largest inauguration audience ever.

Spicer said Saturday that Trump had “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

“It’s unquestionable,” Spicer said this week, doubling down on his initial claim, though not providing specific numbers.

“And I don’t see any numbers that dispute that when you add up attendance, viewership, total audience in terms of tablets, phones, on television. I’d love to see any information that proves that otherwise.”

(h/t The Hill)

 

 

 

Trump Boasts, Lies, and Attacks the Media in Solemn CIA Setting

President Trump traveled to CIA headquarters Saturday to make peace. But as he spoke in front of a wall with 117 stars marking spies who died while serving, Trump quickly shifted back to campaign mode — boasting about his achievements, lodging grievances against the media and making off-the-cuff observations.

The new president bragged that “probably everybody in this room voted for me,” told agents, “Trust me, I’m, like, a smart person,” and said his many appearances on the cover of Time magazine surpassed those of quarterback Tom Brady. He warned that the television networks would pay a “big price” for coverage that showed empty fields on Inauguration Day.

He blamed the media for ginning up his fight with the intelligence community, though Trump had, a week earlier, compared agents’ tactics to those of the Nazis while accusing them of leaking an unsubstantiated report about him.

“There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump,” he assured a crowd of about 400 employees at the CIA’s Langley, Va., headquarters in suburban Washington.

The free-form speech at such a  location and occasion underscored that though Trump has taken the oath of office, he will not restrain his style to meet traditional expectations for presidential behavior.

His habit of bragging and lashing out at enemies helped Trump build loyal support in his election run, but may also have contributed to his record-low approval ratings for an incoming president.

But Trump was consistently applauded by rank-and-file CIA employees. Senior staffers sitting near the front became more subdued as the president began to veer from topic to topic and charge that the media underestimated the crowd size at his swearing-in.

“Maybe sometimes you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted,” he said at another point. “You’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you are going to say, ‘Please, don’t give us so much backing.’”

The CIA speech came on a day that started with Trump and his family attending a traditional ecumenical prayer service at the National Cathedral. He refrained from taking on millions of people attending women’s marches around the world during their protests Saturday, suppressing his tendency to retaliate against those he perceives as challenging his authority.

But Trump’s team has been obsessing over its own crowd sizes. Pictures of large crowds were placed in the White House briefing room as Press Secretary Sean Spicer chastised the media for what he labeled irresponsible, reckless and false reporting about the inauguration that he said sowed division. He pointed out that no official crowd estimates were given, yet insisted, improbably, that it was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.

Overhead photos and subway ridership statistics showed smaller crowds than in recent inaugurations, especially compared with former President Obama’s 2009 swearing-in as the nation’s first African American president.

Spicer did not take questions but issued a strong warning to the media that the new administration would be holding it accountable.

While Trump kept a handful of events on his public schedule, aides continued setting up the White House. Among the crucial housekeeping items: The Justice Department published an opinion stating that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, could work as a top White House advisor, notwithstanding a 1967 anti-nepotism law. The 14-page opinion, written by Daniel Koffsky, a career attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel with decades of experience, concluded that the law grants the president broad hiring authority.

Spicer said Trump had spoken with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. He said Trump would meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Washington at the end of the week and with Peña Nieto at the end of the month.

Trump’s visit to the CIA building’s white marble lobby followed months of mocking the agency and questioning its conclusions on Russian hacking during the election. In addition to sending a message to agents, Trump wanted to show his support for Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), his pick to run the CIA, who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate early in the week. Trump met with senior CIA leaders who highlighted the agency’s counterterrorism efforts before he spoke to the larger group.

The CIA is expected to play a major role in increasing attacks on Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, a top priority for Trump. During his inaugural address Friday, Trump promised to “eradicate from the face of the earth” Islamic terrorist groups like Islamic State and Al Qaeda. On Saturday, he told agents they would be at the forefront of those efforts and asserted that the intelligence community had not been fully used to help win wars.

“This group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country toward making us safe, toward making us winners again,” Trump said.

The CIA split with Trump last fall when the agency’s analysts concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered intelligence officials to launch an operation to influence the U.S. election to undermine Hillary Clinton and help Trump win.

Trump has acknowledged that Russia hacked Democratic files in an effort to interfere with the election. But he praised Putin, denied the effort was aimed at helping him win, and suggested the hacked information may have helped voters.

Top CIA leaders were eager to put the public spat with the commander in chief behind them Saturday. Meroe Park, who is leading the agency until Pompeo is approved, said Trump’s decision to visit on his first full day as president meant a lot. The hall was only able to accommodate 400 CIA employees, but hundreds more wanted to attend, Park said.
“CIA’s relationship with the president has been essential,” said Park, who has been at the agency for nearly three decades.

But Trump’s first appearance at the agency was panned by Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“While standing in front of the stars representing CIA personnel who lost their lives in the service of their country — hallowed ground — Trump gave little more than a perfunctory acknowledgment of their service and sacrifice,” Schiff said in a statement that criticized Trump’s speech as frivolous and meandering.

“He will need to do more than use the agency memorial as a backdrop if he wants to earn the respect of the men and women who provide the best intelligence in the world,” Schiff added.

White House Press Secretary Attacks Media for Accurately Reporting Inauguration Crowds

“That’s what you guys should be writing and covering,” new White House press secretary Sean Spicer angrily lectured reporters on Saturday during his first remarks from the podium of the press briefing room.

He was referring to the delay in Senate confirmation for President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, Congressman Mike Pompeo, but the comment came after a long digression about how many people had shown up to watch Trump be sworn in as president.

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting all available data.

Aerial photos have indicated that former president Barack Obama’s first inauguration attracted a much larger crowd. Nielsen ratings show that Obama also had a bigger television audience.

Spicer said, without any evidence, that some photos were “intentionally framed” to downplay Trump’s crowd.

He also expressed objections to specific Twitter posts from journalists. And he said, “we’re going to hold the press accountable,” partly by reaching the public through social networking sites.

His statement included several specific misstatements of fact in addition to the overarching one.

“This is the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall,” Spicer said, claiming that this “had the effect of highlighting areas people were not standing whereas in years past the grass eliminated this visual.”

In fact, coverings were used for Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.

“This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past,” Spicer said.

In fact, a United States Secret Service spokesperson told CNN, no magnetometers were used on the Mall.

And Spicer said, “We know that 420,000 people used the D.C, Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 for president Obama’s last inaugural.”

Spicer’s number for ridership on Friday was actually low — the correct number, according to Metro itself, was 570,557. But there were actually 782,000 trips taken for Obama’s second inaugural in 2013.

Spicer, at times almost yelling while reading a prepared statement, took no questions. CNNMoney called his cell phone a few minutes later; he did not answer.

Some longtime White House correspondents were stunned by the tirade.

Glenn Thrush of The New York Times wrote on Twitter, “Jaw meet floor.”

“I’ve run out of adjectives,” wrote Chuck Todd, the moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post said Spicer’s assertion about “what you guys should be writing” was “chilling.”

Reactions were overwhelmingly negative, and not just from journalists.

Ari Fleischer, who had the same job as Spicer during the George W. Bush administration, tweeted, “This is called a statement you’re told to make by the President. And you know the President is watching.”

And Brian Fallon, who was in line to become press secretary if Hillary Clinton had won, wrote, “Sean Spicer lacks the guts or integrity to refuse orders to go out and lie. He is a failure in this job on his first full day.”

Conservative commentator Bill Kristol said “it is embarrassing, as an American, to watch this briefing by Sean Spicer from the podium at the White House. Not the RNC. The White House.”

The White House alerted the press corps to Spicer’s statement more than an hour ahead of time.

The CNN television network made a choice not to broadcast the Spicer statement live. Instead, the statement was monitored and then reported on after the fact.

Former Democratic congressman Steve Israel, who recently joined CNN as a commentator, said, “This isn’t a petty attack on the press. It’s a calculated attempt to delegitimize any questioning of @realDonaldTrump by a free press.”

Spicer’s statement came two hours after Trump spoke at CIA headquarters and described his “running war with the media.” Trump spent several minutes of that speech complaining about news coverage.

In his remarks, Spicer suggested Trump would bypass traditional media outlets he believes are unfairly reporting on his presidency.

“The American people deserve better, and so long as he serves as the messenger for this incredible movement, he will take his message directly to the American people, where his focus will always be,” Spicer said.

Spicer was joined in the Brady Press Briefing Room by members of his new White House press and communications staff, who are still moving into their offices and learning the way around the West Wing.

He tellingly led off his short statement with his tirade against the media, leaving announcements about phone calls with the leaders of Canada and Mexico, and announcing that Trump would meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May, to the end.

During those announcements, Spicer incorrectly referred to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto as “prime minister.”

(h/t Boston Globe)

Update

New photos released via a FOIA request absolutely prove Trump’s crowd sizes were drastically smaller that Obama’s inauguration.

Media

Trump Accuses NBC of “Fake News” For Questioning His Job-Creation Claims

President-elect Donald Trump says NBC News was “totally biased” and producing “more fake news” in a report it published Tuesday that pointed out that many companies are pre-emptively, or in many cases retroactively, announcing job-creation plans to avoid being targeted by a man set to become president Friday.

His tweets aren’t well-founded.

The NBC News report spotlighted instances in which companies themselves announced large-scale additions of jobs without mentioning Trump as a reason for their increased investments in the U.S., despite Trump’s having taken credit.

That list includes Amazon.com Inc., with its press release last week promising 100,000 new U.S. jobs, as well as the automobile makers Fiat Chrysler and General Motors . Often the corporate plans had been in the works long before Trump’s election on Nov. 8 or were among annual expansion goals that had been on the companies’ road maps for years.

MarketWatch, similarly, reported last week that Alibaba Group Holding’s claim, after a meeting at Trump Tower between CEO Jack Ma and the president-elect, that it will create a million U.S. jobs, doesn’t include full-time jobs or actual Alibaba jobs at all. MarketWatch also pointed out that Sprint Corp.’s decision to bring 5,000 jobs back to the U.S. from other countries, a move for which Trump took credit, were actually related to a previously announced commitment by Japan’s SoftBank Group to invest $50 billion in the U.S. as part of the global technology fund it announced with a Saudi sovereign-wealth fund in October. IBM Corp., which pre-emptively announced a 25,000-jobs growth plan in mid-December before ever meeting with Trump, falls into this category, as well.

The president-elect went as far, in a separate tweet, as to quote a Wall Street Journal story about Bayer AG’s pledge to invest and add jobs in the U.S. However, as CNN Money pointed out, those jobs aren’t directly tied back to Trump either, but to Bayer’s move to buy Monsanto, announced in September. When Bayer announced the Monsanto deal, it said St. Louis would remain the North American headquarters of Monsanto while San Francisco would serve as the base for their combined farming assets.

A look at a few of the press releases and CEO interviews cited by Trump and NBC News as well reveals varying levels of Trump involvement, from no linkage at all to a direct and causal connection.

On Tuesday, General Motors announced that it would invest an additional $1 billion in U.S. manufacturing and create 7,000 jobs, while moving some axle-producing jobs to the U.S. from Mexico. GM made no mention of the incoming administration or its policy priorities and instead said these latest steps follow similar investments it has made annually since 2009 — a period beginning shortly after the U.S. auto industry bailout. “GM’s announcement is part of the company’s increased focus on overall efficiency over the last four years,” the company said in a statement.

The GM investment commitment, in fact, is nearly $2 billion smaller than the investment in U.S. manufacturing that GM said it announced last year.

And the vast majority of GM’s investment will go to fund new vehicles and advanced technologies, as the company continues to invest in the resources to respond to increased competition from Silicon Valley amid the advent of autonomous-vehicle technology.

Fiat Chrysler, meanwhile, said its plan for a new $1 billion investment in the U.S. and the creation of 2,000 jobs is “a continuation of the efforts already underway to increase production capacity in the U.S. on trucks and SUVs to match demand.” As gasoline prices have tumbled, demand for gas-guzzling trucks and sport-utility vehicles has rebounded, a theme that predates Trump’s election.

Walmart’s press release Tuesday announcing 10,000 new U.S. jobs also excluded any Trump mention and was more tied to the company’s longer-term strategy to expand its retail locations globally and improve its e-commerce services to better compete with the likes of Amazon.

Amazon, for its part, has said it is adding tens of thousands of jobs to staff new but previously announced fulfillment centers in Texas, California, Florida and New Jersey.

Other job announcements, though, were more directly linked to Trump, at least in the sense that they were reacting to him, which was part of the point NBC News was trying to make.

Ford Motor Co. F, -0.40% told reporters in so many words that its decision to cancel plans for a new plant in Mexico and create 700 jobs in Michigan were related to Trump’s pro-business policies.

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s LMT, -0.08% decision to add 1,800 positions and lower the cost of its F-35 program arose following a meeting at Trump Tower. It also followed Trump public statements blasting the company over its prices.

(h/t Market Watch)

Newt Gingrich: Trump Should Use The CNN Confrontation As An Excuse To Break The Press

Newt Gingrich, a prominent supporter of President-elect Donald Trump and a Fox News contributor, would like to shatter the influence of an “adversarial” press. And he thinks Trump’s press conference confrontation with CNN reporter Jim Acosta has given the incoming administration the opportunity to dramatically reshape White House press interactions to favor journalists who will treat the president-elect more favorably.

During Trump’s January 11 presser, he lashed out at CNN  and demanded the network apologize for a recent report on his alleged ties to Russia, and Acosta repeatedly called out, seeking to ask a question in response. Trump replied by calling CNN “terrible,” castigating Acosta for being “rude,” and declaring, “I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news!” Sean Spicer, who will serve as Trump’s White House press secretary, subsequently told Acosta that he would be removed if he continued to press for a question, and Spicer later demanded that the reporter apologize to the president-elect.

Team Trump’s efforts seem intended to both damage the credibility of CNN and cow other networks into shying away from similarly critical journalism — as Gingrich put it, to “shrink and isolate” the network. But the Fox News contributor wants the incoming administration to go even further and use the incident as an excuse to “close down the elite press.”

Gingrich laid out this strategy during an interview on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program, one of the most pro-Trump venues available. He urged Spicer to learn “a couple of big lessons” from the incident. First and foremost, he suggested that Acosta be banned from reporting on Trump events for 60 days “as a signal, frankly, to all the other reporters that there are going to be real limits” for proper behavior.

https://mediamatters.org/embed/clips/2017/01/13/51770/fnc-hannity-1132017-gingrich2

But Gingrich’s recommendations went far beyond chastising Acosta. He urged Trump to stop prioritizing questions from major news outlets due to their tough coverage and confrontational attitude. Instead, he suggested that he “extend the privileges to reporters from out of town, folks that fly in from all over the country to be allowed to be at a briefing.” Those reporters, Gingrich suggested, would be “a lot more courteous” and “responsible” rather than being “adversarial.”

Gingrich went on to explain his theory of the press under the Trump administration. “You don’t have to think of The New York Times or CNN or any of these people as news organizations,” he explained. “They’re mostly propaganda organizations. And they’re going to be after Trump every single day of his presidency.”

“And he needs to understand that that’s the case, and so does Sean Spicer in speaking for him. And they simply need to go out there and understand they have it in their power to set the terms of this dialogue.” He added, “They can close down the elite press.”

Trump has already started to take steps like those Gingrich describes. During the 2016 campaign, he reportedly made a deal with the right-wing Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which owns television stations across the country, to provide more access to its stations in exchange for a promise from Sinclair to broadcast his interviews without commentary.

He took questions from sycophantic pro-Trump outlets Breitbart.com and One America News Network during this week’s press conference. Right Side Broadcasting Network, which has been described as “the unofficial version of Trump TV,” claims it will be in the White House press briefing room under the new president. Other right-wing outlets like Laura Ingraham’s LifeZette and Alex Jones’ conspiracy website Infowars could be next.

Alexey Kovalev, a Russian journalist who has covered Vladimir Putin’s annual press conferences, warned of the use of such tactics in a searing “message to my doomed colleagues in the American media” that he authored following Trump’s press conference.

“A mainstay of Putin’s press conferences is, of course, softball questions,” Kovalev wrote. These include both “hyperlocal issues that a president isn’t even supposed to be dealing with,” which nonetheless provide “a real opportunity for him to shine.” Putin also benefits from “people from publications that exist for no other reason than heaping fawning praise on him and attacking his enemies.”

“But there will also be one token critic who will be allowed to ask a ‘sharp’ question,” Kovalev added, “only to be drowned in a copious amount of bullshit, and the man on the stage will always be the winner (‘See? I respect the media and free speech’).”

Of course we are not there yet, but the precedent is unnerving. Gingrich wants nothing more than a cowed, broken press that exists solely to promote the Republican Party’s message. We’ll see soon enough how much of his advice Trump takes.

Update

Gingrich is not alone in urging Trump to freeze out the press. Following Trump’s election, Hannity stated that “until members of the media come clean about colluding with the Clinton campaign and admit that they knowingly broke every ethical standard they are supposed to uphold, they should not have the privilege, they should not have the responsibility of covering the president on behalf of you, the American people.”

“In other words, the mainstream press should not be allowed to cover Trump,” New York University’s Jay Rosen wrote in response to Hannity’s comments. “A few years ago that was a bridge too far. Now it’s a plausible test of poisoned waters.” It looks like we’ll see more of those tests in the days to come.

(h/t Media Matters)

 

Trump Barred Reporters From Examining Stacks of Folders at Press Conference

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday wouldn’t allow reporters to see piles of documents displayed at his press conference, which he and lawyers said detailed his plans to disentangle himself from his business.

“These papers are just some of the many documents I’ve signed turning over complete and total control to my sons,” Trump said during his press conference, standing next to a table stacked with manila folders.

“They are not going to discuss [the business] with me,” Trump said of his sons. “Again, I don’t have to do this. They’re not going to discuss it with me.”

CNN reported that the press was not allowed to take a closer look at the documents. The Associated Press similarly reported that Trump staffers blocked journalists from looking at the folders.

Trump announced Wednesday that he is handing control of his business empire to his two adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and placing his assets into a trust. The press conference was the first Trump has held since the election and included long-awaited details of how the president-elect plans to avoid conflicts of interest when sworn into office.

The head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) slammed Trump’s plans to separate himself from his business as “wholly inadequate” in resolving conflicts of interest.

“The plan the president-elect has announced doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the last four decades have met,” OGE Director Walter Shaub said during a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Shaub added that the plan isn’t a true blind trust.

(h/t The Hill)

Reality

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