Trump ramps up attacks on media ahead of White House Correspondents’ Dinner

President Trump has reignited his attacks on the news media in the days leading up to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, underscoring the White House’s use of the press as an effective foil.

Trump will skip the dinner for a third straight year, opting to hold a rally in Wisconsin instead on Saturday night. He has also directed other administration officials not to attend.

“The Correspondents’ Dinner is too negative. I like positive things,” Trump said earlier this month in explaining his decision.

Within hours of those comments, he had taken to Twitter to characterize the press as “the enemy of the people,” a favorite insult that has appeared to get under the skin of some in the media.

Trump has continued his near-constant criticisms of the news media in the weeks since, repeatedly lashing out in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference.

The latest wave of criticism reached its crest on Tuesday, when he fired off seven tweets castigating the press and singling out specific outlets and reporters by name. It included shots at “Psycho Joe” Scarborough of MSNBC and applied the term “enemy of the people” to The New York Times, despite its publisher warning Trump about the dangerous implications of the phrase.

The White House essentially trolled journalists on Thursday when press secretary Sarah HuckabeeSanders made her first appearance at the briefing room podium in 45 days — complete with an appearance by Vice President Pence — at a mock Q&A for children as part of Take Your Kids to work day. Reporters were unable to ask questions.

None of the Trump attacks are the least bit shocking and they are likely to only continue as the president seeks another four years in the office.

Trump has scored political victories in part by running against the press, which delights his core supporters. In 2020, there is every indication that the president will continue with this strategy, framing the election in part on a Washington elite symbolized by the mainstream media seeking to thwart his effort to win another four years in the Oval Office.

Trump has a long history with the White House Correspondents Association and its dinner, which is a key part of the story surrounding how Trump became president and of his relationship with the media.

Trump was the subject of ridicule at the 2011 event from both Seth Meyers and President Obama, who made fun of Trump’s decision-making and importance with references to “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Trump, Obama said at the time, recognized the need to fire Gary Busey and not Lil John or Meatloaf in a recent episode.

“And these are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night,” Obama said, mocking Trump. “Well handled, sir. Well handled.”

The jokes started a narrative that Trump had launched his presidential campaign because of the jokes at his expense, though The Washington Post’s Roxanne Roberts, who sat next to Trump at the 2011 dinner, has largely shot down that theory.

As president, Trump has stayed away from the dinner, which nonetheless provoked a huge controversy last year after comedian Michelle Wolf delivered a searing set that mocked the press, congressional Republicans and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who attended in Trump’s place.

The fallout led to changes at the dinner itself, which will feature biographer Ron Chernow as the keynote speaker in lieu of a comedic act.

The White House was unmoved by the shift in tone, as Trump directed other administration officials not to attend.

Trump will still loom large over Saturday evening’s proceedings. His consistent attacks on the media have raised concerns among First Amendment and press freedom watchdogs, and his rally could lead to split screen coverage of the festivities in D.C.

The president’s campaign rallies are typically rife with jabs at the media. Trump often references “fake news,” whipping his supporters into a frenzy while pointing at reporters in the back of the venue.

The press has served as a useful political foil for Trump, who has rallied his base by portraying himself as an outsider unwelcome by the Washington establishment, and a victim of unfair coverage and punditry.

[The Hill]

White House bans network pool reporter from Rose Garden event

The White House took retaliatory action against Kaitlan Collins, a White House reporter for CNN, after Collins asked President Trump questions at an Oval Office photo op on Wednesday.

CNN, rival networks, and the White House Correspondents Association all spoke out against the administration’s action.

On Wednesday afternoon Collins was representing all the television networks as the “pool reporter” in the room during a meeting between Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission.

As is customary, Collins lobbed a few questions at the president. She asked about Vladimir Putin and Michael Cohen. Trump did not answer the questions.

Later in the afternoon, the White House surprised the press corps by announcing a press availability with Trump and Juncker in the Rose Garden. It was said to be open to all press, not just the small pool.

A few minutes later, Collins was asked to come to Bill Shine’s office. Shine, a former co-president of Fox News, is the new deputy chief of staff for communications. Shine and press secretary Sarah Sanders met Collins there.

“They said ‘You are dis-invited from the press availability in the Rose Garden today,'” Collins said. “They said that the questions I asked were inappropriate for that venue. And they said I was shouting.”

A video clip of the exchange shows that Collins was speaking the same way journalists in the press pool usually speak.

Collins said she reacted by saying, “You’re banning me from an event because you didn’t like the questions I asked.”

Collins said Shine and Sanders asserted that “we’re not banning your network. Your photographers can still come. Your producers can still come. But you are not invited to the Rose Garden today.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the matter.

In a statement, CNN disputed the White House’s assertion that Collins’ questions were inappropriate.

“Just because the White House is uncomfortable with a question regarding the news of day doesn’t mean the question isn’t relevant and shouldn’t be asked,” the network said. “This decision to bar a member of the press is retaliatory in nature and not indicative of an open and free press. We demand better.”

What Collins described — telling a well-known and well-respected reporter that she can’t attend a presidential event — is another serious escalation against the press by the Trump administration.

Reporters from the major networks take turns as the TV “pool reporter.” Wednesday happened to be CNN’s day.

On some days, there’s only one opportunity to ask the president questions.

So Collins felt she should ask about two of Wednesday’s biggest stories when journalists were let inside the Oval Office for a portion of Trump and Juncker’s meeting.

She asked: “Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?” She repeated the question, then asked “Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is about to say to the prosecutors? Are you worried about what is on the other tapes, Mr. President?”

This was a follow-up to Trump’s Wednesday morning tweet about the Cohen tape that CNN aired on Tuesday night.

Trump didn’t answer, so Collins changed subjects. She asked, “Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting your invitation, Mr. President?”

This was a reference to last week’s announcement by Sanders that Putin was being invited to Washington in the fall.

Trump rebuffed the questions by saying, “thank you very much, everybody” to the press pool.

Collins said the photo op was “totally normal.”

“It wasn’t anything different from any other pool spray,” she said.

She was taken aback by Shine and Sanders’ assertions later in the day.

Recalling what she told them in the short meeting, she said, “I’m from Alabama. I’m not rude. I believe you should always be polite when you ask a question. I totally believe that.”

[CNN]