Donald Trump abruptly announced that he would be holding a “media summit” with the heads of America’s five biggest news networks and the group of excited journalists dashed over to Trump Tower for the “off-the-record” meeting.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 21, 2016
Some in the media had assumed this summit would be a way for Trump to “reset” with journalists after spending the entire campaign smearing them, vowing lawsuits against the press, and making threats to “open up” libel laws.
Trump’s senior adviser – and most effective spindoctor – Kellyanne Conway immediately came out with a statement to reporters that the meeting went well. Some mainstream reporters, including CNN’s own media critic Brian Stelter, seemingly took her words at facevalue, as well as those of a few other unnamed sources and ran glowing stories about the supposed reset.
Conway said the meeting was “very cordial, candid and honest.”
While there was “no need to mend fences,” she said, “from my own perspective, it is great to hit the reset button, it was a long, hard-fought campaign.”
They should have done some more digging. The New York Post spoke to two separate sources that said the meeting was anything but productive. It served as little more than a way for Trump to get all of his enemies in a single room and then unleash every petty beef he had with them all at once. It wasn’t pretty.
“It was like a f–ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter.
“Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’ ” the source said.
“The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing down,” the source added.
Another source agreed.
“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.
“Trump didn’t say [NBC reporter] Katy Tur by name, but talked about an NBC female correspondent who got it wrong, then he referred to a horrible network correspondent who cried when Hillary lost who hosted a debate – which was Martha Raddatz who was also in the room.”
Trump, according to these sources, did not answer a single pertinent question. It was an ambush, and one meant to convey a single, terrifying message: Trump will spend his term in office in a state of total war with the press.
Already, the lack of access has led to a troubling change in the news media environment. Reporters and laypeople alike have noticed that the biggest scoops about Trump are coming from foreign reporters. American journalism has been neutered by an inability to handle Trump’s relentless lies and his open hostility to anyone who tries to get the facts.
2/ foreign press. Abe meeting was revealed by Trump team but no US media allowed, so photo w Ivanka present came from foreign press.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 21, 2016
It’s the behavior we might expect from a banana republic – not the United States, which prides itself on its open democracy.
Maybe now, after 18 months of pretending Trump was on the verge of a “presidential pivot” the journalists at the five biggest networks in the country can start to take Trump seriously when he says despicable things. He’s not kidding. He’s not embellishing. This is what he believes.
Featured image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images