On Wednesday Donald Trump held an impromptu photo-op with Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission. This is the same European Union that Trump recently cited first when asked when to identify America’s “biggest foe.” He later added China and Russia as if they were afterthoughts. But now he was meeting with our EU foe’s president in the Oval Office.
As the event drew to a close, Kaitlan Collins of CNN threw out some questions for Trump, just as reporters always do at these affairs. She was representing the television news community as the pool reporter for the day. Her questions were focused on subjects that were currently topical and that Trump himself was addressing to reporters and on his communications platform of choice, Twitter. Specifically, she asked about the release of Micheal Cohen’s recoreded conversations with Trump and Trump’s invitation to Vladimir Putin for a meeting at the White House. Trump often answers such questions in this setting, but on this occasion he chose not to.
Immediately thereafter, Collins was called into the office of Bill Shine, the former Fox News president who is now Trump’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications. Shine was fired by Fox for his enabling of the network’s sexual predators, including Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. Now he performs the same services for Trump. But as Trump’s chief media staffer he wanted to see Collins to tell her that she would be barred from covering the next event on the President’s calendar, a Rose Garden Q & A with Juncker. According to CNN, Collins arrived at Shine’s office and then:
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 in an interview. “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 is only partly right. It is not insignificant that the reporter who was banned for doing something all reporters do works for CNN. Trump routinely maligns the press as being “sick,” and “sleazy,” and “the enemy of the American people.” But he frequently singles out CNN as being “the worst” of them all. So the banning of a credentialed CNN reporter is not a random incident. It is a retaliation.
What’s worse is that this sort of sanction is intended to send a message to the rest of the press corps. Either behave the way we want you to, or be banished from the White House and other presidential events. It’s notable that even Fox News issued a statement criticizing the White House and expressing solidarity with CNN. Although Fox host Lou Dobbs wasn’t on board with that, praising Collin’s punishment by saying that “it’s about time there were consequences.” As for the White House, they released a statement saying that:
“At the conclusion of a press event in the Oval Office a reporter shouted questions and refused to leave despite repeatedly being asked to do so. Subsequently, our staff informed her she was not welcome to participate in the next event, but made clear that any other journalist from her network could attend. […] To be clear, we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House.”
So Donald Trump is demanding that the press be “respectful” of him? The same guy who menacingly points to the journalists pen at his rallies, calling them “liars” and “horrible people,” and whipping up the hostility of his crazed followers? The guy who has proposed revoking the credentials of any reporter who is less than doe-eyed adoring? The guy who tries to undermine independent news operations by falsely smearing them as “failing” or criminal? Now he thinks they should be respectful, by which he means unquestioning sycophants?
The media is doing their job just as they have done for decades. And that has caused other administrations to have uncomfortable relationships with them. But this administration has gone further than any other to upend the very notion of press freedom. And if this is their idea of supporting a free press, they have a severe problem with the definition of “free press.” It doesn’t include bullying a woman from a network that you’ve already designated as your enemy. By abusing power in this manner the Trump administration has proven once again that they are intent on emulating the tyrannical governments of Putin and Kim Jong Un who Trump seems to admire so much. But he’s going to find out that America’s Constitution is stronger than his desire to suppress the freedom of the press.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.