WASHINGTON – Like spasms, more destructive tweets erupted at the White House this week. One of the worst will be soon forgotten, if it has not been already. That is the one in which President Trump threatened to yank the White House credentials of reporters whose organizations reported unfavorably about the Trump administration.
Trump said in the tweet that unfavorable news is “fake news.” It was a knee-jerk reaction to a report about news balance put out by the conservative Media Research organization. Its study showed that overwhelmingly, news about Trump has been negative, except for Fox News Channel.
The president’s saying this, in a phrase, absolutely stinks.
Historically, there was a sense of give-and-take between the press and president. For example, it was never reported almost until the death of President Franklin Roosevelt that he could not walk, or that President Kennedy frolicked in the mansion’s swimming pool with staff secretaries, or that JFK routinely used his senior male staff as pimps. These were products of understandings between administrations and powerful newspaper publishers and later network moguls. The wink-and-nod relationships began to collapse during Watergate and died utterly in the internet age, when anyone can be a “publisher.”
Now Trump wants these ancient “understandings” restored, but in his contorted way. In the first place, Trump and the Media Research people do not understand what real news is. By its nature, news, particularly political news, is mostly negative. Almost all the traditional sources of news, be they right or left, lived and breathed in this way. That is, except the execrable Fox News Channel, and syndicated hate radio. Fox and syndicated radio are now waging on Trump’s behalf what Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, calls “a cold civil war against truth.”
This deluge of misinformation and brutality is entirely new in American culture.
It’s a matter of degrees maybe. Democrats over the years have mused over the idea of licensing journalists in a trade over whether journalists should be accorded federal “shield” protection against prosecution for publishing news that the government has classified. But such passing notions don’t come close to what Trump has done in his never-ending campaign to completely discredit the legitimate work of the free press as “the enemy of the people.”
To be sure, limited elements of the traditional media have gone overboard, but nothing justifies Trump parading around the nation as the only source of political and social truth, with the lock-step support of Fox News & Co. Trump’s course of intimidation seems to be working judging from the mild rebuke Trump received from traditional media for his threat to lift the credentials of reporters who report negative, or what he terms “fake” news.
Some day, I hope, the family of Rupert Murdoch, who control the Fox empire, will regret what they have allowed to happen.
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Back in the late 1990s, then Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., was asked why no women from Buffalo ever came to become federal district judges.
He told this column that his office couldn’t find any women who were qualified for the job.
Almost two decades later with back-to-back Democrats having served New York since 1999, Buffalo still doesn’t have a woman federal judge. A woman, Elizabeth A. Wolford, who is based in Rochester, was confirmed in 2013. A Buffalo lawyer, John L. Sinatra, will likely become the next judge for the Western District.