Despite strong condemnations from media organizations, Donald Trump told a rally in Greensboro, N.C., that he was “so happy” that he revoked the credentials of the Washington Post, one of a string of news organizations his campaign has cut off over unhappiness with their coverage.
“I said, ‘Why should I have people following me around sitting up there like big shots and they write very untruthful stories?'” Trump said at the rally.
On Monday, he and his campaign announced that they would revoke the Post credentials. He objected to a story on his response to the Orlando attacks that was headlined, “Donald Trump Suggests President Obama Was Involved With Orlando Shooting.” The story was about comments that Trump made on “Fox & Friends” that seemed to infer that Obama had other motives in mind, including that the president would not use the phrase “Islamic extremism.”
“The fact is, the Washington Post is being used by the owners of Amazon as their political lobbyist so that they don’t have to pay taxes and don’t get sued for monopolistic tendencies that have led to the destruction of department stores and the retail industry,” the campaign said in a statement. They were referring to Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder who also owns the Post.
At the rally, Trump acknowledged that the Post may still be there — as its journalists could still enter via general admission. Jenna Johnson, who wrote the story that he objected to on Monday, posted photos from the event on her Twitter page.
The Post objected to Trump’s action, and a number of journalism organizations have condemned the move.
“Any nominee for the highest office in the country must respect the role of a free and adversarial press, not disown the principles of the First Amendment just because he or she does not like the tone or content of their coverage,” said Carol Lee, the president of the White House Correspondents Assn.
Trump has throughout his campaign targeted media coverage — in tweets, in interviews, at rallies — and often singles out individual news outlets and even reporters. The Post also isn’t the first organization to be denied credentials: Politico and BuzzFeed have been denied entry.
But his decision to pull credentials from the Post seems to have triggered more of an outcry, in part because he is no longer one of many primary candidates but the presumptive Republican nominee. He also connected his decision to one specific story, even if he has been critical of the Post’s coverage on an ongoing basis.
One of the Post’s columnists, Dana Milbank, suggested that the media engage in a Trump “blackout,” by refraining from giving him wall-to-wall coverage of rallies or allowing him to call-in to news shows rather than make in-studio appearances. Univision News, which saw its star anchor, Jorge Ramos, kicked out of a Trump press conference last year, wrote an open letter to Trump calling his action “unprecedented and dangerous.”
According to MediaQuant, an analytics firm, Trump has garnered “earned” media coverage valued at $3.4 billion for the 12 months ended May 31. “Earned” media is the term for appearances on news shows, coverage of campaign events, guest spots on talk shows and other exposure that a campaign gets for free, as opposed to buying advertising time.
It is actually nothing new for candidates and elected officials to bemoan their press coverage, and their gripes often are calculated to appeal to their base of support. Before Watergate engulfed President Richard Nixon’s administration, Vice President Spiro Agnew waged war on the media, famously calling journalists “nattering nabobs of negativism” in a speech. It fed into the Nixon administration’s embrace of the so-called “silent majority,” an inference that the voters of Middle America were being ignored and derided by East Coast elites.
Trump, too, has capitalized on running against the establishment, but he has done more than just express contempt for coverage or even revoke credentials. He has said that as president he would “open up” libel laws to make it easier for plaintiffs to prevail in civil lawsuits. He has singled out Bezos, even to the point of suggesting that Amazon faces antitrust troubles.
And while he was upset over the Post’s headline on a Monday story, on Tuesday he continued to suggest that Obama had alternate motives. He said said that Obama “continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies, and for that matter, the American people.”