Donald Trump’s Feud With CNN Threatens to Set Dangerous Precedent

Presidential Race Cable News Donald Trump
AP Photo/Alan Diaz

An emerging feud between CNN and President-elect Donald Trump could break news – and the business of producing it.

The Time Warner-owned cable-news network found itself in an unusual position Wednesday during a chaotic press conference held by the President-elect. The network that strives to appeal to the broadest swath of viewers, liberal and conservative, was branded as an outlier by the next inhabitant of the nation’s highest office.

“Your organization is terrible,” Trump said to Jim Acosta, CNN’s senior White House correspondent, who tried to get the president-elect to answer a question during a press conference broadcast across many TV and digital outlets. “You are fake news!”

The accusations may have come as a surprise to CNN executives. CNN is as prevalent a news brand as USA Today – more so, in an era of continued revenue downturns and employee cutbacks in the newspaper industry. Thanks to recent investments, CNN now has a perch in the digital and social frontiers, as well as on the TV screen. Yet CNN’s relationship with the Trump administration isn’t just a matter for the journalists who toil on shows like “New Day” or “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”

“Soon-to-be President Trump has made it clear he feels the media is biased. It remains to be seen if the only penalty for incurring his ire is to deny a question,” said David Caputo, a professor of political science at Pace University in New York. “Looking forward, President Trump and the media will likely have a contentious relationship. How contentious remains to be seen.”

At issue is a report made Tuesday by CNN, noting that a two-page synopsis of memos containing allegations against Trump had been included in classified materials presented last week to both the incoming president and President Barack Obama. CNN was first to report the memos, but took pains not to reveal their contents, many of which are salacious and unsubstantiated.

The matter was complicated by BuzzFeed, a digital-news upstart with which CNN has sparred in recent months. CNN has taken shots at BuzzFeed’s business performance on Twitter and recently lured away an influential team of political reporters. Soon after CNN made its report on air and online, BuzzFeed printed the contents of the memos, even though its own team had not substantiated them.

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That distinction appeared to elude the incoming Trump administration, and CNN pressed it forward in a statement released Wednesday.

“We are fully confident in our reporting. It represents the core of what the First Amendment protects, informing the people of the inner workings of their government; in this case, briefing materials prepared for President Obama and President-elect Trump last week,” CNN said. “We made it clear that we were not publishing any of the details of the 35-page document because we have not corroborated the report’s allegations. Given that members of the Trump transition team have so vocally criticized our reporting, we encourage them to identify, specifically, what they believe to be inaccurate.”

CNN declined to make executives available to elaborate beyond its press statement. On CNN’s air, however, anchor Jake Tapper spelled out why the president-elect’s response was worrisome. “When Mr. Trump went after our own Jim Acosta, saying he’s fake news and he isn’t going to call on him, what I suspect we are seeing here is an attempt to discredit legitimate, responsible attempts to report on this incoming administration with irresponsible journalism. That hurts us all.”

A breakdown in the network’s relationship with Trump could be cause for concern for many parties. A refusal to take questions from a particular media outlet suggests the Trump administration might try to freeze out any outlet that raises issues not to its liking. And the fracas erupts as CNN’s parent, Time Warner, has agreed to merge with AT&T, pending regulatory reviews and other conditions, in a deal valued at $85.4 billion. Could a president angered by CNN’s journalism work to scuttle the deal? In October, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson made plain that he valued journalistic independence for CNN.

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Trump’s method of handling the press is a break with decades of White House tradition. “For an American president, answering questions from the news media comes with the turf, whatever your opinion of the reporter, the outlet or the question itself,” said Peter Slevin, an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. “It was worrisome enough that Donald Trump had not held a press conference since July, but when he refused, in a fit of pique, to take questions from certain reporters and berated their organizations, he set a lousy example for the country and a troubling precedent for his presidency.”

CNN is locked in a perpetual battle for viewers not only with TV rivals Fox News Channel and MSNBC, but also national news outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as a new tranche of digital players, like BuzzFeed. Most relationships between sources and media outlets have their ups and downs. But if Trump continues to slam and cut off CNN, its journalists will have to work harder at other means of gaining information, suggested Slevin. “I suspect he’ll learn the hard way that good reporters react to rejection by pushing harder for answers,” he said.

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  1. John Scherf says:

    I started to dislike CNN in the 1st gulf war was when their leftist reporter hiding in a hotel in Bagdad refused to talk to the US military and has continued with the reporting of the death of the black thug (Mike Brown} by those losers Tapper and Lemon. Myopic leftist kool aid drinking USA hating network does not begin to descript the CNN network.

  2. Johnny T says:

    Watching CNN in the UK, I have been astounded that Americans seem to be so enthusiastic about a channel which seems incapable of the simplest, fundamental requirement of any ethical journalist… this being to report what is said. My case in point – Trump’s first press conference where he snubbed the first CNN reporter [Jim Acosta?]… despite Trump clearly stating that he “thinks” Russia was probably involved in the hacking, CNN began to state [in onscreen text] that he now accepted Russia [and at other points] Putin were behind the hacks – not that they WERE behind the hacks. Then people wonder why anyone would take issue with such shoddy reporting? Is this the quality of journalism that Americans want to support? I find it hard to believe that anyone capable of independent thought would have anything positive to say about this news channel… having watched coverage in the run up to the election and since, I was astounded that their clear bias and bigotry towards both Trump and his voters seemed to be applauded by well off, middle class, lip service liberals who do nothing to change a country where the majority of people are struggling with poverty issues [check the percentages and it will save precious seconds contesting this point].
    No matter how despised a candidate or issue is, it is NO excuse for misrepresenting what is being said, has taken place

  3. Bo Walker says:

    I have 2 points that I believe are relevant that I haven’t heard mentioned:

    1) Trump met with executives concerning the Time-Warner (CNN) – ATT Merger (even though this is not his purview). The very next day, he labeled CNN as fake news. How can he possibly make a bias free assessment of this merger?…and I understand he isn’t the “decision maker” in this matter but it is clear that those that he empowers have been picked to carry out his agenda.

    2) It seems to me that, with all of the vitriol that Trump has aimed at CNN, they are in line to become this decade’s Fox News. The shoe is now on the other foot and nearly 60% of, voting, Americans voted against Trump. CNN’s star should be on the rise thanks to the President Elect. If they (CNN) treat Trump with the same level of respect that Fox treated President Obama, they should be the “go-to” news network for all those that oppose him…which is the majority of Americans. Pandering to the majority will raise the ratings ($).

    I have seen no mention of either of these topics in the news and this makes me think that I am making something out of nothing.

    Has anyone else considered these scenarios?

  4. The media may not like to be clumped together but it was shown that they went way out of there way to ompune trump every chance they got. Never did hillary anything except how was lunch. The people are voting with there views on the media and you folks are loosing. The media is made up of lib democrats that lie as much as ovamit

    • Rich says:

      Alan, perhaps you could rewrite that with a dictionary to hand. Donald Trump literally removed the right of an individual and news organisation to free speech – something enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Why even try to defend that? Not to mention the reason – to avoid being asked about his Russian relations! Honestly, if this was Hillary can you imagine for a moment your reaction?

      • How has this country reached the point where we are so polarized for a party that there is not even any concideration for qnothers rights to be heard and not threatened for a party preference? The left seems to be particularly consumed with the democrats not always getting their way. When the republicqns lost you did not see them needing psychologist and time out and have lawless street demonstrations but it seemed to the right of the liberals to do that. Just wondering why.

  5. Jo says:

    The media is really out of control. The way they hounded Trump at the conference and repeated asking after he obviously had picked another reporter to take a question before was uncalled for. This is nothing new. Obama/JD omitted Fox News as well . Remember the czar K Feinberg? Tit for Tat.
    Payback is always nasty!

    • BMB says:

      No. Trump is out of control. He did initally pick Acosta for a question, then he recognized it was someone he didn’t like and begun insulting him and denigrating CNN. He serves at the pleasure of the people of the United States, not to have his ego incessantly stroked. CNN did nothing wrong.

  6. You see the problem with the audience we the people that watch the news and those who are scrutinized by the news don’t seem to grasp is the whole purpose behind their reporting is to sensationalize world events to entertain our curiosity and to satisfy our depraved sense of lust for sensationalism. If you in any way serve the public you should be held accountable to the people you serve. Do we the audience run with everything we see or hear in the news or do we use some wisdom and wait and see what is true and what isn’t. We prefer to blame the media when it is the substance and our reaction to it that is to blame.

    • BMB says:

      Unfortunately, far too many of the audience have been running with news sources and stories that are both unsubstantiated and questionable at best. Pizzagate is a great example.

  7. Coleman says:

    CNN has fallen so low I can’t even watch it. From the burial of Sanders, to retaining Queen Donna after her corrupt behavior, to laughing at Trump every step of the way they have gone to my main source of news to none. Cooper used to walk a fine line even for a lefty…now that’s all he knows. As Jim Wilke says below they purposely legitimized and supported a bogus story for their own benefit. It was also reported that CNN “reserved” 6 seats out of 12 in the front row because they feel they are that much more important than the other 100’s of reporters in the room. They came their looking for a fight with Trump and they lost.

  8. Mike says:

    Firing Jeff Zucker should be a condition of approval.

  9. Jim Wilke says:

    Variety: “Soon after CNN made its report on air and online, BuzzFeed printed the contents of the memos, even though its own team had not substantiated them.” …and then CNN went back and stealth-edited to include Buzzfeed in their story and gave the whole thing legitimacy.

  10. Iconoclaust says:

    Trump has not threatened any news organization. In response to a question during the press conference in question, Trump made it clear that he does not intend any sanctions against the news medias.,,Your article is an example of the biased reporting of which Trump and most Americans who pay any attention are sick and tired. The refusal of the “mainstream media” to report fairly and honestly is a far greater threat to our freedom than any computer hacking of the DNC.

    Obama only accepted questions from his slavish followers and agents in the media who we now know at times asked questions which were prepared for them by Obama administration officials. You guys are a bunch of hypocrites who are a disgrace to America, our Constitution and journalism.

    • david ross says:

      Trump has a history of threatening news organizations by refusing to take questions from reporters, saying the news organization(s) produce “fake news” (of which Trump is a master), and pulling news credentials so the news organization(s) can not attend his rallies, press conferences, etc.

      The mainstream media has a long history of reporting the news fairly. Occasionally they get it wrong. The news they report may not be to your liking, but they typically don’t lie, don’t create fake news.

      Every president takes softball questions, and every president has had questions placed in the White House pool. Trump will be no different, except he will not have anyone to place the questions with as every no news source except the KKK Crusader endorsed Trump. And the KKK Crusader will not be given WH credentials.

      Lastly, people who disagree with you and/or see things differently from you are not hypocrites or a disgrace to America, or our Constitution, and certainly not to Journalism.

      • BMB says:

        Amen. The biggest danger you cite is the pattern of knee capping those who disagree with you or don’t bow down in the press. He’s trashed CNN and the New York Times. He tried to slap Vanity Fair to the ground because they gave his restaurant a bad review.

  11. Trump is not the President until Jan 20 so why would he have a news conference in July. Same people never complained about Hiliary not having a news conference. What a bunch of hypocrites.
    Meryl Streep obviously dosent give a damn about the people who were assaulted by the Clinton supporters. Why is Barbara Streisand still here?

  12. Marjorie Tuthill says:

    We cannot allow the President elect to continue to have the last word when it comes to freedom of speech. Please continue to challenge his every word, he is not a logical person and doesn’t not understand the dire consequences of his unintelligent comments.

  13. Jaddy Baddy says:

    I suppose we should’ve known something was
    up with Trump when he requested that Hail
    to the Chief be replaced with The Song of
    the Volga Boatmen.

  14. Wayne says:

    I thought Trump behaved like a petulant child. Every President has had to respond to questions and rumors. CNN gave him the option to just dispel the information by addressing it head on. He acted like a bully on the pulpit.

    As to the paranoia from some of the responders here about the “evil” liberal news media. They report the news. You can choose to believe it or not and they state if things have not been substantiated. It’s your choose not to believe it but it doesn’t make it any more fake than the information that you’ve chose to believe about Chilton and her “sex slave ring” or the fact that she ripped off her own charity (all of which has since been discounted). Brietbart media which supported Mr. Trump and continued to slander Mrs. Chilton in print so it seems turnabout is fair play.

    The fact is that if you don’t like what is reported, you can choose not to believe it and pretend, just like Mr. Trump did about the reports that were substantiated prior to the election. When you cry wolf too often people will stop believing the person who cried wolf. Mr. Trump lied like a consummate politician and cried wolf once too often about “fake news” so, perhaps, you might want to take an objective step back before condemning the news media and wait to see if this is substantiated or not (unfortunately most of,you will insult myself and others choosing not to believe anything including whatever truth we find I. The report.

    The news media needs to not be afraid or intimated otherwise politicians like Mr. Trump will walk over them and, if that happens, we will see secrecy and less transparency. This pandering to the lowest common denominator (throwing insults back and forth rather than making points with facts). Liberals are not liberturds anymore than conservatives are conversatards.

    Use facts to discuss stuff, disagree but don’t be assholes, keep the discussion civil. That should be the expectations of everyone here as well as our new President.

  15. Jacques Strappe says:

    CNN’s and Buzzfeed’s credibility just skyrocketed as epitome of a free press covering the incoming Nazi prez. The truth about this illegitimate fake POTUS will set us free of him in one term or less. Look the ethically and morally bankrupt, lying, treasonous tool up and lose the key. Biggest embarrassment to the world

    • BMB says:

      He does seem to have the opposite effect. Vanity Fair reported that they got 80,000 subscribers in the two weeks following his tweet regarding them.

  16. Ruth Deutsch says:

    I’ve seen all kinds of commentators on CNN, not just liberals. I frankly enjoy hearing the diversity of opinions so that I can appreciate different ways to assess people and situations. What I don’t like is the network news on CBS, NBC, and ABC because they are sponsored by food and drug companies and occasionally include stories disguised as news that are really the agenda of those companies, such as the pharmaceutical companies. I took a class in PR years ago explaining how to create “news” and it sickened me. So that makes me sad that “60 Minutes” is sponsored by big pharma, because it means they’ll never do any investigations of that industry that show wrongdoing needing to be out in the open…I hope something or someone will be able to force Trump to reveal his tax return…

  17. The Clinton News Network is going to support a Republican President, Come on!

  18. Michael O'Neill says:

    Punch line, most Americans also think media is bias with a liberal slant. I watch CNN each morning while exercising and think Jake Tapper is really Soledad O’Bian turned inside out.

  19. david ross says:

    CNN did the right thing by reporting this news and should continue to report important news. In fact, in the absence of Mssrs, Murrow, Cronkite, and Thompson, it is incumbent upon every news outlet to call out the truth, and to make sure that politicians especially are called out for their lies or inconsistencies. And they should be called out daily, too.

  20. Tony says:

    I agree with Nanny Mo, I believe most if not all News broadcasts have been bought up by the liberals and they and the Universities and God knows what else are trying to turn our country into a socialist hell hole. If you look around you and read, and you are not already biased by the liberals you will see what they are doing. They want to take American money and give it to the Liberal organizations around the World that hate what The United States has done and stood for they are Jealous of our country. They hate people who work hard and prosper. They want what the hard working Americans have made for them selves and they will stop at nothing to take it away from Americans. These people are Totalitarians first they want your money next they will want your Liberty and freedoms. America has started to wake up and see what they are doing, but a lot of the people are going along with this, but what they seem to be missing is that once it is gone a whole lot of people will have to die to get it back, that is if it can be reversed.

  21. Paula says:

    The New Media brought it on yourselves…we don’t believe anything you say anymore..you definitely know your sides…and have chose to post kindly only to them. We have seen it..in every newspaper.. every station. ..every interview…and we the people are done…The Piss scandal has now put you over the top..It’s kind of like a cheating husband…not sure if we’ll ever believe you again..Not sure how you can ever fix it…Welcome to the DIVORCE….

  22. Nanny Mo says:

    I completely disagree. I think this will make news organizations vet their rumors first or feel the wrath of the president. I was actually really proud of him for this. Too many lives have been destroyed by rumors with no accountability. CNN would like to have wasted the publics time at the press conference by making Trump answer questions about nothing, he refused and we got to hear real stories and real answers from him instead. The more I see, the more impressed I’m becoming.

  23. Inspector clouseau says:

    CNN ? Oh come on they’d never tell lies or participate in fake news. Just ask Anderson “green screen” Cooper. The CIA owned twit who particates in false flag bullshit perpetrated by various government officials. MSM are tools used by the dipshits advocating NWO agendas and CNN has been their main bitch for years. Finally they get bitch slapped.Get used to it.

  24. Jo Crawford says:

    Hasn’t CNN been attacking Mr.Trump from the get go? I guess you feel if you throw enough stuff something might stick. I for one would like to hear and see some honest journalism on both sides. Stop the petty BS.

  25. gkn says:

    “A refusal to take questions from a particular media outlet suggests the Trump administration might try to freeze out any outlet that raises issues not to its liking.” Surprise, surprise. Golly-gee.

  26. Quaker says:

    CNN was great in the early 90s. It’s laughable trash now.

  27. Sid Kind says:

    Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings never reported this kind of crap. CNN is nothing more than a tabloid and should be treated as such.

  28. Larry Rumsey says:

    The CNN reporter was not just asking a question, he was acting like a spoiled child. If CNN wants to be treated with respect, they should stop spreading fake news and try to be impartial and verify their stories with credible sources.

  29. Lynne Allen says:

    I think CNN should release all the goods on the orange man…Soon!

  30. Why not (all news outlets) just tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If the 30 something page document CNN gave Obama and Trump contained errors then trash it.

    0

  31. Rudy Mario says:

    Globally, CNN is the outlet non US people tune to for US news. Non US entities do not trust Fox so Fox has little traction outside the US bit tops in US ratings.

    Calling CNN as fake news is as stupid as calling M Streep as overrated.

  32. BigDSportsFan says:

    CNN is so biased that it is no longer considered news. When every story during the election was in favor of Hillary Clinton and ignored all other candidates. I see it more as a gossip or hater network instead of true journalism. It’s a joke.

  33. Steve Barr says:

    ” Fake news” from a fake president Not since Nazi Germany and Stalin has there been a group of people as dangerous as Donald Trump ,and his supporters. Sinclair Lewis once wrote a book called It Can’t Happen Here . Yes it can . It just did. Fascism has come to America.

    • Inspector clouseau says:

      Stevie boy. LOOK it’s me the Russian Operative!! Still shedding those libturd tears huh? Wait punk the best is yet to come when us “brown shirts” raid your safe places and take away your teddy bears. Run along now PARANOID BOY. THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!! THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!! LMFAO

  34. Ken says:

    The only thing I watch the news these days for is the weather…in my youth news reporting was unbiased and accurately portrayed both sides of every issue…so that the public was informed but not swayed by their reports and we could make our own decisions on where we stood…today it is almost to a brainwashing of the public to bend to their views and forsake and vilify any other view…

  35. Luminos says:

    Finally,…. the opinionated media is put in check. First news conference and the NAILED IT,….. News media,..just report the facts,.. not your op-ed’s made to look like news.

    Trump 1 – News Media 0,… I am liking this guy already

    • Flosbach says:

      I think we all can expect from an adult in his early 70s who is the elected president of the United States to be mature and presidential enough to react to criticism like an adult. Trump is like a spoiled child and his people should close down his twitter account and teach him some manners.

      Trump – 2

      So far, he hasn’t started his job, but I do not think that he will act differently after the inauguration. So we all will lose. So sad.

  36. Dave says:

    Trump will always have issues when the news do not favor Trump….right?

    • JMorales says:

      Yes, and his 3rd grade temperament with his headbutting, biting and spitting is going to haunt us until someone pulls his plug. Anger management?

  37. jef says:

    CNN does not appeal to conservatives and has a nominal conservative viewership. CNN is going to go bye bye soon because no one watches it and cable bundles are imploding. So stop reporting false news about CNN having conservative appeal.

  38. a.c. cavali says:

    CNN is obviously biased and everyone knows it. Good for President Elect Trump for telling it like it is!!

  39. Goodbyenoway says:

    Obama routinely attacked Fox News during the last 8 years. Did I miss the Variety articles about that?

  40. CNN has become a total joke. Good for Trump for refusing to waste his time with their antics.

  41. sirlaugh says:

    CNN—Can Not be News. All the untruths needed to meet the Democrat agenda.

  42. The media is biased, That is not in doubt, the question is CNN going to fix itself!

    • Biased against Trump??!
      Are you forgetting that CNN, in an act of craven cowardice, actually hired disgraced Trump flunky Corey Lewendowski as a pundit, despite his admittedly being on the Trump payroll?!
      Not exactly a great moment in journalism.

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