Shepard Smith, the Fox News anchor, on Thursday afternoon seemed to have had enough of Donald Trump’s slams at the media as peddlers of “fake news” — or, when it comes to CNN, “very fake news.”
“It is crazy what we are watching every day, it is absolutely crazy,” Smith said. “He keeps repeating ridiculous throwaway lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we are some kind of fools for asking the question.”
Smith then started to look into the camera and added, “Really? Your opposition was hacked, and the Russians were responsible for it, and your people were on the phone on the same day it was happening, and we are fools for asking those questions? No sir, we are not fools for asking those questions, and we demand to know the answer to this question. You owe this to the American people.”
Smith was defending CNN correspondent Jim Acosta.
Trump’s near 80-minute, blustery and bombastic press conference was in many ways the kind he would deliver during the campaign — leaving many in the media a bit disoriented at what they witnessed. The difference this time is that the gamesmanship of a campaign have given way to governing. Trump is president and is trying to cope with its demands, in particular an unfolding situation in which an apparently alarmed intelligence community is leaking information to major news outlets, much of it unflattering and disconcerting.
As long as Trump’s press conference was, just of fraction of it seemed to be devoted to answers about who-knew-what-and-when when it came to campaign contacts with Vladimir Putin’s regime. He called the Trump-Russia connection a “ruse,” and said, “I have nothing to do with Russia.” He also said that he had been warned that a nuclear holocaust with Russia “would be like no other.”
Instead, it was dominated by Trump’s attacks on the media, singling out individual news outlets, even individual shows, for scorn or praise. He tried to discredit news outlets for low ratings and the news media in general for low approval ratings, insisting what they are reporting is fake but what has been leaked is “real.” He explained the discrepancy as a matter of “tone.”
Smith’s reference to “ridiculous throwaway lines” may not have just referred to Trump’s “fake news” and “fake media” catchphrases, but his fixation on the size of his electoral college victory. When Trump boasted that his 306 electoral votes (actually 304) was the largest since Ronald Reagan, reporters corrected him. Barack Obama got more in 2012 in 2008, as did George H.W. Bush in 1988 — facts that are easily verified by a Google search.
“I was given that information. I don’t know. I was just given it. We had a very, very big margin,” Trump explained.
The reason for the press conference was to announce his new nominee for labor secretary, but Trump went through a laundry list of accomplishments in the month since he has been in office, insisting that he has been fulfilling campaign promises. But that message of reassurance got lost in many other moments, like his announcement that the White House is working on a new immigration executive order and that he’d be willing to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus. The latter came after April Ryan of Urban Radio Networks asked him about it and he responded, “Are they friends of yours? Set up the meeting.”
The kind of jaw dropping moments earned Trump a dominance of media time during the campaign. Now, there’s no doubt that Trump will dominate the news, no matter what. The question is whether it will help or hurt him in the long run — if these kinds of showy, unpredictable press conferences will his proof that he’s shaking things up in D.C. or will reinforce the idea of an administration in chaos.
For now, Trump insists that his White House is a “fine-tuned machine,” even if he’s not shy about showing his frustrations.
Nor is the “fake media.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper, in his own state of disbelief about the press conference, also looked into the camera on Thursday and said, “President Trump, if you are watching. You are the president. You legitimately won the presidency. Now get to work and stop whining about it.”
Later, CBS News’ Scott Pelley said on Thursday’s newscast, “Today, we learned the length of the president’s fuse: 28 days.”