According to the news media, it was something close to the end of Western civilization. One Ellen producer even compared it to “doomsday.” In reality, it was just a press conference. And President Donald Trump spent much of it calling out the media for being “dishonest” and producing, “very fake news.”
After eight years as serving as Obama’s palace guard, the news media are utterly unable to handle criticism, especially from this president. Journalists envision themselves as they were under Nixon, once more fighting a corrupt president. Only this time there is no Woodward and Bernstein. This time all the press have is Bernstein’s son Jacob who works for The New York TImes. Except he just humiliated his paper by calling the First Lady a “hooker.”
Americans know the media have chosen sides and journalists and the 1st Amendment are diminished by it. Yesterday’s press conference overreaction was more proof.
NBC political director Chuck Todd, who has called Trump a “political streaker” and whose wife is a Democratic consultant, lost any remaining pretense of objectivity. “This not a laughing matter. I'm sorry, delegitimizing the press is unAmerican,” he Tweeted. Todd’s pretends it’s OK for the press to delegitimize a president, just not OK for him to fight back. CNN anchor Jake Tapper called the press conference “unhinged.” The Daily Beast reported that journalists were stunned. One allegedly said: “This is insane.”
ABC’s chief political analyst Matthew Dowd underlined that argument and remarked that Trump “looked smaller and actually more insecure in his position.” He said it “was reminiscent of Captain Queeg in a Caine Mutiny and somebody saying, ‘I’m going to search for their strawberries.’” In the movie, Humphrey Bogart’s Queeg became the boogeyman of a WWII ship’s crew and was portrayed as paranoid and delusional -- so much so that he is relieved of command. (Of course, Dowd didn’t mention how Queeg was unfairly targeted by disloyal officers, as seen in this clip by the great Jose Ferrer.)
Dowd is promoting a popular liberal fantasy of impeachment or even resignation that somehow leads to Hillary Clinton in office. Politico has even written about how people are betting on it. CNN commentator Sally Kohn wrote a now-infamous Tweet that envisioned a series of outlandish events that went from impeachment to “President Clinton” in five easy steps, under the header “Straightforward from here.” That’s the sentiment Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski tweeted -- a line that liberals are repeating endlessly: “This feels like a fake Presidency.”
Trump didn’t care about any of that. He let the press have it, skewering the D.C./New York/Los Angeles media axis as not speaking “for the people, but for the special interests.” He took aim at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC and CNN. He particularly criticized CNN host Don Lemon for “the hatred and venom coming from his mouth” and the “almost exclusive anti-Trump” nature of the panels on his show.
Lemon and his network are easy targets. He’s become famous for saying hilariously stupid things like asking if the missing Malaysian jet was swallowed by a black hole "just like the movie Lost.” Even liberal sites such as Talking Points Memo mock him. He even got drunk during the New Year’s Eve telecast and then got his ear pierced live on TV. CNN eventually pulled the feed after he became too embarrassing.
But this was more than just an attack on the press. The president took his case to the people that things were going well, “because many of our nation’s reporters and folks will not tell you the truth, and will not treat the wonderful people of our country with the respect that they deserve.”
The major network anchors seemed overwhelmed. “President Trump unloads in a fiery, combative press conference listing successes, airing grievances, placing blame, denying allegations. A scene unlike anything we’ve heard from a president in memory,” vented NBC anchor Lester Holt. CBS’s Scott Pelley called it “the president's first extraordinary solo news conference,” while David Muir summed it up as a “combative scene.”
No matter which side you preferred, both left and right found something to enjoy. Huffington Post called it a “77-MINUTE MELTDOWN” and Salon said: “President Trump implodes in unhinged 77-minute press conference.” It’s odd to see Salon think anyone else is unhinged. Time magazine released its new cover, depicting Trump sitting in the Oval Office in the middle of storm of swirling papers. Yes, even that famous Trump hair and Trump tie were drifting in the wind.
The allegedly unbiased Washington Post called the presser an “erratic performance.” Then White House bureau chief Philip Rucker depicted the exchange in a thoroughly one-sided manner. “With his young presidency besieged by disorder and discord, the commander in chief was at once angry and jovial,” wrote Rucker. Neutral journalism.
Univision’s billionaire CEO Haim Saban got just the anti-Trump snark you would expect from a man who spent millions of dollars “to put Clinton in the White House.” His website Fusion asked simply, “WTF just happened in that Trump press conference?” Maybe the fact that Fusion doesn’t know is why it has lost so much money.
Things were completely different on the right, not that most journalists care.
Talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh said the press conference worked well for “rallying people who voted for him to stay with him” and that “this was one of the most effective press conferences I have ever seen.” The result, according to Limbaugh, was obvious. “The press is going to hate him even more after this.” Though it’s hard to envision that possible.
Former diplomat Richard Grenell’s comments were similar to Trump in attacking the press. “Yesterday, @CNN mocked Trump for not speaking to the main stream press. Today, they mock his ‘marathon press conference’ with them.”
One of the key aspects of the Trump v. Press battle is the increasingly left-wing activism of CNN, despite its periodic claims it has no agenda. A highlight of the combat was periodic Trump opponent and CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta almost begging for better treatment. “Just for the record, we don't hate you. I don't hate you. Just wanted to pass that along if I can,” he told the president. Trump shot right back and told Acosta to, “ask Jeff Zucker how he got his job.” Zucker is the boss of CNN and led NBC when Trump began with The Apprentice more than a decade ago.
For his part, Zucker said the war with Trump wasn’t hurting the network. “They wear those insults as a badge of honor, because it means they are doing their jobs,” he claimed, adding that “morale is incredibly high.”
Its standards certainly aren’t as high. Zucker’s staff “put together a clip of Trump’s most outlandish hand gestures at today’s mammoth news conference — all set to classical music, as if POTUS were a conductor,” reported Mediaite.
CNN’s Reliable Sources email headlined its “special edition” as a “Stress Conference” and ended with senior reporter Dylan Byers trying to tell Trump how to be president. “Dylan Byers asks: At a certain point, the attacks must get old... right? At a certain point the President of the United States needs to start acting like the President of the United States and stop offloading blame for his failures on the press…” Perhaps, at a certain point, the media might start acting neutral. But that’s not likely to ever happen. So why should Trump stop defending himself?
Dan Gainor is the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.