The Trump campaign is mighty ticked off at the media.
So mad, in fact, that an internal memo laying out the case against the disgusting media was conveniently leaked to that same disgusting media.
The source of the anger is that many journalists reported that Donald Trump had a bad week last week. Which he did.
Was some of the criticism over the top? Sure. Are some of the prognosticators predicting a Trump implosion, as they have so many times before? Yep. But that doesn’t reflect the majority of the coverage.
It’s no accident that the memo by Barry Bennett, a Trump adviser who had managed Ben Carson’s campaign, surfaced on the eve of the Wisconsin primary. The note had a rally-the-troops tone that is unusual only because virtually nothing leaks from the tightly knit Trump operation.
Trump is going through a rough stretch fueled in part by his own missteps. He’s admitted he made a mistake in retweeting an unflattering picture of Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi. He mocked Michelle Fields while defending his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in that manhandling incident. He gave two answers on abortion—one to Chris Matthews, the other to John Dickerson—that prompted clarifying statements from the campaign.
But with Ted Cruz leading in today’s Wisconsin contest, according to most but not all polls, there is a sense of frustration in Trumpland.
The Bennett memo, leaked to the Washington Post’s Robert Costa, was addressed to “Corey and Team.”
“So this week the Media and the Washington Establishment bashed the campaign with energy yet ever seen against a Republican candidate. You name the medium and it was dominated with Trump Attacks. The media themselves couldn’t wait to label the week, ‘THE WORST WEEK EVER’.”
There were plenty of “Trump Attacks”—but much of it was a critique of Trump’s own recent words and actions, which certainly seems fair game.
“DC Pundits scurried to the networks to proclaim the end was at hand for Donald Trump. Yet another pathetic display by the so called experts who line their pockets at the expense of our candidates and causes.”
It’s true that some pundits proclaimed doom and gloom for the billionaire. Trump is the rare GOP candidate who draws vitriol from some conservative commentators as well as liberal pundits. Others are supportive of Trump. But even many mainstream journalists once fell into the trap of declaring that this or that Trumpian comment would sink his candidacy, and have since become more cautious.
And then Bennett took this roundhouse swing at the pundits:
“America is sick of them. Their idiotic attacks just remind voters why they hate the Washington Establishment.”
The media are indeed quite unpopular, especially among Trump supporters.
Bennett went on to write that Trump expanded his lead over Cruz in a Reuters national tracking poll, to 14 points, during this supposedly bad week.
Of course, all these media criticisms of Trump are going to intensify if he loses Wisconsin. That would be the first primary won by Cruz in the industrial heartland, and he will deserve some credit.
While Trump and his lieutenants may be fuming over the recent coverage, the candidate hasn’t exactly gone into the bunker. In the past 10 days, he’s done a lengthy sitdown with the Washington Post editorial board, a 100-minute foreign policy interview with two New York Times reporters, and a long session with the Post’s Bob Woodward and Costa. (He also did “Fox News Sunday,” “Face the Nation” and a town hall with Greta Van Susteren on Sunday, plus Sean Hannity yesterday.)
During the print interviews, Trump has said the U.S. role in NATO should be reevaluated; that perhaps Japan and South Korea should be allowed to build nuclear weapons; that America is headed for a massive recession; and that he can wipe out the country’s $19 trillion debt in eight years.
These and other statements have been challenged and criticized. But you have to give Trump credit for engaging in a serious way with serious journalists.
Trump has always had a fraught relationship with the media, constantly giving interviews while denouncing his coverage as largely dishonest. Whatever the frustrations of the moment, it’s a formula that has mostly worked extraordinarily well.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.