An outrageous lead in the Washington Post captured the animus that underlies much of the coverage of Donald Trump:
“A group of environmental activists pulled off a daring act of defiance.”
And what was this “daring” act? They snuck into Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. and carved six-foot letters into the green (“NO MORE TIGERS. NO MORE WOODS.”) In other words, they broke the law and defaced private property.
Someone realized the blunder, posted an editor’s note “to more accurately reflect” what happened, and the new lead said that “a group of environmental activists pulled off an elaborate act of vandalism at one of President Trump’s premier golf courses early Sunday morning.”
Try to imagine protestors vandalizing a property belonging to Barack Obama or Bill Clinton and having it initially hailed as an act of “defiance.”
Some of the coverage of this president takes relatively routine actions—firing the U.S. attorneys, who are political appointees, or trying to change or abolish regulations—and portrays them as being suspicious or nefarious. And then there's the war with the press.
A lengthy piece in the New Yorker, noting the way Trump ripped news organizations at his marathon press conference, calls him “the world’s most gifted media troll.”
Much of the article is devoted to criticism that such conservative outlets as the Daily Caller, LifeZette and One America can ask questions at briefings (along with a profile of a blogger for the highly controversial Gateway Pundit). I don’t recall the magazine agonizing over President Obama granting questions and interviews to the left-leaning Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. But now the White House pressroom is packed because of the, well, undesirables.
An unnamed network reporter is quoted as saying: “At what point does it start to delegitimize the whole idea of what happens in that room? When does it cross the line into pure trolling?”
The New York Times has an upbeat, well-reported piece on the resurgence of liberal shows, including an interview with Rachel Maddow:
“Left-leaning MSNBC, after flailing at the end of the Obama years, has edged CNN in prime time… Traditional television, a medium considered so last century, has watched audiences drift away for the better part of a decade. Now rattled liberals are surging back, seeking catharsis, solidarity and relief.”
All well and good. Of course MSNBC’s most liberal hosts would get a boost in the Trump era (though the piece undercuts the premise by acknowledging that prime-time viewership for top-rated Fox News is up 31 percent from a year ago).
But in hailing the ratings rise for the “openly anti-Trump” Stephen Colbert and for Samantha Bee (along with Bill Maher and Trevor Noah), the Times never stops to question whether entertainers might be alienating part of their audience. There’s not a sentence of skepticism about the fairness of turning network shows into Trump-bashing vehicles or why the programs aired only gentle jabs at Obama. It just seems the natural order of things.
If Trump is trolling the media, as the New Yorker proclaims, the media spend an awful lot of time trolling the president. And sometimes it borders on vandalism.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.