If Donald Trump can sit down with Mitt Romney, who called him a con man and failed businessman, it’s hardly shocking that he would invite a bunch of network executives and anchors to Trump Tower.
Even if he spent much of the campaign calling their organizations dishonest and corrupt.
I’m told it was a relatively pleasant session at which the president-elect made clear his unhappiness with certain negative aspects of the coverage. He reminded his guests that they misjudged the election and never believed, for instance, that he could win Michigan, where he campaigned in the final days.
Variety describes it as a "tough" sitdown, with Trump "reserving particularly harsh words for CNN and NBC News."
The New York Post has a more dramatic version, saying that Trump told CNN President Jeff Zucker--who worked with him at NBC during "The Apprentice"--“I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed."
“There was no need to mend fences,” Kellyanne Conway told reporters. “It was off-the-record meeting. It was very cordial, very productive, very congenial. It was also very candid and very honest. From my own perspective, it's great to hit the reset button.”
And if the network folks had a chance to express their concerns about media access, news conferences and press pools, all the better.
Trump will meet today with executives from what he calls the “failing” New York Times and other outlets.
Trump is going to be the 45th president, and the mainstream media aren’t going away. It would be good if they could find a way to work together, despite what is always an adversarial relationship.
After all, Trump was a gold mine for the cable networks during the primaries. He was the most accessible candidate in modern history when it came to granting interviews. The reality-show veteran understands what makes good television. There are opportunities here for both sides.
It’s not like other presidents-elect haven’t reached out to the press with informal dinners and schmooze sessions. It’s just that we’ve never been through a campaign where there was so much hostility between candidate and press corps.
Four years of outright hostility wouldn’t be good for him, for us, or the country.
Meanwhile, there seems to be a culture war brewing against Donald Trump as well.
Less than two weeks after his election, his vice president gets a stern lecture from the cast of “Hamilton.” At the American Music Awards, Model Gigi Habib mocks Melania Trump’s accent and demeanor.
These are entertainers and cultural figures who are offended that their preferred candidate lost the presidency, and they are refusing to “normalize” the 45th president, as I noted yesterday about many in the mainstream media.
To me this is a finger in the eye of the 60 million Americans who voted for Trump, at least in part because they didn’t like the way the elites—political, media and cultural—look down on them.
I have no problem with a president being comedically skewered. Alec Baldwin and “SNL,” have at it (with Kate McKinnon having to switch from the old-news Hillary to the rising star Kellyanne Conway).
I have no problem with critics opposing Trump’s policies or his appointments. That’s how democracy works. New presidents used to get a bit of a honeymoon—that’s now a thing of the past—but at a minimum a level of acceptance, even after a bitter campaign.
That’s not happening now.
Those of you who can’t stand Trump respond by telling me all the terrible things about him. But how would you feel if Hillary Clinton had won the election and Trump diehards remained hostile, Broadway actors lectured Tim Kaine and crowds chanted “not my president”?
In the political arena, one of the diehards is former attorney general Eric Holder, who was far more liberal than part of the country. At a funeral for PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, Holder asked media people paying their respects, “Will you cower? Will you normalize that which is anything but?”
At a funeral! Unlike Barack Obama, his former boss, Holder isn’t wishing the new president well.
And then Howard Dean called incoming White House senior strategist Steve Bannon a “Nazi.” I know Dean is running for DNC chair, but whatever the inflammatory nature of Bannon’s record—he insists he’s a nationalist, not a white nationalist—that kind of language is awful.
Here’s a hopeful sign. The new ombudsman at the New York Times, Liz Spayd, writes that “from my conversations with readers, and from the emails that have come into my office, I can tell you there is a searing level of dissatisfaction out there with many aspects of the coverage.
“Readers complain heatedly and repeatedly about the forecasting odometer from The Upshot that was anchored on the home page and predicted that Hillary Clinton had an 80 percent chance or better of winning. They complain that The Times’s attempt to tap the sentiments of Trump supporters was lacking. And they complain about the liberal tint The Times applies to its coverage, without awareness that it does.”
While partly faulting the candidates, Spayd says “the media is at fault too, for turning his remarks into a grim caricature that it applied to those who backed him. What struck me is how many liberal voters I spoke with felt so, too. They were Clinton backers, but, they want a news source that fairly covers people across the spectrum.”
Perhaps it’s time to move beyond the “grim caricature.”