The president is mounting so many Twitter attacks against the press that it’s a bit hard to keep up.
Nevertheless, I shall endeavor to analyze them, knowing full well he’ll have some new ones up before you read this.
There has of late been a melding of two of his favorite targets, the Mueller investigation and the fourth estate, which Donald Trump apparently views as reinforcing each other. And besides, he doesn’t need much of an excuse to whack the press (or engage in counterpunching, as he likes to view it).
So here’s a snapshot, starting with the first of several Trump tweets from yesterday:
“Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!”
The context: The president was reacting to a New York Times story about a confidential memo by fired FBI deputy Andrew McCabe, saying Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein had told him that Trump asked him to mention Russia in his letter urging that Comey be canned.
The scorecard: Russia was a factor, by the president’s own account.
Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt soon after the firing that he was going to dump Comey “regardless of recommendation” by Rosenstein. “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”
The tweet: “The corrupt Mainstream Media is working overtime not to mention the infiltration of people, Spies (Informants), into my campaign! Surveillance much?”
The context: There’s a semantic debate in the press over whether the FBI’s informant in 2016, an American professor in London, was a spy infiltrating the Trump camp or just doing his job against possible Russian intelligence-gathering.
The scorecard: The existence of the FBI informant who spoke to three Trump campaign advisers was revealed by the “failing New York Times,” and sparked endless stories and segments. So it’s not true that the media aren’t mentioning it—they just aren’t doing it in the “Spygate” terms that the president would prefer.
The tweet: “Iger, where is my call of apology? You and ABC have offended millions of people, and they demand a response. How is Brian Ross doing? He tanked the market with an ABC lie, yet no apology. Double Standard!”
The context: This is a continuation of Trump’s criticism of Disney CEO Bob Iger after he personally apologized to Valerie Jarrett for the racist Roseanne tweet and canceled her hit sitcom. ABC’s Brian Ross reported in December that Trump had told his adviser Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials during the campaign, which would have fueled the collusion argument (and the stock market did drop several hundred points). The truth was the Flynn had been asked to do this after the election, when such contacts would be routine for an incoming administration.
The scorecard: This was a very bad mistake. But despite Trump’s assertion, ABC apologized for the story, issued a full retraction and suspended Brian Ross for a month without pay. What’s more, Ross was transferred to a lower-profile job where he doesn’t deal with White House politics.
The tweet: “The Failing and Corrupt @nytimes estimated the crowd last night at ‘1000 people,’ when in fact it was many times that number - and the arena was rockin’. This is the way they demean and disparage. They are very dishonest people who don’t ‘get’ me, and never did!”
The context: The Times did report from a Nashville rally this week that about a thousand folks had shown up. Trump often accuses the media of underestimating his crowd size, a dispute that famously dates back to Inauguration Day.
The scorecard: The president is right on the facts, and the paper ran a correction.
The author, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, tweeted: “President @realDonaldTrump is correct about his crowd last night. My estimate was way off, and we have corrected our story to reflect the fire marshal’s estimate of 5,500 people. When we get it wrong, we say so.”
So: Some hits, some overstatements, some misses, another day at the virtual office in the continuing warfare with the media. And all of it is red meat for Trump’s 52 million Twitter followers.