Late last month, the media exploded with reports of some mainstream outlets finding themselves barred from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s briefing. This action is abnormal, and without question concerning, for a country that prides itself on a free press and access to a transparent government.
What it is not, or should not be to anyone who has been paying attention since the forty-fifth President Of The United States was sworn in, is a surprise. Nor is it any sort of emergency, at least not by comparison to actual public policies, positions, appointments, and executive orders of and by the president. The media should hold fast their attention there, on the issues and actions that put Americans and our country at risk.
Trump’s disdain for the media has been apparent, in fact, celebrated, in the majority of his positions from his early campaign through his early initiatives as president. His contempt for an honest media has been on display since even long before his rise as a politician; his hobby of making phone calls under an assumed name to engage in the narcissism and boasting that is still his daily routine has been documented as far back as three decades.
In my view from the moment he took the Oval Office, Trump, by way of Spicer, continued this bragging and posturing, and his most well-loved tools are clearly nothing but a box of exaggerations, bullying, and misdirection. Mr. Spicer’s first words to the American people, on behalf of his boss the president, were nothing, at least from my perspective, but an easily refuted lie about the magnitude of the crowd present on inauguration day. Trump’s second move was to double down on this falsehood by sending Kellyanne Conway out to introduce an entirely new concept to the English language; the unlikely marriage of alternative and facts. The president himself capped off the event by retreating to his smartphone grandstanding on the impressiveness of his inauguration; carefully focused on television ratings instead of head counts. That was just day one.
All of this is well documented by media outlets of all factions. Why do they still want to be in the room in the first place? We are living in a time of unprecedented national division, strife, and change. In my lifetime we have never been further alienated from one another as Americans. We are allowing ourselves to be divided across racial, gender, and economic principles and even geographic boundaries.
If Democracy Dies In Darkness [the fresh and accurate new tagline of The Washington Post], then shine a brighter light, and don’t waste energy where illumination is impossible.
Of course, a direct link to the White House is the preferred source for reporting on the president. But an unreliable source should not be tolerated. This president wants his story told, although only in his way. As an editor of The New York Times Editorial Section has said: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, you’re not entitled to your own facts.”
If the White House can’t deliver a simple set of facts on an issue, why is our overburdened, underfunded, and stretched thin core of reporters still listening to what they have to say? There are other sources in Washington. Focus on them. Mr. Spicer has done for the press what they should have done already for themselves, shut the door on a story that doesn’t stand up to the facts.
Keep it shut.
They’ll be back. And if the information delivered by voice on the other end of the phone can’t be verified, or especially if it is so clearly false as to be refutable by a simple photograph; hang up.
Photo: Getty Images