At this past Wednesday’s “press conference” at the White House, CNN’s Jim Acosta, PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor and National Urban Radio’s April Ryan were verbally assaulted by Donald Trump for having the nerve to ask tough questions of him and demand he answer them. Later that day, Acosta had his press credentials revoked after a doctored video showing him chopping the arm of a woman trying to grab the microphone from him was released by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The source of the video was infowars. In the actual video, Acosta is simply pushing back the woman’s arm. In any other White House, the incident would’ve been scandalous; with this White House, it was just another day at the office.
How many times are we going to go down this road? How many more times is the media going to be treated so disrespectfully by a man who behaves more like a toddler than a president? When are they going to take my advice and pull the plug on this narcissistic asshole? Where is it written that the White House Press Corps has an obligation to be humiliated just for doing its job? My God, even masochists know when to cry uncle.
Trump can call Acosta rude all he wants, and several people within the industry have said, perhaps with some validity, that he does tend to push the needle a bit with his line of questioning. So what? It’s his job to push the needle. David Gregory used to drive George Bush up the wall just about every time he held a press conference. But despite the legendary and often heated exchanges between the two, Gregory’s press credentials were never taken away. Since the days of Nixon, the press has had an adversarial relationship with the White House. It’s a political axiom that if reporters aren’t making our nation’s leaders squirm a bit, they’re abdicating their responsibilities as journalists. What the hell was Acosta supposed to do, give Trump a reach around like Hannity? If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
To make matters worse, Trump has threatened to revoke the credentials of other White House reporters. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if, by the time he gets done, all we’re left with are reporters from the likes of Fox News, Breitbart and WorldNet Daily. Just think of the questions that would flow from such a press conference: “Mr. President, can you share with the nation your secret for being such a political genius?” “Mr. President, how much longer will it take before you completely make America great again?”
Enough is enough! For years the media in this country have treated Trump like he’s mana from Heaven, as far as their ratings are concerned. We’ve talked a great deal about the Faustian bargain Republicans made with Trump. In short, they tolerated his outrageous antics in exchange for him getting their tax cuts passed and their conservative judges appointed to the bench. And how did he repay them? By taking over their party and shrinking their demographics to historical lows. When Bush was reelected in 2004, he got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in this country. When Trump won the presidency in 2016, that percentage fell to 28. The GOP is now the party of old white men, most of whom live in rural America.
Well the media made its own Faustian bargain with Trump back in 2015. They knew he was a racist con artist who had no business being anywhere near the White House, but they couldn’t resist what he did for their bottom line. To quote then CBS chairman Les Moonves, “It may not be good for America,” Trump’s candidacy, “but it’s damn good for CBS.” The fact that he and other network executives, like CNN’s Jeff Zucker, never expected him to actually win the 2016 election was no excuse for giving him over a billion dollars of free advertising.
So now that the goose that laid the golden egg is cracking that very same egg over their heads, those executives who were rolling in the dough, like the Republican Party, are reaping what they sowed. Well excuse me, but it’s a little hard feeling sorry for an industry that every waking hour spits on the graves of Murrow, Cronkite and Mudd. The 24 hour cable news networks can no more resist the allure of Trump’s malignancy anymore than a heroine addict can resist his next fix.
That being said, it’s not too late to take action. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, Trump is a whore when it comes to the media. He may hate it, but he knows he can’t survive without it. Why else do you think he gives so many interviews to the “failing” New York Times? Why else do you think he picked Acosta to ask a question when he could’ve chosen anyone else in the room? The answer is simple: Trump knows that a majority of people read the New York Times and watch CNN. Despite a staggering lack of intellectual curiosity, Trump is no fool. In fact, he’s one of the most savvy politicians this country has ever seen. He makes FDR look like stuttering John. If Nixon had had Trump’s ability to manipulate people, he would’ve served out his second term.
The way you beat Trump is to deprive him of the attention he craves. Like a fire needs oxygen to spread, Trump, likewise, needs the media to spread his hate. Every altercation he gets into with a reporter just reinforces the message he’s been sending to his base from day one: that the “fake news” media is out to get him. Good news, bad news, it’s all the same to him. So long as his name gets mentioned, he wins. Acosta, without quite realizing it, fell into Trump’s trap.
But if no one shows up to ask him a question, if the cameras aren’t there to broadcast his image to millions of viewers, there’s no controversy. And controversy is how Trump thrives. Like the Weather Channel during a hurricane, Trump’s appeal is in the collateral damage he can cause at a moment’s notice. He’s a walking, talking, category five blowhard. And the media acts like the warm Gulf Stream giving him the sustenance he needs to maintain his fury.
It isn’t enough to simply condemn Trump’s actions; the media has to do the unthinkable: it has to literally boycott him altogether. In short, it has to revoke his press credentials. The next time Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds a press conference in the White House briefing room, CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN should be no shows. The next time Trump wants to be interviewed by the New York Times or the Washington Post – another one of his favorite punching bags – they should decline.
It’s time the networks and the press realize that Trump’s antics are not news; hell, they barely qualify as the stuff that makes it onto TMZ. It’s nice that they have decided not to broadcast his rallies live; now follow that up by going the extra mile and shut him off completely. Instead of granting his surrogates the chance to spread his propaganda, concentrate instead on the fallout from his policies. It wasn’t that long ago that cable news would talk about real issues like taxes, immigration reform, defense spending, foreign policy, deregulation and entitlements; now it spends most of its resources talking about payoffs to porn stars and centerfolds. When someone like Michael Avenatti gets more air time and ink than a bill that could end coverage for millions of people with preexisting medical conditions, Trump wins and the country loses. Can you imagine a freak show of Avenatti as the Democratic nominee running against Trump in 2020? Trump can. It would be a dream come true for him; a gift-wrapped reelection to a second term if ever there was one.
No, the media didn’t create Trump. But it did, in essence, turn him into the monster he has now become; a monster that, like the one in Mary Shelley’s novel, is terrorizing the villagers. And it has the moral obligation to repair the damage it has unwittingly caused before the whole damn village is burned to the ground.
Jim Acosta’s ego and reputation will recover; the nation may not be so fortunate.
Progressive but pragmatic. Lover of music, die-hard Giants’ fan and reluctant Mets’ fan. My favorite motto? I’d rather be ruled by a smart Turk than a dumb Christian.