The failing @nytimes has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Said I would lose the primaries, then the general election. FAKE NEWS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has received criticism recently. Many journalists have voiced their anger after Spicer lied to the press corps about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration and repeated President Trump’s widely debunked claims that massive voter fraud occurred in the 2016 election. Spicer addressed the media again during Monday’s press conference, where he asked the media to reset their relationship with the Trump administration. Spicer accused the media of downplaying Trump’s support. These blatant lies have led to some great headlines, like CNN’s “White House press secretary attacks media for accurately reporting inauguration crowds.” Nevertheless, these press conferences and Kellyanne Conway’s much-ridiculed defense of the administration’s “alternative facts” have many journalists worried about the relationship the Trump administration will have with the media over the course of the next four years. Many fear that President Trump will undermine the role of the media – the important role of a watchdog against abuses of power by the government.
Trump vs. the media
The Spicer comments are the latest examples of President Trump’s poor relationship with the press, as Trump frequently accused the media of being biased during his presidential campaign. Journalists covering his campaign had to stay in pens during events while Trump riled up the crowd by singling out reporters and accusing them of favoring Hillary Clinton. During the second presidential debate, Trump went so far as to accuse moderators Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper of bias against him due to their harsh line of questioning. While Trump was waging war against the mainstream press, he also developed strong ties with Breitbart News, a conservative, anti-establishment media source known for racist and sexist articles. Steve Bannon, the former executive chair of Breitbart, became Trump’s senior counselor and was appointed to be Chief Strategist of the Trump administration. Breitbart has been accused of serving as a propaganda arm of the Trump campaign. The most recent Spicer comments echo Trump’s rhetoric about the media throughout the campaign and indicates that relations between Trump and the media are not improving.
What does this mean?
A healthy press corps serves as a check on the government to ensure that politicians do not abuse their power or lie to their constituents. Studies have found that populist leaders, such as Trump, tend to fight the press. These methods can devolve into media oppression. The ascendance of Breitbart gives the Trump Administration a platform to argue for their policies without scrutiny. However, mainstream media has begun to fight back against Trump. CNN refused to air Spicer’s press conference live and Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times called for the press to challenge Trump whenever he insults a major publication.