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Friday, January 15, 2021

45’s treatment of the press: ‘Make it make sense’

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I am at a loss to understand how journalists can support someone who has such contempt for what we do for a living. I don’t understand how one can rationalize the disdain someone feels for the press and offer support instead of condemnation when you’re a member of said press.

Even without naming names, it’s pretty obvious I’m referring to President Donald J. Trump. Time and again I’m taken aback by his contempt for the press and those journalists who don’t seem to have a problem with his attacks.

During a press conference on April 14, journalist Brian Karem questioned Trump about COVID-19 testing and social distancing. Trump cut Karem off before he could even finish the question, saying “I know your question.” As Karem kept trying to talk, Trump responded by pointing his finger at Karem three times while telling him to be “quiet” each time. It would be comical if it wasn’t our reality. The president then called Karem “a showboat” and “a loudmouth” and threatened to leave the press conference. 

His treatment of Karem is nothing compared to his treatment of women journalists. On April 13, Trump battled it out with journalist Paula Reid. I say he battled it out because she was simply trying to do her job and ask a question. She’s supposed to ask tough questions. She’s supposed to ask the questions he doesn’t want to answer, questions that make him feel uncomfortable. Her job is to ask the questions people are asking and for which they want answers. Her job is to push back with follow-up questions if an answer doesn’t make sense or needs clarification. Her job isn’t to look pretty, play nice and make friends. A journalist with integrity asks the tough questions because we understand our role as government watchdog. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Freedom of the press is in the U.S. Constitution for a reason. A free press is vital to a free nation. Our job isn’t to pander to the president — any president — or coddle his ego. It’s to hold him accountable to Americans, we the people. 

But we have someone with the title of president that doesn’t understand any of this. Instead of simply answering the reporter’s questions, he chose to be basic and resort to name-calling, turning the attention to her news organization and former Vice President Joe Biden. This is a man of strength? Weak people bully and turn themselves into a victim.

Now, his treatment of Reid pales in comparison to his treatment of Black women reporters. Oh, there’s a special place for them in Trump’s hierarchy of resentment. Trump called journalists April Ryan, Yamiche Alcindor and Kristen Welker “a loser,” “stupid” and “racist.” He downright ignores them at press conferences. He hops on Twitter and degrades them in 280 characters or less. Of course, these sisters fight back, but they shouldn’t have to. Again, these women, these Black women, are simply trying to do their jobs. The White House press corps is majority white and male. It can’t be easy to face this kind of wrath. I guess there’s solace knowing they’re not the only ones who provoke the president’s ire.

I have no doubt in my mind these women worked hard to get their spot in the press corps. This is a hard industry. You often work long hours and sacrifice other parts of your life. You learn to be tough and deal with a lot, but defending yourself against the man who holds the highest office in the land shouldn’t be part of your work experience.

Frankly, I’m baffled at those in my profession who give this president a pass for his behavior toward the press. I’m disappointed in them. Why isn’t every journalist in this country calling the president out for this behavior instead of excusing it?

I need for someone, anyone, to make it make sense. 

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