The U.S. Press Corps reminds Trump that they – and they alone – control the media.
Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s former Labor Secretary, published an article in Salon yesterday warning that “Trump’s plan to neuter the White House press corps could neuter our democracy,” adding that “tyrants don’t allow open questioning, and they hate the free press. They want total control.”
However, Kyle Pope, the editor in chief and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, published an open letter to Trump on behalf of the U.S. Press Corps earlier today advising him of the rules of the game.
“In these final days before your inauguration, we thought it might be helpful to clarify how we see the relationship between your administration and the American press corps,” the open letter begins.
Pope goes on to detail the often turbulent and almost always adversarial relationship Trump has had with the media since announcing his campaign.
It will come as no surprise to you that we see the relationship as strained. Reports over the last few days that your press secretary is considering pulling news media offices out of the White House are the latest in a pattern of behavior that has persisted throughout the campaign: You’ve banned news organizations from covering you. You’ve taken to Twitter to taunt and threaten individual reporters and encouraged your supporters to do the same. You’ve advocated for looser libel laws and threatened numerous lawsuits of your own, none of which has materialized. You’ve avoided the press when you could and flouted the norms of pool reporting and regular press conferences. You’ve ridiculed a reporter who wrote something you didn’t like because he has a disability.
Acknowledging that “while the Constitution protects the freedom of the press, it doesn’t dictate how the president must honor that,” Pope goes on to lay out a list of 8 demands.
- “While you have every right to decide your ground rules for engaging with the press, we have some, too,” Pope writes.
- Inclusive in those eight demands are several warnings:
- “We are very good at finding alternative ways to get information; indeed, some of the best reporting during the campaign came from news organizations that were banned from your rallies.”
- “We will strive to get your point of view across, even if you seek to shut us out. But that does not mean we are required to turn our airwaves or column inches over to people who repeatedly distort or bend the truth. We will call them out when they do, and we reserve the right, in the most egregious cases, to ban them from our outlets.”
- “When you or your surrogates say or tweet something that is demonstrably wrong, we will say so, repeatedly.”
Most ominously, he warns that the media “obsess” over every single detail of government putting everything under a microscope:
You and your staff sit in the White House, but the American government is a sprawling thing. We will fan reporters out across the government, embed them in your agencies, source up those bureaucrats. The result will be that while you may seek to control what comes out of the West Wing, we’ll have the upper hand in covering how your policies are carried out.
He concludes his open letter warning that, in recognition of Trump’s efforts to divide the press and due to the inherent difficulties in covering his administration, the press intends to unite to “cooperate and help one another whenever possible,” because they are “playing the long game.