When he finds himself on the defensive, President Donald Trump’s go-to tactic is to lash out at the press. On Thursday, Trump once again went on Twitter to unleash his latest assault. “Why isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news in just made up-FAKE!” he posted. In Trump’s world, the press should provide a continuous stream of glowing praise for his presidency.
Trump is not ignorant about the Founding Fathers’ original intent when they codified a free press in the Constitution. He simply wishes to ignore it in order to manipulate public opinion on his own behalf. Trump is obsessed with how he is perceived, and his regular Twitter storms, directed at the press and other critics, reveal an excessively narcissistic and thin-skinned man.
Trump’s latest Twitter tirade followed new developments in the many government investigations into Russian interference with last November’s election, and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. On Wednesday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said, “The Russian intelligence service is determined ― clever ― and I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously.” As to whether anyone in the Trump campaign colluded, Burr said, “The issue of collusion is still open.” Along with the Senate committee, a House committee and a special counsel, headed by Robert Mueller, are also investigating Russian interference.
Trump is frustrated with these investigations and has sought to end them, including firing former FBI Director James Comey. That action and his other attempts to derail the probes have led to allegations that the president obstructed justice. Major news organizations, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, have aggressively reported on the Russian investigations, many times breaking new ground while drawing the ire of the president. Burr responded to Trump’s tweet Thursday, saying he would hold the news organizations accountable, “If, in fact, we find news organizations have not covered it factually, I think you will see that in our report.”
White House news leaks and fierce infighting have also spilled into the press. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called the president a “moron” during a Pentagon meeting this summer, according to NBC News. It is no secret that Tillerson and Trump have been at odds on staffing and policy issues for months, but it was noteworthy that, rather than denying he made the remark, the secretary told reporters Wednesday, “I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that.” Trump tweeted, “The @NBCNews story has been totally refuted by Sec. Tillerson and @VP Pence. It is #FakeNews. They should issue an apology to AMERICA!” NBC News stands by their report. Meanwhile, Republican Senator Bob Corker added to the controversy Wednesday when he told reporters, “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary (Jim) Mattis and Chief of Staff (John) Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”
The Trump administration response in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico received sharp criticism, especially from the Mayor of San Juan, its capital and largest city. While a majority of island’s 3.4 million residents struggled with no power, water and food shortages, and enormous destruction, Trump inexplicably blamed the problems on the mayor’s poor leadership.
When Trump visited Puerto Rico earlier this week he was more focused on the island’s financial woes than comforting its people, telling local government officials, “you threw our budget a little out of whack, but that’s fine.” He then compared Hurricane Maria with Katrina, suggesting the hurricane that hit New Orleans more than a decade ago was worse. Later, while visiting a relief shelter, the president tossed rolls of paper towels to residents, which humiliated many Puerto Ricans who watched. His visit was widely criticized in the press, which led Trump to tweet, “Wow, so many Fake News stories today. No matter what I do of say, they will not write or speak the truth. The Fake News Media is out of control!”
In August, the president lashed out at the press following its coverage of remarks he had made following the violence several days earlier in Charlottesville, Virginia, which resulted in the death of one protester. In his remarks, the president blamed “both sides” instead of denouncing Nazis and white nationalist groups for the violence. At a subsequent campaign rally in Phoenix, the president called the news media “sick people.” He added, “It’s time to expose the crooked media deceptions and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions and yes, by the way, they are trying to take our history away our history and our heritage.”
Could it be that more and more Americans are growing tired of the president’s penchant to distort, twist and misstate the truth? According to a just released Reuters/Ipsos poll of more that 14,000 respondents, confidence in the news media is increasing. Nearly half of those surveyed have at least some confidence in the press, an increase of nearly 10 percent over the past year. Meanwhile, Trump’s average approval rating is below 40 percent, according to Real Clear Politics.
President Trump is a deeply flawed man whose beleaguered presidency has been filled with scandal, missteps and controversy. Trump’s extreme selfishness makes it impossible for him to be empathetic, self-reflective, mindful and truthful. At her news briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders justified the president’s press attacks, saying, “we should call on all media to a higher standard.”
No, Sarah, all Americans should demand that President Trump apply the highest standards to his presidency!