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The media are furious that President Trump serially decries "fake news." He often rants that journalists who traffic in it are "enemies of the people."

Reporters have compared Trump to mass murderers such as Stalin and Hitler because of his dislike of the press.

Trump may be crude to reporters, but journalists are also not so innocent. They have brought much of the present calumny upon themselves in a variety of ways.

The media seem to have little concern that their coverage is biased even though polls show that the vast majority of Americans believe the media intentionally reports fake news.

Indeed, fake news is not a Trump exaggeration. Despite coverage to the contrary, Trump did not remove a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. Testimony by former FBI Director James Comey revealed that senior Trump campaign officials did not consult "senior Russian intelligence officials," as The New York Times reported. Putin denied having compromising information on Trump during an NBC interview after an earlier NBC report said Putin did not deny having such information.

The list of such false news reports is long. The common theme is that even recklessly derogatory news is seen by many as serving the higher purpose of delegitimizing the Trump presidency.

Auditing coverage of the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, the Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that of the news reports with a clear tone, 80 percent of the stories about Trump were negative, 20 percent positive.

Journalists ranging from Christiane Amanpour to Jorge Ramos to Jim Rutenberg have argued that the rules of neutral reportage should no longer necessarily apply when it comes to Trump.

The WikiLeaks email trove of correspondence between Hillary Clinton and her campaign adviser, John Podesta, revealed that marquee journalists were colluding with Clinton aides to ensure the right spin was put on stories before publication. CNN analyst Donna Brazile leaked debate questions to Clinton in advance.

Too often, reporters smear the president in the crudest possible ways:

Politico's Julia Ioffe suggested that Trump might have engaged in incest with his daughter.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper was forced to apologize after he crudely trashed a pro-Trump panelist, saying, "If he took a dump on his desk, you would defend it!"

This year's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner turned into a Trump hatefest as host Michelle Wolf savagely trashed the president and mocked the looks of White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

Sometimes journalists disparage and stereotype Trump supporters. Recently, Politico reporter Marc Caputo tweeted of the crowd he saw at a Trump rally: "If you put everyone's mouths together in this video, you'd get a full set of teeth." Then he doubled down by calling them "garbage people."

The New York Times knew when it newly hired tech writer Sarah Jeong as an editorial board member that she had a history of crude racist tweets, some directed at Trump.

Is this war between Trump and the media unprecedented? Not quite.

So far, Trump's attacks are verbal and subject to public debate. Unlike his predecessors, he has not yet secretly weaponized the government to spy on and harass journalists he doesn't like.

Reporters loved Barack Obama. But his Justice Department improperly and secretly surveilled Associated Press reporters and monitored the phone calls and emails of Fox News reporter James Rosen.

President John Adams in 1798 pushed through the Sedition Act.

Woodrow Wilson systematically had reports censored that he felt were critical of his wartime administration. His state-run propaganda machine, the Committee on Public Information, had a creepy French Revolutionary ring to it.

Liberal icon Franklin D. Roosevelt makes Trump's bluster about the media look relatively amateurish. FDR used the Federal Communications Commission to stifle critical news. Roosevelt's congressional allies tried to push through a "libel bill" to criminalize hostile reporting.

John F. Kennedy had the CIA wiretap two Washington reporters.

There is no doubt that Trump should ease off his blanket condemnations of the journalists and their profession. But for their part, reporters have to stop creating news where there is none. And they should refrain from personal attacks on the president and his family, and from stereotyping Trump supporters as garbage.

In the meantime, we should remember that the real danger to a free press is not loud public bluster from a perceived hostile president. More often, First Amendment threats come from the quiet weaponization of the government against journalists--which, ironically, is sometimes orchestrated by presidents who are beloved press idols.


Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Editorial on 08/09/2018

Print Headline: Press often asks for criticism

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  • Foghorn
    August 9, 2018 at 6:47 a.m.

    There is so much cr@p and fake news in this article I don’t even know where to start. ‘A perceived hostile president.’ Seriously? He’s called the press the enemy of the people. I’d say that’s a bit more hostile than merely ‘perceived.’

  • BoudinMan
    August 9, 2018 at 8:58 a.m.

    Looks like the ADG editorial board scrounged up a column perpetuating its belief about the "enemy of the people." Guys, you know you are the "media" also?

  • JakeTidmore
    August 9, 2018 at 9:11 a.m.

    The 80%-20% figure is taken out of context and lacks perspective. Mark Joyella explains:
    But breathtakingly negative media coverage doesn't equate to "a shocking level of media bias." Remember, the study looked at tone. Here's how the researchers defined it:

    Tone is judged from the perspective of the actor. Negative stories include stories where the actor is criticized directly. An example is a headline story where Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer criticized Trump when the Labor Department’s April economic report showed that fewer jobs were created than had been predicted. Schumer was quoted as saying, in part: “Eleven weeks into his administration, we have seen nothing from President Trump on infrastructure, on trade, or on any other serious job-creating initiative.” Negative stories also consist of stories where an event, trend, or development reflects unfavorably on the actor. Examples are the stories that appeared under the headlines “President Trump’s approval rating hits a new low”and “GOP withdraws embattled health care bill, handing major setback to Trump, Ryan.”

    Is it bias to report that the president's approval ratings are historically low, or that Trump's efforts to enact his policies have been delayed and overwhelmed by constant questions about Russia, the firing of FBI Director James Comey and other self-inflicted wounds?

    When your company delivers a product that doesn't work, and customers get angry about it, it's not biased for reporters to tell the story--which would clearly be "negative" in tone.

    The stories reviewed for the Harvard report weren't exactly slam pieces, as the people interviewed or speaking were almost exclusively Republicans:

    Trump did most of the talking. He was the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of his coverage. Members of the administration, including his press secretary, accounted for 11 percent of the sound bites. Other Republicans, including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, accounted for 4 percent. Altogether, Republicans, inside and outside the administration, accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency.

    The simple fact remains that Trump loves media coverage--and the media loves covering Trump. And he's getting exactly what he has worked for: he's the top story day in and day out. As the report details, "reporters are tuned to what’s new and different, better yet if it’s laced with controversy. Trump delivers that type of material by the shovelful."

    That Trump--doing most of the talking himself, or through his surrogates--manages to produce such negative coverage may speak more about the man than it does the media.

    "The fact that Trump has received more negative coverage than his predecessor is hardly surprising," the Harvard report says. "The early days of his presidency have been marked by far more missteps and miss-hits, often self-inflicted, than any presidency in memory, perhaps ever."

  • JakeTidmore
    August 9, 2018 at 9:19 a.m.

    Here's link to the the article I quoted extensively.
    htt ps://ww m/sites/theglenlivet/2018/07/11/journalist-becomes-publisher-to-push-her-agenda-to-help-progressive-women-achieve-whats-on-theirs/#51e228cb2a63
    Note that Wall Street Journal and FOX News, both bastions of conservatism have large negative ratings on their reporting about Trump. WSJ at 70% (!) and FOX at 52% (!!). Which justifies the author's view that Trump is his own worst enemy.
    The opening paragraphs give an analogy that hits the nail on the head:
    "If your favorite football team gets destroyed by another team, and the local newspaper writes a story about the game, is the resulting news story--which paints an ugly picture of your team's performance--an example of the newspaper's bias against your beloved team?

    Of course not.

    But that's essentially what some conservative media believe when it comes to coverage of the Trump White House. In their view, since most coverage of Trump is negative, that proves the media is biased against the president."
    Let's make a comparison: put all the negative comments Hanson has so carefully dug up about journalists and compare them with all the negative comments made by Trump. First off, the list alone would take up a whole page and more. And the actual comments would likely take up the entirety of all the pages in today's edition. (Including inserts, I bet.)
    In fact, it's a much shorter article if one makes a list of those Trump has not insulted.
    Fortunately for Hanson, the only thing he has insulted is our intelligence.

  • 3WorldState1
    August 9, 2018 at 11:06 a.m.

    Wow. Good info Jake. Honestly, I can't believe it's not more. When a negative person is covered, what comes from that will certainly be negative. Like the CA fires. Instead of the president giving an empathetic and a "we're here for you" Presidential statement, he blames CA. 40 millions Americans. How do you spin that positive?

  • WhododueDiligence
    August 9, 2018 at 12:08 p.m.

    Hanson asks, "Is this war between Trump and the media unprecedented? Not quite."
    Such blatant baloney. Of course it's unprecedented. No other US president repeatedly described any and all unfavorable news reports as fake news. Trump's relentless attack on the media--claiming it's fake--is an attack on reality. The isolated anti-media incidents of previous presidents were dealt with properly and were reversed. Those pea-shooter incidents pale in comparison with Trump's loose-cannon blowups directed against the American professional news media as a whole. It's much harder to deal with and overturn the paranoid belief among many Americans that the news media is fake. The free press--a constitutionally protected American institution--is crucial for preserving a functional democratic republic.
    Hanson is wrong. But like many who are wrong, he's also in a political think tank. It's interesting to see just how fishy thinking can get when it's in a tank.