U.S. President Donald Trump looks at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 10,...
(C) Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Behind his bluster, Trump seems to fear major news organizations

Over the last week, Donald Trump held three brief press conferences alongside a foreign leader. In all three instances, the Republican and his team chose which American reporters would ask questions, and in each case, Trump called on folks from a specific kind of outlet. As TPM explained:
President Donald Trump called on exclusively conservative news outlets for his third press conference in a row on Wednesday, leading CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta to comment afterward: “The fix is in.”

Over three press conferences with world leaders – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – Trump called on two outlets in each, respectively: the New York Post and Fox Business; Sinclair Broadcasting-owned WJLA and the Daily Caller; and Christian Broadcasting Network and Townhall.com.
Before Trump fans say, “Everybody does it,” let’s note for the record that everybody doesn’t do this. NBC News’ Carrie Dann compiled a list of outlets Barack Obama and George W. Bush called on during their first press conferences with foreign leaders, and while the list included Fox News, it also included a variety of major, independent journalistic giants: AP, Reuters, NBC News, CNN, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal.

You’ll notice, the Christian Broadcasting Network, a project of crazed TV preacher Pat Robertson, didn’t make the cut.

This comes alongside news that the Trump White House has extended press credentials to truly ridiculous fringe websites known for publishing bizarre hoaxes.

I can appreciate why media coverage of the media can be off-putting for some news consumers, but we’re learning something important about Trump World and its approach to the free press.

To be sure, Trump’s unrestrained contempt for major news organizations isn’t exactly new, but his campaign to delegitimize the media as president is becoming increasingly transparent. The blurring of the lines between real journalistic institutions, with professional standards, and fringe blogs is intended to convey to the public Team Trump’s view that the president is lowering the credibility bar for the entire industry.

When he refuses to call on major media outlets at press conferences, the point is driven home even more directly.

But I’m also struck by the degree to which the president is making himself appear weak. Trump, with his White House embroiled in scandal, seems genuinely afraid of questions from media professionals who work at major, independent outlets.

Last summer, the Republican caused a stir by saying he’d engage in talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. By way of an explanation, Trump said, “I’ll talk to anybody.” Anybody, that is, except reporters from real news outlets who might ask him a tough question he’s unprepared to answer.

Conservative Media, Donald Trump and White House

Behind his bluster, Trump seems to fear major news organizations