It’s time for voters to wake up to what’s happening to presidential news coverage.
Super Tuesday not only solidified Donald Trump’s claim to the title of GOP presidential front-runner, it also further established him as a browbeater and intimidator of the media.
That’s bad for voters, who need all the accurate news they can get — before they enter the voting booth.
Hours before voting results showed Trump sweeping Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and, just barely, Missouri, a POLITICO reporter who had co-written a critical story about Trump’s campaign manager was denied entry to Trump’s Super Tuesday night news event in Florida.
POLITICO’s Ben Schreckinger joined a long line of reporters —including those at the Des Moines Register, The New York Times, the National Review, The Huffington Post and Univision — whose access to Trump events has been obstructed, often after their outlets released articles or editorials critical of Trump.
Not a big deal? Good riddance, you say? Can’t stand the press anyway?
No. It’s time for citizens to seriously imagine a world in which Trump’s tactics with the media are allowed to become the new normal.
Very early Tuesday morning, POLITICO posted a story in which Schreckinger and two other reporters quoted unnamed sources as having expressed concerns about the “quick temper and heavy-handed leadership” of Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Days before the story emerged, Trump officials had threatened to exclude POLITICO reporters from Trump events, POLITICO contended.
That same Tuesday morning, Schreckinger was emailed confirmation of his credentials to attend that night’s event at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. But a few minutes later, another email said his credentials had been denied.
Schreckinger tried to enter the club on his own, but was escorted off the property. The Trump campaign “provided no explanation for barring our reporter” from Trump’s news event, a POLITICO editor later said.
That night, Lewandowski stood behind Trump, applauding, as the billionaire real estate developer/former reality show star railed against “disgusting reporters.” By the end of what had been billed as a “press conference,” reporters were not allowed to ask questions.
Reporters are long used to politicians who play favorites with the media by feeding exclusives to certain outlets. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, at least during this first term, was famous for carefully limiting his news conferences by inviting only the media — but not their questions — to many of his events.
But the Trump campaign’s pattern of denying credentials goes much farther. Such bans are “unprecedented in the recent history of presidential campaigns,” according to a Wednesday report in Mother Jones, itself the victim of Trump credential-denial.
In a lengthy article on what it called a growing Trump “media blacklist,” the liberal news outlet contended that “Reporters who work for publications that have gotten on Trump’s bad side find themselves ignored by the campaign. They are automatically turned down from receiving credentials to his events, and their emails to the campaign go unanswered.”
Lewandowski has since insisted he doesn’t choose which reporters are allowed entry to events and which aren’t. It wasn’t immediately clear how this squared with the Des Moines Register’s July contentions that Lewandowski told a reporter there that “We’re not issuing credentials to anyone from The Des Moines Register based on the editorial that they wrote” calling on Trump to quit the Republican race.
Lewandowski also has said he has “great relationships” with the media. But reporters who face down Trump with tough questions may feel differently. Last month, The Washington Post chronicled another phenomenon of the Trump campaign — what it called “beatdowns” of reporters.
“No leading presidential candidate — perhaps ever — has been as dismissive, belittling or as downright hostile to the people who follow him on the trail as Trump,” The Washington Post contended.
Fold all this together and imagine a country in which an onslaught of media coverage is monopolized by the reports of carefully selected or browbeaten reporters. Great idea for a dictatorship. But not for America.
And combine that with Trump’s vow that as president he would make it easier to file lawsuits against any reporter who writes a “hit piece” and we could have a land in which the media is muzzled, intimidated — or at a minimum delayed by roadblocks — from fully informing the public, or punished for doing so.
That’s an alarming affront to the First Amendment.
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