Decrying the “fake news media” is one of the things that Trump does best.
Not only is peddling this extremely easy-to-sell idea simple, Trump himself excels at giving it both the punchiest delivery and the extensive reach for maximum possible impact.
A contentious relationship with the unofficial checks and balances branch of journalism isn’t exactly unheard of in the world of modern presidential politics.
Obama was well-known during his administration, at least in Washington, for keeping the press-corps at a comfortable arms-length.
Trump, on the other hand, seems all too willing to clutch the press to his bosom, Tweeting out his unfiltered opinions for the whole world to see on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.
There is little question in the press, and even among those who consider Donald Trump public enemy number one, that Trump calls the tune and the U.S. media dances.
Whatever Trump is Tweeting about today will be news tomorrow, anything he Tweets tomorrow will be news the next day. The media just can’t seem to help themselves. Trump is irresistible.
Of course, most Democrats in the press don’t love Donald Trump. In fact, they hate him, even while, we suspect, they secretly wish he’d say something even more incendiary than usual, just to get ratings up.
Journalists have to eat, too. And things aren’t looking up economically for journalists these days.
The “Get Trump” mentality prevalent on the left-leaning side of the media has blinded otherwise cooler heads to gaps in reporting, and reporting methods, if those gaps exist in a narrative Democratic pundits find helpful in the overarching goal of defeating Donald Trump.
This tendency in the press, however, often causes those very errors in judgement that lead members of the press astray into the territory of fodder for Trump’s accusations of “fake news”.
The Jussie Smollett incident in Chicago was fishy to any objective person from the start- too many glaring coincidences, too “made-for-tv”. When evidence emerged that Smollett fabricated a hate-crime incident to improve his carrier prospects and hired two friends to stage the attack, the media was left looking foolish for having so blindly believed him.
So, too, went the Covington Catholic scandal whereupon a white teenager was reviled in the press for appearing to smirk at a Native American protestor. When the full facts of the incident were known, however, the teenager in question proved a mere bystander trying to keep his cool in a strange and dangerous situation.
Even more recently, the story of three white boys at the Christian school where Vice President Mike Pence’s wife sometimes teaches holding down a black female classmate and cutting off her dreadlocks ripped through the news cycle like wildfire.
When the whole incident was proven to be a hoax, complete with a heartfelt apology letter from the female student and her family asking the school, and the falsely accused boys, for forgiveness- the media was less enthusiastic.
Same story with a recent report that ripped the U.S. and the Trump administration for having 100,000 immigrant children currently in detention centers. When the retraction came- that those numbers were from 2015, when Barack Obama was president, and even then, those numbers represented an entire period of time, not the number of children detained at one time by the U.S. federal government- crickets.
But the damage, as everyone from Richard Jewell to Hillary Clinton to the attorney for Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandman would attest, has arguably already been done.
There are still people who think Richard Jewell was a bomber and a mass murderer; some people will always believe Nick Sandman a racist no matter how much evidence emerges to support his assertion that he was an innocent farm kid caught up in something far outside his comfort zone.
There are people who still believe Jussie Smollett, and always will. The same people who likely think Donald Trump is a Russian asset and will believe such until the day they die.
But what is perhaps more embarrassing than the stories mainstream media outlets have jumped all over in order to discredit anything and everything Donald Trump says or does- that have later proven to be false or misleading- are the stories they have passed on.
The Harvey Weinstein story, for which Ronan Farrow received a Pulitzer, was axed by executives at ABC for “not meeting their reporting standards” three years before the story finally broke.
Considering some of the worst accusations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh were later proven to have been leveled by a woman who had never even met Kavanaugh, this is somewhat surprising.
Very rarely does any media outlet, or indeed any journalist, face any disciplinary action or consequences as a result of false or misleading stories that attempt to make Trump, or Trump supporters, look bad.
Reporting on the Trump-is-a-Russian asset story received a Pulitzer as well, in spite of what the Mueller Report revealed- which was a whole lot of nothing.
However, the recent, extremely ill-timed Newsweek Report article criticizing President Donald Trump for spending his Thanksgiving break golfing and cavorting with his rich friends in Mar-La-Go was apparently one step too far.
The juxtaposition, Tweeted first by Donald Trump Jr., then later re-Tweeted by Trump himself- of the Newsweek headline coupled with photos from Trump’s surprise trip to Afghanistan to visit U.S. troops, under the heading “Fake news vs. Reality” was damning.
So damning, in fact, that the reporter responsible for the story has been fired.
But as anyone defamed or embarrassed can attest, the damage to Newsweek, and the press’s reputation in general, may already be done.
The other thing Donald Trump understands and does well is play to his audience. His supporters, conservatives, Trumpers and everyone else planning on voting incumbent in 2020, like seeing their president visit the troops on Thanksgiving Day.
And they like seeing him win against the media once in a while even more.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)