President-elect Donald Trump has waited longer than any general election winner in 24 years to hold his first press conference. In unusual fashion, the Republican instead held a confidential press conference, demanding to meet “off the record” with a large assembly of high-ranking mainstream media producers and news anchors. According to leaked reports, Trump crossed a red line at that meeting, by personally threatening the large assemblage, which included ABC’s David Muir, NBC’s Lester Holt and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Word of the secret presser leaked into the New York Post from two sources. The first source was probably from a Trump’s campaign, and spun the thin-skinned politician’s outbursts as macho, “like a f–ing firing squad.” Judging by the complete narrative with facts and written in complete sentences, The Post‘s second leak of Trump threatening the press was likely from a media source:
“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.
“Trump didn’t say [NBC reporter] Katy Tur by name, but talked about an NBC female correspondent who got it wrong, then he referred to a horrible network correspondent who cried when Hillary lost who hosted a debate – which was Martha Raddatz who was also in the room.”
“[CBS Good Morning co-host Gayle] King did not stand up, but asked some question, ‘How do you propose we the media work with you?’ Chuck Todd asked some pretty pointed questions. David Muir asked ‘How are you going to cope living in DC while your family is in NYC? It was a horrible meeting.”
The New York Times reported that Trump had seriously played his corporate media audience, dangling an audience with the allure of access and a rapprochement for the nastiness of the campaign. Instead, the President-elect turned the meeting into a “shitshow:”
But after details of Mr. Trump’s hectoring leaked on Monday in The New York Post, it seemed the meeting was being used as a political prop, especially after Trump-friendly news outlets trumpeted the session as a take-no-prisoners move by a brave president-elect. “Trump Slams Media Elite, Face to Face,” blared the Drudge Report. “Trump Eats Press,” wrote Breitbart News.
The instant reaction of right-wing Trump media sources indicates that the entire meeting was just a setup to make the mainstream press a prop in his puppet show.
Frankly, these major media players should’ve known that Trump was looking to play them again, after their indulgent amounts of unfiltered coverage delivered him an electoral college victory. The only reason for such a meeting would be to ‘kiss and make up’ in exchange for access to Trump, whose machinations delivered high ratings and therefore dollars to those corporate networks.
Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple pointed out what a serious cop-out it was from the corporate media, to hold what amounts to a press conference then swear secrecy to the public, when the President’s press policy is an urgent matter of utmost national importance.
Trump's position on media access is a matter of tremendous public consequence: Never allow him to hold forth on this off the record.
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) November 21, 2016
What the networks' accession to OTR terms tells us: They learned *nothing* over past 18 months of covering Trump.
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) November 21, 2016
Trump lured dozens of these corporate media competitors together into a single room at Trump Tower for an “off the record” meeting, unusual in its size of audience and for the fact that his first press conference as President-elect was kept secret from the American people.
It’s notable that Donald Trump took advantage of that secrecy to deliver a tirade in the hopes of chilling the free press seeking to cover his every move, as every President has allowed since mass media’s invention.
America’s media must hold our President-elect to a higher standard, and giving him the privilege of an entire, confidential press conference with only the top reporters sets a horrendous standard for access by our free press to a new administration.
One could call it the end of the free press if those corporate media titans take this sitting down. The fact that CNN headlines blared “ALT-RIGHT FOUNDER QUESTIONS IF JEWS ARE PEOPLE” earlier today says that they might.
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report. Find out more at grantstern.com.