When it comes to the media and our President-elect, it’s turning out to be Donald Vs. Everybody.
Trump’s scorn for so-called left-wing "media elite" stations like CNN and NBC was a rallying cry of his presidential campaign, so it’s no surprise that he barked at network executives and anchors at an off-the-record meeting the other day at Trump Tower, calling their coverage of him unfair and criticizing them for underestimating the popularity of his campaign.
And while Trump has also had a testy relationship with traditional right-wing outlets like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, he’s now getting pushback even from the so-called "alt-right" hub Breitbart News, the site accused of white nationalism which was once run by Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon, and which was a strong supporter of his primary campaign. Yesterday morning, after Trump’s camp made clear he no longer wants to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, Breitbart’s homepage ran a headline that said "BROKEN PROMISE."
And Trump’s big Thanksgiving week of confrontational, confidential media friction didn’t end there.
Yesterday, he had a closed-door meeting with his favorite punching bag of journalism, the New York Times. While there, he reiterated the unlikelihood of prosecuting Hillary ("I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t"), defended Bannon ("he’s a decent guy") and Breitbart (similar to the Times only "much more conservative"), and seemed to show some softening on his stance denying global warming ("I have an open mind to it). And when it came to his contentious relationship with the New York Times itself, Trump told its editors it was "a great, great American jewel, world jewel" but that he felt it had been "too tough on him during the campaign."
While these private meetings between presidents and press are not unprecedented, they are rather unusual. Then again, after the most unprecedented and uncommon election in our nation's history, this sort of clearing of the air seems almost necessary. There remain open questions as to the degree of access reporters will have to the President himself -- the press pools that typically are granted closer access to the President are not legal obligations but rather advents of mutual benefit. In many ways, the press's access is at the pleasure of the President. We'll find out just what pleases President Trump soon enough.