President Trump Escalates His Criticism of the News Media, Fueling National Debate

President Donald Trump has escalated his fiery attacks on the news media, seizing on a recent string of mistaken reports to bolster his case that he is being persecuted by a left-leaning establishment out to bring him down and fueling a national debate over truth, accountability and a free press. While every president has groused about his coverage, President Trump has proved to be the most vocal and visceral news media critic in the Oval Office in at least a generation. In recent days, news outlets have provided him ammunition with reporting errors. But the barrage has deepened concern among media executives about what they see as a concerted campaign to discredit independent journalism. For the most part, Mr. Trump’s blasts at the news media have been rhetorical. But he has warned that he might go beyond name calling, such as when he threatened to try to revoke a broadcasting license for NBC after a news report he challenged. Networks like NBC do not hold federal licenses themselves, but their individual television stations do. Trump’s administration has taken aim at CNN’s corporate ownership. 

Analysts said Trump’s criticisms represented an effort to undermine faith in journalism. “It is a common thing in the authoritarian playbook to discredit the media so that they are the only source that can be trusted,” said Indira Lakshmanan, who holds the Newmark chair in journalism ethics at the Poynter Institute. “Making it so there is no objective truth is the most dangerous thing of all of this.”

President Trump has had a long history of interacting with the news media from his days as a New York developer, but it was largely transactional as he sought favorable coverage. During his business days, he planted items in gossip columns and even called reporters and used a false name, pretending to be his spokesman. By his own account, he has always craved media attention, but his encounters with the Washington press corps have turned increasingly bitter.


President Trump Escalates His Criticism of the News Media, Fueling National Debate