Loading...
BYH Zoning Commission. Take your chairs and sit in the field by Bostic Sugg in morning or afternoon and tell the...

When the press fights, the president wins

Anthony Zurcher

Anthony Zurcher

Loading…

Monday, November 12, 2018

The East Room of the White House — with its vaulted ceilings, ornate chandeliers and gold curtains — is the closest thing to a throne room the United States has.

When set up for a presidential news conference, as it was on Wednesday morning, it is magisterial. The president is announced, and the doors to a long hallway swing open. He steps onto the podium, towering over reporters squeezed tightly into the wooden chairs before him.

It feels a bit like an audience with a king. And on Wednesday, the king was angry.

Donald Trump held this formal news conference, only the second of his presidency, to respond to the results of the midterm elections. It was, he said, "very close" to a "complete victory" for Republicans, despite the fact that his party lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years.

After spending weeks of battering and belittling his political opponents, the president opened by changing his tone and speaking of bipartisanship. When it came time to interact with the gathered journalists, however, the olive branch was replaced by a mailed fist — as it always seems to be.

The president accused one reporter, who is African-American, of asking a "racist" question. He said he's not "a big fan" of another. And he repeatedly barked at persistent questioners to sit down.

The real fireworks came when CNN's Jim Acosta tried to ask a series of questions, culminating with the president accusing him of being a "terrible person," mocking his network's ratings and reiterating his own contention that outlets that promote what he considers "fake news" are enemies of the people.

As a reporter for BBC News, I was seated a few rows behind and to the left of Acosta as he questioned the president, who at one point huffily stepped away from the lectern while the reporter continued to talk. The White House would later accuse Acosta of "placing his hands" on an intern trying to take his microphone away — and suspend his press credentials.

From my vantage point, I thought there may have been nonhostile contact between the two — in stark contrast to the obvious verbal hostility between reporter and president. A review of video from the incident corroborates this.

Acosta has a reputation as a dogged reporter, but his time at the White House during the Trump administration illustrates the perils of covering a president who uses dust-ups with journalists as a political tactic.

When the news cycle turns against him, one of the president's first instincts is to criticize those who report the news. And journalists often take the bait. They've spent their whole professional careers dedicated to their craft, after all, and it's human nature to take such slights and derogations personally — and to talk about them in private and then in print and then on-air for days.

That's exactly what the president wants. An us-vs.-them debate between Trump and media personalities is friendly terrain for the White House. It feeds into the perception held by conservatives across the country that journalists, who are predisposed to questioning authority, are out to get this president. It diminishes the impact of the stories reporters spend so much time covering.

And as a further complication — and temptation — it also can benefit outlets such as CNN and reporters such as Acosta, who see followings grow, ratings soar and advertising dollars pour in with every new Trump-related controversy.

There's a mirror to this perception on the left, casting "the media" as some sort of cohesive whole that can stand up to the president — as opposed to a chaotic mass of individuals and outlets, each vying for a small slice of the story.

When people ask me why reporters don't just walk out when a news conference turns ugly as it did Wednesday, I chuckle. Telling journalists to walk away from a story is like asking them to stop breathing.

Sitting next to me in the East Room was a Korean reporter, perched on the edge of her seat. Her hand shot up every time the president appeared poised for a new question.

"Mr. President, sir! North Korea! North Korea!" she said pleadingly.

Try asking her to give up a chance to get a choice line from the leader of the United States about an issue that is of the utmost importance to her audience.

I like to tell friends and colleagues that covering Donald Trump can feel like falling into quicksand. The more you struggle, the more you fight, the quicker you sink.

Instead, the best strategy — the only way to survive — is to take a deep breath. Find solid footing. And move deliberately. That's what the story and the audience deserve.

Anthony Zurcher is senior North America reporter for BBC News based in Washington, D.C.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

February 18, 2019

I was born in Charlotte. But I grew up in rural Mecklenburg County. There used to be such a place — and, indeed, quite a few such places still exist in our increasingly urbanized state.

My family lived on 40 acres, mostly forest with a freight-rail track running through it. When the train…

john hood.jpg

February 18, 2019

 

It snowed on Amy Klobuchar as she announced her run for president. And while that might be a bad omen for some candidates, the icy weather accurately symbolizes her appeal.

The Minnesota Democrat, just elected to a third Senate term, portrays herself as a common-sense pragmatist from a blue-…

Steve and Cokie Roberts

February 17, 2019

If the most important factor determining the welfare of workers is the growth rate of the economy, that has policy implications that free-market conservatives, among others, will welcome.

Real, long-term economic growth is about investment, about both the amount invested and how skillfully it is…

john hood.jpg

February 17, 2019

Would you like to know why U.S. sanctions against companies owned by Russian billionaire and businessman Oleg Deripaska are being lifted?

You are the reason.

Me too.

And so is everybody else who lives and votes in North Carolina.

Last April, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against…

DGMartin.jpg

February 16, 2019

With confidence in government at record lows, where have all our leaders gone? Where is the James Madison of today, or the Thomas Jefferson, or even Everett Dirksen? He was the Republican leader who partnered with President Johnson to pass civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

These people were…

eleanorclift.jpg

February 15, 2019

The proposed DMV move brings to mind one of the old Three Stooges comedies, the one where one of the zany trio says, “I’ve cut this board three times and it’s still too short.” Our state continues to take cuts at property decisions and keeps coming up short.

State political…

Tom Campbell

February 15, 2019

On Bleecker Street in Manhattan, you can find both a Planned Parenthood clinic and a boutique for pregnant women.

According to Vogue, the store, Hatch, "is arguably the first of its kind, in that it was designed specifically for pregnant shoppers: Changing rooms have a size chart to help you figure…

kathrynlopez

February 15, 2019

The decision by Virginia's top three elected officials to hunker down and cling to their jobs is bad for both the state and the Democratic Party. If they won't go, the only thing to do is investigate them all.

Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring have all…

Eugene Robinson

February 14, 2019

Of all the headlines about the scandals concerning the alleged past sins of one after another high official in Virginia, one struck me most poignantly. It was this, from the front page of The Washington Times:

"Democrats to vet candidates closely for secrets in past."

Maybe I have spent too much…

February 13, 2019

As our new legislative session fully uncoils, it's good to recall that just a few weeks ago workers in 20 states saw an increase in the minimum wage. The federal minimum, $7.25, was last raised in 2009. Since then, 29 states and dozens of cities and counties have chosen to exceed the federal floor.…

Gene Nichol
317 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 32
        Next Page»   Last Page»