Since his inauguration and throughout his presidential campaign, President Donald Trump has been in an ongoing battle with the media, often berating them with fake news insults and calling them “the enemy of the people.”
Symbolizing his distrust in the media, Trump announced via Twitter on Feb. 25 that he would not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on April 29, an event that celebrates political journalism and reporters. In response to Trump’s tweet, the White House Correspondents’ Association stated the event would still take place without the president in attendance. The last president to not attend the White House Correspondents’ dinner was President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Trump’s frequent peddling of “fake news” has often come in the wake of negative news reports about his administration or his policies. After many news organizations had reported on the relatively small size of Trump’s inauguration crowd in comparison to then-President Barack Obama’s, Trump called journalists “among the most dishonest group of human beings on earth.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer also scolded reporters at his first White House press briefing, saying their reporting on the inauguration crowd was “shameful and wrong” and that they were deliberately trying to delegitimize support for Trump.
The White House has also criticized the press for what it sees as an under-reporting of terrorist attacks since 2014. On Feb. 6, the administration released a list of 78 terrorist attacks it said were hardly reported by the media. However, many of the events on the list received heavy coverage from the media, such as the Orlando nightclub shooting last June and the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, in late 2015. The list also included only attacks that occurred in Western countries or killed people from Western nations, failing to name terrorist attacks that occurred in non-Western countries.
Then at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 24, Trump called the press dishonest and said, “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake.” Trump has recently called any reports about possible connections between the Trump administration and Russia “fake news” in attempts to rebuke news reports investigating the potential connection. These reports looking into a possible relationship between the Trump White House and Russia have escalated since Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for head of the National Security Agency, resigned after lying about speaking with Russian intelligence agents during the transition period.
Trump also criticized reporters for their use of anonymous or unnamed sources in stories. The president said journalists should not be allowed to publish stories unless they use a person’s name. It has been standard for White House officials to request anonymity when speaking to reporters. On the same day Trump spoke at CPAC, White House officials anonymously refuted a CNN report that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had asked the FBI to refute stories about a connection between Trump aides and Russia.
The president has also gone so far as to ban certain media outlets from White House press briefings and events during his campaign. The same day Trump spoke at CPAC, his administration barred reporters from The New York Times, CNN, Politico and the Los Angeles Times from an off-camera press briefing that reporters were hand-picked to attend. During Trump’s campaign last year, journalists from The Washington Post, Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, Politico and BuzzFeed were barred from attending events and news conferences.
Members of Trump’s administration have also expressed a distrust or dislike of the news media. Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, for instance, has called the media the “opposition party” in an interview with The New York Times. Bannon also said, “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” And when confronted about several lies the Trump administration promoted about widespread voter fraud and the size of his inauguration crowds, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway labeled them “alternative facts.”