Political News

This is not the first time Trump unwittingly starred in foreign propaganda

Posted June 14, 2018 10:19 a.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump's military salute, returned to a North Korean general, is raising questions about the appropriateness of the deference he paid to aides of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during nuclear talks in Singapore this week.

The appropriateness of the salute will be scrutinized and picked apart -- for more, read CNN's story.

But the other aspect of the images that should be scrutinized is how we're seeing them, aired as part of a North Korea propaganda TV special.

North Korean media was clearly granted behind-the-scenes access that western media organizations were not.

This is not the first time images captured by state-run foreign media have caused Trump headaches.

It's almost hard to remember at this point, but a little over a year ago, Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

American journalists weren't allowed into that meeting, which also didn't appear on President Trump's official schedule. Pictures of the meeting were posted by the Russian news agency TASS.

What made matters worse was that the meeting occurred on May 11, 2017, one day after Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey. Trump has said both that he fired Comey for investigating alleged ties between his campaign and Russia and that he didn't fire Comey for that reason.

Trump bragged about the firing, according to a report in The New York Times.

"I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job," Trump said, according to the Times. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."

When the pictures emerged, it was seen as something of a troll of Trump by the Russians and White House aides were fuming.

It shouldn't be surprising that foreign leaders are more willing to bring state-run media along with them whereas Trump keeps the US media, which is likely to ask him questions, at bay.

In the annual world press freedom rankings by the group Reporters Without Borders, North Korea ranks last -- 180 out of 180. Russia ranks 148 out of 180. The US is the 18th most free country for the press.

We should note that the White House does have its own media operation -- photographers and videographers that document moments the press does not see. That's how we see still images of Trump's Oval Office meetings with Kim Kardashian, say.

And Trump's predecessors, particularly President Barack Obama, made use of such American photographers to get out friendly images. Obama's White House photographer Pete Souza has made a second career of trolling Trump with them on social media.

But for Trump to be featured in foreign media to the exclusion of US media is something different, especially since Trump has done so few interviews and press conferences compared with his predecessors.

After his meeting with the despot Kim, Trump said the press was the United States' "biggest enemy."

"Our Country's biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!" he said on Twitter.