Trump turns up the volume with days of anti-media attacks

Posted August 29, 2019 12:20 a.m. EDT

— A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Trump has made a "war" on the press a central part of his presidency. This week, it feels as if he's turned up the volume another notch...

>> Trump has attacked WaPo for publishing a scoop about him offering pardons if officials break the law to build the wall on the southern border more quickly. He then attacked CNN after the network confirmed the paper's reporting...

>> Trump has zinged the NYT over the Bret Stephens' bedbugs incident...

>> He has repeatedly lashed out at Axios for reporting that he has previously suggested nuking hurricanes as they form...

>> And has even skewered Fox for having the nerve to interview a Democrat on its air.

Destroying any notion of a shared truth — pressuring people not to believe real reporting — that's the Trump era story in one sentence...

Lying about lying

"There has never been a time in the history of our Country that the Media was so Fraudulent, Fake, or Corrupt!" Trump wrote Wednesday night. When his presidency is "looked back on," he said, he hopes that a "big part" of his legacy will be "the exposing of massive dishonesty" in the press.

Which is interesting, because something tells me the exact opposite thing will be said. Chris Cuomo got into this with Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday night: McEnany said with a straight face that Trump has never lied, while the media lies every day, and Cuomo said she was shredding her credibility...

Trump's insecurity?

Brian Stelter emails: This week's bursts of anti-media messages reflect insecurity on the part of the president. With the re-election campaign on his mind, he doesn't want voters to know about the messy reality of life in the Trump White House. He hates the leaks. And he hates when Fox covers his Democratic rivals. Many of his anti-Fox tweets have been in response to Fox's news coverage of the Dem primary.

Stelter posited that Trump doesn't want his Fox fans hearing about his 2020 rivals...

Trump says Fox "isn't working for us anymore!"

Stelter continues: On Wednesday morning, as you surely know by now, Trump said Fox "is letting millions of GREAT people down" and "isn't working for us anymore!" The president basically lent credence to critics' claims that Fox is akin to state-run TV. But his grievance is that the network is not loyal enough, so "we have to start looking for a new News Outlet."

Robert Herring, the CEO of Fox's wannabe rival OANN, replied to Trump's tweet and said, "You can always turn to @OANN for real and credible news." Herring has positioned OANN to the right of Fox, but its distribution is limited and audience size is small.

Here's the thing...

One more point from Stelter: Trump has been griping about Fox's newscasts all year long. But he's also been promoting the opinion shows as recently as Tuesday, when he plugged Jeanine Pirro's book. And he's calling into Fox in the A.M: Fox announced on Wednesday night that Trump will be on Brian Kilmeade's Fox News Radio show Thursday at 9:30am ET. This is a form of whiplash — caused by Trump's impulsiveness and need for attention — and it's the kind of thing that makes people think about his mental instability...

>> Related: Back in May, the progressive group Media Matters noted that 92% of Trump's nationally televised interviews have been with Fox...

Fox's stark silence

News outlets typically defend themselves and stand up for their journalists when attacked by the president, but all year long Fox News spokespeople have steadfastly declined to comment every time Trump targets the network. That pattern continued on Wednesday. But a couple of other Fox staffers rebutted Trump via Twitter... Brit Hume said, "Fox News isn't supposed to work for you."

>> Counterpoint from Contemptor's Justin Baragona: "Considering the ex-president of Fox News went to work for the White House, Trump's former communications director now heads up PR for Fox Corp, and his press secretary just signed a deal with Fox, you can see why he's a bit confused about this, right?"

WaPo: "We fully stand by our story"

Contrast Fox's silence with the Washington Post. Trump lashed out at WaPo after the paper reported on Wednesday that he has recently told aides he will issue pardons to officials who break the law in order to more quickly build his border wall. "This was made up by the Washington Post only in order to demean and disparage -- FAKE NEWS!" Trump tweeted.

Of course, it was anything but fake. CNN later confirmed WaPo's reporting via two of its own sources. That prompted another tweet from Trump who then attacked both CNN and WaPo as being "WRONG." I checked in with a WaPo spokesperson Wednesday night to see if the paper had any response to Trump. The spokesperson replied, "We fully stand by our story."

Axios: Our story was "meticulously sourced"

Axios CEO and co-founder Jim VandeHei published a thorough response on Wednesday responding to Trump's repeated attacks. VandeHei said that the story by Axios reporter Jonathan Swan on Trump suggesting using nuclear weapons against hurricanes was "meticulously sourced." VandeHei added that since Axios published its story, "additional sources have corroborated" the publication's account.

VandeHei further explained that Axios goes out if its way "to cover Trump clinically, without emotion or bias." VandeHei explained, "We go the extra mile in all our stories to never throw sucker punches, and always give the Trump White House precise details of our reporting in advance, and ample time to respond." He noted that for the story Trump is now attacking, the White House had "more than nine hours to deny or push back."


-- Dorian strengthened on Wednesday as news outlets deployed reporters for coverage... (CNN)

-- Shepard Smith fact-checked Trump again on Wednesday. This time calling his claims on Puerto Rico and the wall "decidedly not true..." (Mediaite)

-- Speaking of Fox... Ex-Fox reporter Carl Cameron called Trump a "cry baby president" who "wants to bully" during a conversation with Brooke Baldwin... (CNN)

-- Erik Wemple writes about how NYT's big story on the Tea Party omitted the mention of race. NYT later updated its story "to include context about attacks on President Barack Obama and racist displays at some Tea Party rallies..." (WaPo)

-- Sarah Sanders, who is joining Fox, is also in talks with consulting firm Teneo... (Politico)

-- Read more of Wednesday's "Reliable Sources" newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...

-- Uh oh. It's not just NYT with a bug problem. Washingtonian's Andrew Beaujon reports WaPo's operations director sent a note to staff about a "growing pest problem." Specifically, a cockroach problem... (Washingtonian)