I’ve spent the last few days pondering what to write about Friday’s chapter in the continued saga between the White House and the press. To be honest, I am still baffled by the whole thing, so this post will probably be raw and unpolished.
To recap, during his address at CPAC, President Trump reiterated his claim that the media is the enemy of the American people. Hours later, his press secretary Sean Spicer put his stamp on that claim by excluding CNN, The New York Times and Politico from an informal press gaggle.
The Associated Press and and Time Magazine for their part chose not to attend the meeting in protest, and the White House Correspondents Association also put out a statement protesting the way the gaggle was handled.
And then — nothing.
The President of the United States has called the press the enemy of the people twice and the press secretary has started excluding members of the press. There really isn’t any way to get around the fact that this is an affront to the First Amendment. As perplexing as the White House’s actions are on this matter, the actions of the White House press corps and the White House Correspondents Association have been even more baffling.
Why haven’t the members of the press corps made the First Amendment the central issue of their questions? Why not ask a litany of questions about how the White House views the press and how it will handle the press moving forward until a satisfactory answer is given?
Why not eliminate coverage of press briefings until the White House starts honoring the First Amendment and drops the “enemy of the people” rhetoric?
I know in journalism we tend to be proprietary and we’re concerned about our beat and our individual organization’s scoop, but if the First Amendment is trampled on, that’s the ballgame for all of us.
It is disappointing, to say the least, how quickly the press corps returned to business as usual after last week’s events that were, frankly, an assault on the freedom of the press. We’ve all seen this movie before. We know what happens when leaders try to de-legitimize and limit the power of the press. Are we really going to just sit in our little blue chairs and allow it to happen in the United States?