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19 Jan, 2017 12:38

‘Same US media that despises Donald Trump... helped get him elected’

‘Same US media that despises Donald Trump... helped get him elected’

If it hadn’t been for the media, it is doubtful Trump would have won the election. Also he has a lot of reasons to feel attacked by the media because clearly most of them don’t like him, says Ted Rall, political analyst and cartoonist.

Journalists from some US news outlets have written an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump, saying they feel the relationship has been “strained”, offering advice on how to make amends.

In a bid to improve relations between the two sides, the reporters have written about their concerns. They reject reporting restrictions during an event and demand press freedom. The same goes for the airtime and scope of coverage dedicated to Donald Trump's “spokespeople and surrogates.”

The journalists have pledged to embed reporters in Trump's agencies and “source up those bureaucrats.”

They have also promised to work together despite Trump's alleged effort to divide them.

The Obama administration, however, has also been aggressive toward the media. In May 2013, it was reported that the government secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for the Associated Press in what the news agency's chief executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations collect information for their stories.

The intrusion affected AP office numbers in New York, Washington, and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for AP.

Political analyst and cartoonist, Ted Rall, gave his views on the letter the US journalists presented to President-elect Trump.

RT: What is your take on the story? Is it normal behavior by journalists?

Ted Rall: It is kind of a throwback to what used to be standard behavior. And it seems that members of the White House press corps are trying to get back to a tradition that older Americans will recall. I remember as a kid watching President Nixon at press conferences; he was a master of deflecting answers to tough questions and particularly during the Watergate scandal. He and his press secretary at the time Ron Ziegler were such masters at this that the word ‘Ziegler’ was a verb added to the dictionary, as in ‘to dissemble and dodge a question.'

At that time members of the White House press corps were very supportive of one another. If the president or his press secretary ducked a question, then the next reporter will skip his own question and follow-up on the first question. If it happened again, they would continue, and so on. So, at a bare minimum, they would get the president on record as having ducked the same question a number of times even if they couldn’t necessarily get a straight answer. It seems that this letter and this approach to the pressure, this reaction to the snubbing of the reporter from CNN is eliciting a throwback to that kind of adversarial relationship. But that is a relationship that has changed a lot over the years. President Reagan and President Obama both also changed the relationship quite a bit, too.

The journalistic class has been swooning over Team Obama since prior to inauguration January, 2009. If we go back, once President Obama and his team has departed, once people started doing serious retrospective analysis of what actually happened – never in modern history have journalists been so much in the tank for specifically the Obama wing of the Democratic Party and then in the run up to the 2016 election for the hope that Hillary Clinton would succeed President Obama. So, we have now been subjected in our country to eight years of incredibly biased, one-sided reporting that most thinking people who care about solving these issues reject out of hand. It’s why viewership at many of the mainstream stations and newspapers has just plummeted; ad revenue is plummeting. So this plaintiff group letter from a safe space somewhere near the White House in Washington, D.C. is yet another joke.- Private investor and writer, Charles Ortel, to RT

RT: Many could not help but notice the hostile language of the letter. Trump himself has not been easy at all in the media either. Calling for First Amendment restrictions and insinuating that the White House press corps may be restricted. In some ways, aren't the press criticisms fair?

TR: Depending on your point of view, you can definitely see both sides here. Clearly, President-elect Trump is very hostile to the media, although ironically he was a master of using the media to his advantage throughout the campaign. And if it hadn’t been for the media’s fascination with him, there is no doubt that he probably wouldn’t have won the election. So, it is an interesting and complicated relationship.

On the other hand, from the standpoint of the media, there are very concerned particularly about Mr. Trump’s statements that he has made about reforming libel laws, that this would lead to some kind of restriction and reduction of First Amendment rights in the US, and in the prerogative that the media enjoys, and there has even been some talk lately about removing the White House press room and all the privileges that go along with it. Obviously, if you are a member of the media, you can’t help but be concerned…. What does that give you to do? You can definitely see it from both sides.

On the other hand, President-elect Trump has had quite a lot of reasons to feel attacked and besieged by the media as well because clearly most of them don’t like him.

RT: Do you think it's fair to say the letter comes off as yet more criticism of Donald Trump?

TR: There is no way to have watched his campaign or President-elect Trump’s surprise victory without seeing the antipathy between both sides has just reached fever pitch. President Nixon hated the press, but there is nothing like this. These two sides absolutely cannot stand each other. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

RT: The call for unity among journalists is also something that catches the eye. Just months ago we saw various news outlets bashing sources like Fox News and even throwing terms like "right-wing outlets" around. Is the timing of the move important here?

TR: I think it is. I think what it reflects is a media that is not responding only to statements by President-elect Trump but also to just a sense that they are back on their heels in a number of ways. President Ronald Reagan was the first President to request that the members of the media sit like schoolchildren and hold their hands up and wait to be called upon. President Obama even increased that control by having a pre-fab list of all the reporters that he planned to call upon in order instead of doing it ad hoc. At his last press conference, he did the same thing. So I think a lot of the members of the media and particularly when you add in all the budget cuts, there’s been so many cutbacks at both print and broadcast media. There is a sense among journalists that maybe they just got pushed too far and they can’t allow any more quarter and its time to make demands back. And what happened to Jim Acosta of CNN and BuzzFeed at the last press conference by President-elect Trump was just more than they could tolerate.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.