No news is no news

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - ERIK WEMPLE

Word came down that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump hung out with re­porters for more than an hour as Air Force One flew to Paris for a Bastille Day cel­e­bra­tion.

“Un­event­ful flight on AF1. Ex­cept for the 70-minute Trump off-the-record with fake news re­porters,” Glenn Thrush of the New

York Times wrote on Twit­ter. Off-the-record con­ver­sa­tion with Trump, huh? Some­how the pres­i­dent green­lighted an on-the-record chat this week with Pat Robert­son, he of The 700 Club on the Chris­tian Broad­cast­ing Net­work. And Trump also made some on-the-record time for Reuters.

Switch­ing to an off-the-record foot­ing on an Air Force One flight doesn’t dis­tance Trump from pre­de­ces­sors. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama did the same thing. And an aide to Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton stip­u­lated that one of his Air Force One bull ses­sions with jour­nal­ists pro­ceed on “psych-back­ground.” Trump took some ques­tions from the me­dia dur­ing an ap­pear­ance with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron.

Yet there can be no equiv­a­lence here. Trump has gone four months with­out a for­mal solo news con­fer­ence, while dis­pers­ing thoughts about the “fake news” me­dia be­ing the “en­emy” of the peo­ple. His aides have crip­pled the White House press brief­ing by ban­ning cam­eras and pro­hibit­ing real-time au­dio. He and his peo­ple con­tinue at­tempt­ing to dis­credit the news me­dia, yet love to cite it when the news is good. And Repub­li­can op­er­a­tives are re­port­edly con­tem­plat­ing an­other level of anti-me­dia op­er­a­tions.

So why would Trump while away 70 min­utes with this hate­ful crowd? Be­cause, in the words of a former tabloid re­porter who cov­ered Trump, chat­ting with me­dia types “of­fer[s] so many op­por­tu­ni­ties for him to gaze at the per­son he loves most.”

And it ap­pears that Trump en­joyed his own re­marks enough to won­der why they weren’t be­ing pub­lished. A pool re­port from Mag­gie Haberman of the New York Times—who is writ­ing pool re­ports on Trump’s France visit—raises the ques­tion as to whether this is the first time in U.S. his­tory that a pres­i­dent has sought to move off-the-record re­marks to an on-the-record ba­sis: “POTUS asked your pooler why she didn’t use what he has said last night. Your pooler re­minded him last night was off the record. POTUS asked if I had heard him say it could be on-record; your pooler replied truth­fully no (co-pool­ers also were not un­der im­pres­sion it was on-record, since Sarah San­ders had de­clared it off record).”

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