President Trump sat down for an interview with two White House reporters from the New York Times and the paper’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, and the publisher went after him for Americans’ increasing dissatisfaction with the mainstream media. ‘
“President Trump takes credit for popularizing the term ‘fake news,’” wrote Michael Grynbaum in the lead to his story, “Trump Discusses Claims of ‘Fake News,’ and the Impact With New York Times Publisher.”
“But the consequences? Not his concern.”
Trump did take credit for popularizing the term “fake news.”
“I do notice that people are declaring more and more fake news, where they go, ‘Fake news!’ the president said during an Oval Office interview with the New York Times. “I even see it in other countries. I don’t necessarily attribute that to me. I think I can attribute the term to me. I think I was the one that started using it, I would say.’”
Sulzberger took the lead in questioning Trump about press relations. He asked Trump about foreign leaders increasingly using the term ‘fake news’ “to justify suppressing independent scrutiny.” Trump replied: “I don’t like that. I mean I don’t like that.”
But “Mr. Trump’s attacks on American news organizations have been cited by press advocates for emboldening foreign autocrats who censor, threaten, jail and assault journalists in their countries,” the Times wrote.
This was why Sulzberger “repeatedly asked Mr. Trump whether he understood the global effects of his words.”
“’We’re seeing leaders of journalistic organizations saying very directly that governments feel like there is a climate of impunity that’s been created,’ the publisher said. ‘You know the United States and the occupants of your office historically have been the greatest defenders of the free press.’”
Trump said he thinks he too protects the free press. “I want to be,” the president is quoted as saying. “I guess the one thing I do feel, because you look at network coverage, it’s so bad.”
The paper pointed out Trump and Sulzberger had discussed the matter last summer in an off-the-record chat and that the president had later tweeted their discussion centered on “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People. Sad!’”
It also pointed out the publisher had responded by saying the president had mischaracterized their conversation.
Sulzberger used the Oval Office interview to urge President Trump to stop attacking the press.
“The effects are not just being felt with the outlets who you feel are treating you unfairly,” Sulzberger said. “They’re being felt all over the world, including folks who are literally putting their lives on the line to report the truth.”
The Times wrote that Trump said he understood thought “before pivoting, once again, to complaints about how he has been covered.”
It then quoted Trump saying he didn’t bad stories if they were true. “But when you get really bad stories, where it’s not true, then you sort of say, ‘That’s unfair.’”
Not only should Trump back off criticism of the press, he should recognize the weight his words now carry, the Times wrote.
“Mr. Trump has spent decades cajoling and needling the journalists who cover him,” Grynbaum wrote. “In the interview, he sidestepped the notion that his ascent to the world’s most powerful pulpit had made his criticism far more consequential than they were when he was a real estate developer and reality-television star.”
Later, it told readers, “What Mr. Trump considers fair, however, is almost always in line with what he considers flattering.”
When Sulzberger told him all presidents complain about their media coverage, Trump replied: “But I think I get it really bad. I mean, let’s face it, this is at a level that nobody’s ever had before.”
“It’s never fun to be on the other side of that,” Sulzberger responded. “You have my commitment that as we do that toughly and aggressively, we will also do it fairly.”