So President Trump has gone from calling the news media "The Enemy of the People" to "a very, very beautiful thing." Well, not exactly.
What he actually said yesterday in an Oval Office interview with The New York Times' publisher and two reporters was this: "“And if it (the media) describes it (news events) accurately and fairly, it’s a very, very important and beautiful thing.”
Notice the caveat. If events are described "accurately and fairly," then it's fine, says the single most powerful man in the entire world who has lied more than 8,000 times since taking office two years ago.
So it all depends on whether Trump thinks media reports are accurate and fair, not whether they really are. And you know how he feels about stories that reflect upon him negatively: "Fake News!" "The Enemy of the People."
When asked what he thinks a free press actually does, Trump told The Times that it “describes and should describe accurately what’s going on anywhere it’s covering, whether it’s a nation or a state or a game or whatever.”
Yea, that's one thing the media does, Mr. President. Journalists go out and cover events and speeches and political developments and sporting activities and human interest stories and all of that, and they report on those events telling readers what happened.
But what Trump was missing in that response is that reporting what happens at various events is only the beginning. The news media is also responsible for looking below the surface to find the truth, and then to accurately report when people in positions of power, like, say, the president, misstate the facts or are found to be abusing their position. Good reporting includes more than simply being a parrot. It includes uncovering and reporting the truth.
That is what Donald Trump either does not understand or chooses to ignore.
He said in The Times interview that Fox News "treats me very well" as do the local media. Well, of course he would say that since Fox News simply parrots his line and goes out of its way to aggrandize the self-aggrandizer-in-chief. And the local media? Certainly, how often do local reporters get to report on the president of the United States firsthand? Hardly ever. So when they do, it's often with a little bit of awe that Trump would appreciate.
Yes, Mr. President, a free press is "a very, very important and beautiful thing."
Especially today with you sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office with the fate of our nation in your hands.
Note: Check out the First Amendment collection of shirts and ball caps on sale in the Not Fake News online shop. The shirt at left says, simply, "I Support a Free Press." At right: "The freedom of the press should be inviolate." -- John Quincy Adams.