Yesterday I posted Trump’s Press Conference – Part I, in which I discussed his watered-down plan to combat possible conflict of interest issues stemming from his business interests. Today I tackle two other topics: his treatment of the press, using the term “fake news” to refer to any media outlet that disparages him, and the issue of his tax returns. But first, this …
New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof posted this on Facebook yesterday after watching Trump’s news conference:
“One of the things I wondered about during the Trump press conference today was who all those people applauding were. Journalists don’t typically applaud a politician. So now we find out: They were paid aides brought into provide canned applause. Boy, “fake news” seems like yesterday’s news; now we have “fake applause”!”
Given that I did not actually watch the bulk of the event, I talked to a number of people who did, and most agree that it was as if, thinking back to the old days of talk shows (think Johnny Carson’s monologue) somebody was holding up a sign telling them when to clap. One said that after Trump yelled “FAKE NEWS!”, there was precisely a two-second delay, and then applause.
Trump’s Attack on the Press:
But the subject of today’s post is not fake applause by paid staffers, rather another issue that came up in the new conference that caused me to pause and ponder. That issue is Trump’s treatment of the press, specifically on this day, BuzzFeed and CNN. We are all getting used to his disdain for the press, at least for the mainstream media who are trying hard to do their jobs and provide the public with the most accurate possible information. But there is danger in becoming inured to his denigration of the press and passing it off as “just another Trump-ism”.
“Near the end of the news conference, Mr. Trump got into a shouting match with Jim Acosta of CNN, who tried to press the president-elect into taking a question. “Since you were attacking our news organization, can you give us a chance?” Mr. Acosta asked. To which Mr. Trump replied: “Your organization’s terrible,” and “don’t be rude,” before dismissing the request once and for all: “You are fake news.” (CNN was the first to report that Mr. Trump and President Obama had been briefed by intelligence officials on the uncorroborated documents, but the network did not publish them.)” – New York Times, 11 January 2017
During his campaign, Trump rescinded press credentials of journalists from The Washington Post, Politico, the Des Moines Journal, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Univision, the Daily Beast and others because he considered that they had treated him “unfairly” and said “mean” things about him. Frankly, it is not the job of the press to play nice with politicians or candidates for office. It is their job to keep We The People informed of the facts. In July, Trump told Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times, “I’m from a different world, other than politics. In my world, when people don’t treat you fairly … ”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an American independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, based in New York City, New York with correspondents around the world. CPJ promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists. The American Journalism Review has called the organization “Journalism’s Red Cross”. Founded in 1981 in response to the harassment of Paraguayan journalist Alcibiades Gonzalez Delvalle, its founding honorary chairman was Walter Cronkite. Suffice it to say that they do good work around the globe on behalf of all journalists. To learn more, visit their website. In October, Sandra Mims Rowe, CPJ Board Chairperson, issued, in part, the following statement:
“Guaranteeing the free flow of information to citizens through a robust, independent press is essential to American democracy. For more than 200 years this founding principle has protected journalists in the United States and inspired those around the world, including brave journalists facing violence, censorship, and government repression.
Donald Trump, through his words and actions as a candidate for president of the United States, has consistently betrayed First Amendment values. On October 6, CPJ’s board of directors passed a resolution declaring Trump an unprecedented threat to the rights of journalists and to CPJ’s ability to advocate for press freedom around the world.” Full statement can be viewed here .
When Trump gets into a shouting match with a well-established media outlet, and a highly respected journalist who is merely trying to ask a simple, valid question, it does not bode well for the ongoing relationship between the White House and the press corps. More than once during his campaign he threatened to sue various media outlets for reporting verified facts. Remarking that he would “bring more libel suits” against the press, he said “I don’t want to threaten, but I find…the press is unbelievably dishonest.” He complained about coverage of his campaign and suggested that the US should adopt the UK’s stricter libel laws. A group of civil liberties lawyers has pledged to represent pro bono anyone Trump sues for exercising his or her expressive rights. (Keep this in mind, fellow-bloggers!!!)
Before letting loose on CNN, Trump unleashed his ire on BuzzFeed, predictably, since it was BuzzFeed that released the document that allegedly ties Trump to a number of Soviet agents and also accuses him of perverse behaviour while in Russia in 2013. “Buzzfeed is a failing pile of garbage and they’re going to suffer the consequences.” BuzzFeed, however, decided to turn his critique into a positive, and quickly developed a product line
Yesterday, the day after Trump’s press conference, BuzzFeed sold more than $25,000 of these t-shirts and plans to donate all proceeds to the Committee to Protect Journalists! Two thumbs up to BuzzFeed!
We must not stand by silently and watch as our press lose their freedoms under a Trump administration, as we rely on the media to keep us informed. The mainstream media, admittedly, made some serious mistakes during the 2016 election year, and We The People will pay for those mistakes. However, it is to be hoped that they learned from them and frankly, without our free press, we as a nation, as a democracy, are doomed to become the next Nazi Germany. It is right and proper for us to call them out when they make mistakes, but we must never lose sight of what they represent, the role they play in keeping America free.
Trump’s Tax Returns:
Throughout his campaign, Trump has been called upon to release his tax returns, but has steadfastly refused, claiming that they are “under audit”. The IRS has stated that there is no reason for him not to release his returns for public scrutiny, yet he has remained adamant. During the press conference, he was asked numerous times about his tax returns and when/if they would be made public. Finally, Trump simply stated: “I’m not releasing the tax returns because as you know, they’re under audit.”
Okay, same thing he’s been saying, even though it has been proven to be a lame excuse. But wait … there is more. Trump decided to clarify his opinion that the electorate is simply too stupid, too brainwashed to CARE about his tax returns!
TRUMP: You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They’re the only who ask.
Reporter: You don’t think the American public is concerned about it
TRUMP: No I don’t think so. I won, when I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I don’t think they care at all.
Make no mistake about this, folks: he just called us all stupid! I, for one, want to see his unredacted tax returns, and I want to hear what a competent tax lawyer has to say about them. I want to know exactly what deductions he has taken, where his businesses are failing or succeeding, by how much, and what his net worth is. And guess what? I am intelligent and well educated enough to understand what I see. And anything I don’t understand, I am smart enough to know where to find the answers. Trump has brainwashed nearly 50% of this nation, but there are still those of us who are smart enough to read a financial disclosure report or a tax return, and we do care! He is in essence saying, “there, there now, don’t you worry your pretty little heads about such things as taxes … Uncle Donnie will take care of you …” and behind our backs he is laughing a deep, BWAH HAH HAH! And giving us all a big ……..
Candidates running for president are not legally obligated to release their taxes, however there is a long tradition of doing so, in addition to public financial disclosure laws candidates must follow. Since the early 1970s most presidents have chosen to release their returns publicly in order to avoid the appearance of having ‘something to hide’. According to an informal poll by New York Times writer Ron Wyden, within hours, some 79,000 people responded saying that yes, they care about the tax returns. The reason is simple. Without these returns, Americans cannot know whether he is using the presidency to enrich himself and his family. Americans won’t know whether a policy he proposes primarily benefits steelworkers in Pennsylvania or lines his own pocket. They will also be unable to tell whether Mr. Trump is telling the truth when he claims to have no connections to Russia, contradicting public evidence and statements by his own son. His stated excuse about being under audit doesn’t pass the smell test.
The more Trump refuses, the more convinced I am that he is indeed hiding something, perhaps many things. His refusal is bad enough, but when he says that We The People don’t care … he’s got it all wrong!
The other thing that is relevant from Trump’s press conference is what I think of at the moment as the “elephant in the room”, the intelligence briefing, those elusive two-pages that summarize what dirt Putin may have on Trump, and the rest, but I will not write about that as yet. First, my blogger-friend Gronda Morin is doing a great job of staying on top of that story, and second, I am waiting so see if the allegations are verified before I say much more. So, this post, unless there are further developments, concludes my two-post series on Trump’s press conference.