The first two and a half weeks of the Trump Presidency was spent fighting with the press corps — a battle likely to persist throughout his term, further eroding the integrity and importance of a free press.
It started with Zeke Miller of Time reporting on President Trump’s first day that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. was no longer in the Oval Office. The report was untrue -- apparently there was someone standing in front of it -- and Miller quickly apologized.
But his mistake gave the Trump administration cover to bash the press.
President Trump took aim at Miller when he spoke at the CIA the next day: “So Zeke, Zeke from Time magazine writes this story about ‘I took down’ — I would never do that because I have great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King.”
“But this is how dishonest the media is,” Trump added. “Now big story, the retraction was like, where? Was it a line or do they even bother putting it in?”
The facts: The retraction was loud and clear. Miller apologized profusely to the White House and Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Time provided a correction.
Just the next day, Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the widely covered claims that President Trump’s inauguration crowd dwarfed any previous president. Those claims were clearly false, and Spicer had to defend those claims again, the Monday after January 20.
Altercations with the press corps have become daily skirmishes, too numerous to chronicle. One of the most recent involved adviser Kellyanne Conway claiming a terrorist attack in Kentucky, or what she dubbed the "Bowling Green Massacre" on MSNBC. It was a false claim, quickly disproved.
Though Conway apologized, it was discovered she had repeated the lie to several publications, including TMZ and Cosmopolitan.com, days earlier. In short, she had perpetrated fake news.
The falsehood led to CNN stating it would not book Conway on their news channel, due to issues with her credibility. CNN’s stance was quickly changed, and Conway appeared on ‘The Lead with Jake Tapper’ Tuesday.
Conway was asked point blank whether CNN is fake news. “I don’t think CNN is ‘fake news.’ I think there are some reports everywhere, in print, on TV, on radio, in conversation, that are not well-researched and are sometimes based on falsehoods,” she said.
During the span of a few weeks, the Trump administration went from deriding CNN as then president-elect Trump told Jim Acosta: “You are fake news,” to one of his senior advisers making the opposite claim.
Which is it? The "fake news" charge from the White House changes at the whim of the President. Degrading the media, which speaks for the people, is dangerous. After all, the first actions of any authoritarian regime is to dispense with an independent judiciary and a free press.
Trump's response is red meat for his base, rather than a coherent — and provable — contention: “I [President Trump] have to know, because I’m reported on possibly more than anybody in the world — I don’t think you have anything to say about that. I happen to know how dishonest the media is.”