Commentary

White House Provides Enemies List To, Well, 'The Enemy Of The People'

He began his first full day in office by declaring war on the media, and now the President is circulating an "enemies list" asking "the enemy of the people" to bar his most vociferous political opponents from speaking on their airwaves.

In a memo first circulated in a tweet by Axios National Political Reporter Jonathan Swan, the reelection campaign's Director of Communications Tim Murtaugh asked TV news producers to bar:

* Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

* Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)

* Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)

* Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)

* DNC Chairman Tom Perez

* Former CIA Director John Brennan

The memo cites Attorney General William Barr's initial sum-up of the Special Counsel's investigation of the President's campaign ties to Russia as proof that his enemies -- who mostly are members of Congress responsible for providing oversight of the President -- lied to the American people and that if they do appear on their news programs, the producers "should replay the prior statements and challenge them to provide the evidence which promoted them to make the wild claims in the first place."

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My first reaction was that this felt like it was part of a prepared campaign strategy to seize on the White House's spin that Barr's summation is the final word, and in the words of the President himself, a "complete and total exoneration," even though Barr's summary included a statement from Special Counsel Robert Mueller saying explicitly that the investigation "does not exonerate him."

In other words, the President entered the post-Barr part of his term the way he began the first part: by lying.

My second reaction is that the reelection campaign's request to blacklist the President's political opponents is part of a much bigger disinformation campaign that may be the envy of the counter intelligence community.

Time will tell what the Special Counsel's investigation actually found, not what the President's hand-picked Attorney General asserts, but the tactics being employed by the White House and the reelection campaign are straight out of the GRU. Trump's campaign may not have actively colluded with Russia, but it's reelection campaign, at least, has studied Russia's tradecraft well, especially its use of so-called "active measures" to attack political opponents by sowing disinformation that creates division within society.

What surprises me most isn't that the White House would try to spin Barr's spin, it is the brazen and outlandish way they are doing it. It's more than a war on media. It's more like a war on reality, even if the media are the conduit for it.

"The bottom line is that Donald Trump would love to run against the news media," Washington Post Associate Editor David Ignatius observed on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Tuesday morning, adding, "We are his favorite target. And in some ways, we are his most successful target. Beating us up, seems to work. We have a lot of enemies out there.”

"It's branding for him," added "Morning Joe" co-anchor Mika Brzezinski.

"I just think we need to avoid taking the bait," Ignatius added, suggesting, "There are so many important issues facing the country. He’s going to want to make this a daily circus about how terrible the press is.”

Memo To TV News Producers: Take Ignatius' advice. Don't take the bait.

11 comments about "White House Provides Enemies List To, Well, 'The Enemy Of The People'".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, March 26, 2019 at 11:27 a.m.

    Maybe I'm mistaken but the media declared war on Trump well before he had his first day in office. The 675-day collusion story came up empty and the media silence is stunning. This is a giant black eye for CNN and MSNBC, but again, just my opinion.

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, March 26, 2019 at 11:36 a.m.

    @Douglas Ferguson: I believe you are mistaken. If you know of any such declaration, please add it here. Meanwhile, this is explicitly what he said his first full day on the job:

    https://www.recode.net/2017/1/22/14350406/president-trump-cia-war-media-speech

  3. T C from N, March 26, 2019 at 12:36 p.m.

    Joe, it sounds like you took the bait.

  4. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, March 26, 2019 at 12:39 p.m.

    @T C: Usually.

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 26, 2019 at 2:55 p.m.

    McCarthyism is on the rise. Individual one's close advisor, lawyer (before he dumped him when he found out he had AIDS) was Roy Cohn also of the McCarthy trials aks Blacklisting Trials. The nazis fighting communism. Here we go again as we have from the beginning of giving individual one any power. This is a death and destruction administration - every single thing they have done has caused pain and death. Check it out and it will bear fruit that their goal is indentured servitude and slavery through poverty. Would you take $2/hr if it would save your child's life because you cannot afford insurance and their medical care/medicine ?

  6. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, March 26, 2019 at 5:38 p.m.

    Paula: McCarthyism is surely already here and well established under the leadership of the "vile" (Steve Schmidt - former Republican) "moron" (Rex Tillerson- former Secreatary of State) who I suggested was the "new Mussolini" in a Media Post comment as American Nationalism (as opposed to Patriotism - so significantly different) was being reignited during 2016.
    Hopefully Mr. Ferguson will be severly taken to task by his students for sloughing off CNN & MSNBC's generally accurate reporting of the consistent and continual embarassing and often reprehensible behaviour of the current occupant of the Oval Office?  Perhaps those  students that have not been given an "A" in his classes should simply claim "fake"!
    Those that are now hiding behind the Mueller Report to give the current administration, including all those that have pleaded guilty or have been convicted, a pass on their frequent corrupt, egregious and unconstitutional behaviour as accurately reported by the quality media merely exacerbate the damage already done to a country that is becoming a pariah around the Globe. With the exception of those run by ruthless autocrats of course: Russia, North Korea, Turkey, etc. 

  7. Todd Gaak from Observer, March 27, 2019 at 11:40 a.m.

    Did the press think POTUS was going to give them a sloppy wet kiss after their involvement in the past 2 years?  If there was an industry making lists and pointing out every one of your misstatments -- or "lies" -- wouldn't you return serve?  I think that's what DF of Charleston was pointing out.  As far as media apologists trying to move the goalposts of the Mueller report, do so all you want, but the 4-page summary everyone is complaining about was HUSTLED out to satisfy the clamor for some kind of word in less than 24 hours of receiving it.  (BTW, give it a break, the thing took 18 months to compile and everyone would have flipped to the last page to find out the same distilled info if they had the entire report anyway.) 
    You know, part of the reason public opinions of the press are going south is that they are unelected to do what they do and yet are never held accountable to mistakes/errors like those who are elected and they seek to hold accountable.  Not talking about "we regret the error on page 2 of yesterday's paper on the address of the St. Swithens church flea market.' 
    Well, the great unwashed have and will continue to vote with their feet, eyeballs, and pocketbooks.  The press has no one to blame but themselves. 
    But I guess "being an elite means never having to say you're sorry." 

  8. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, March 27, 2019 at 12:04 p.m.

    @Todd Gaak: I don't think "the press" expected Trump to be anything different than he has proven to be all along. By their "involvement," do you mean exercising their Constitutional right to cover our government? 

    Re. public opinions of the press, you must be listening to the opinion of a certain POTUS. Legitimate research shows that is a mixed bag, but what's really happening is that the public has so many more media options to choose from, including biased or less-than-trustworthy ones. (See Ipsos and Knight Foundation studies).

    In fact, a media trust tracker we've been conducting with Brand Keys shows that generally speaking people are more trusting of mainstream or left-leaning media than right-wing media outlets.

    https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/americans-views-media-2018-08-07

    https://www.knightfoundation.org/reports/indicators-of-news-media-trust

    https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/332195/left-wins-midterms-media-trust-too.html

    Anyway, the real point of this blog post was that the White House is spinning Barr's letter and summary as "exoneration," even though the only thing we know from Mueller so far is that he did "not exonerate" the President. And the fact that they have begun circulating an enemy's list and pressuring news outlets to blacklist the President's political opponents. In other words, Banana Republic-level autocracy.

  9. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, March 27, 2019 at 12:11 p.m.

    Interestingly, Morning Consult just released their latest nationwide poll showing half the country still believes Trump obstructed the Russia probe:

    https://www.politico.com/story/2019/03/26/trump-mueller-poll-obstruction-1238013

    Quinnipiac study found 84% of Americans want the report to be released:

    https://thehill.com/homenews/news/435881-poll-84-percent-want-to-see-mueller-report

    The President's popularity remains unchanged (below water) pre- and post:

    https://morningconsult.com/2019/03/26/trumps-popularity-unchanged-after-completion-of-mueller-probe/

  10. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, March 27, 2019 at 8:21 p.m.

    True. I tried to pose in such a way because I would bet 90% of our citizens including readers of this column do not know history. BTW: Mr. Barr's son in law has been very recently added to the White HOuse counsel. 

  11. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, March 27, 2019 at 8:29 p.m.

    Barr also had a choice about when his 4 page propaganda would be released. He could have said next week, etc. It took him 2 days to read through the entire report and notes from this 22 month report from so many people and then could make determinations ? Hogwash. 

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