Trump campaign cracks down on Bloomberg over hands-off news policy
The Trump campaign on Monday said Bloomberg News’ decision not to investigate owner Michael R. Bloomberg nor his Democratic primary rivals during the 2020 presidential race is simply wrong and that it can no longer credential the company’s reporters for rallies and other campaign events.
Campaign manager Brad Parscale said the campaign had no choice but to respond to a policy that effectively allows Bloomberg’s employees to report critically on Mr. Trump but not his potential opponents.
“As President Trump’s campaign, we are accustomed to unfair reporting practices, but most news organizations don’t announce their biases so publicly,” Mr. Parscale said.
Mr. Trump chimed in from London. He tweeted that “Mini Mike Bloomberg has instructed his third rate news organization not to investigate him or any Democrat, but to go after President Trump, only.”
The Republican National Committee quickly followed suit, announcing in a tweet from Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel that it would no longer credential Bloomberg representatives.
Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait said his outlet will not be driven from the campaign trail.
“The accusation of bias couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “We have covered Donald Trump fairly and in an unbiased way since he became a candidate in 2015 and will continue to do so despite the restrictions imposed by the Trump campaign.”
The salvo from the Trump camp is the first major shock wave from Mr. Bloomberg’s decision to hop into the 2020 race on Nov. 24, portraying himself as a centrist alternative to far-left candidates.
The former New York City mayor and billionaire says he has the savvy and resources to defeat Mr. Trump. His ads are blanketing the airwaves, helping him land in the middle of the crowded field — on par with Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California but trailing four front-runners — in RealClearPolitics’ polling average, even though he entered the race late.
Mr. Bloomberg’s media empire employs about 2,700 journalists and analysts on its print, radio, magazine and television platforms, so editors had to confront potential conflicts of interest in covering the boss.
Not since William Randolph Hearst’s unsuccessful bid for the 1904 Democratic presidential nomination has a major media mogul made a run for the presidency, and Mr. Micklethwait made it clear that the Bloomberg candidacy would be an unparalleled challenge.
“There is no point in trying to claim that covering this presidential campaign will be easy for a newsroom that has built up its reputation for independence in part by not writing about ourselves (and very rarely about our direct competitors),” Mr. Micklethwait said in a staff memo last week. “No previous presidential candidate has owned a journalistic organization of this size.”
Mr. Micklethwait said the news division would refrain from investigating Mr. Bloomberg, his finances and his family. It also would keep its distance from the mogul’s Democratic rivals.
Media watchers said it’s no surprise that Mr. Trump pounced on the decision.
“This was low-hanging fruit for the Trump campaign to do this to Bloomberg,” Tom Bevan, co-founder and president of RealClearPolitics, said on Fox Business Network.
“It is a bad look for them to say we are not going to investigate our candidate, our owner, our boss and we are not going to investigate any of the Democrats but we are going to keep investigating Trump,” Mr. Bevan said. “That plays into the whole narrative that there is bias in the media that has been one of Donald Trump’s staples since he was a candidate. And, quite frankly, it is grown even stronger since he has been in office. He is going to use it in 2020, and this plays right into it.
“Bloomberg can say what they want, but for the Trump campaign this was an easy call for them to make.”
The Trump campaign in 2016 revoked credentials for Washington Post reporters seeking to cover its rallies, dubbing the paper “phony” and “dishonest” as Mr. Trump ran as a bare-knuckled populist.
The decision Monday from the 2020 campaign is a response to a “troubling” structural deficiency rather than specific coverage.
“Bloomberg News has declared that they won’t investigate their boss or his Democrat competitors, many of whom are current holders of high office, but will continue critical reporting on President Trump,” Mr. Parscale said.
“Since they have declared their bias openly, the Trump campaign will no longer credential representatives of Bloomberg News for rallies or other campaign events,” he added. “We will determine whether to engage with individual reporters or answer inquiries from Bloomberg News on a case-by-case basis. This will remain the policy of the Trump campaign until Bloomberg News publicly rescinds its decision.”
Ms. McDaniel wasted no time in rallying behind the Trump campaign.
“Media outlets should be independent and fair, and this [reporting policy] decision proves that Bloomberg News is neither,” she tweeted. “The @GOP stands with @TeamTrump and will no longer credential Bloomberg representatives.”
⦁ S.A. Miller and Valerie Richardson contributed to this report.
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