As the war between the White House and the news media escalated Tuesday, a PR guru warned the press that President Trump’s tactic of bashing reporters had already succeeded in forging him a sturdy armor against negative coverage.
Mr. Trump’s frequent charges of “fake news” fanned the animus of the White House press corps, but it also has forced reporters on a defensive footing.
“It certainly seems to be working,” said Michael Fox, managing partner at ICR, one of the top independently owned public relations firm in the U.S. “Rightly or wrongly, the mainstream press has gained an image of being biased and he’s proven very capable of exploiting that.”
However, he said that the news media had created a hyper-politicized news environment before Mr. Trump came on the scene.
“Trump hasn’t been able to convince a large percentage of the population that there is such a thing as fake news by accident,” said Mr. Fox. “Things have changed in the business over the last decade that created that opening for him to exploit. The media probably just has to look at that.”
Polls are split on whom American’s trust less, Mr. Trump or the news media. But a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll found that nearly half of voters — 46 percent — believe the news media fabricates news stories about Mr. Trump.
A heated exchange Monday between White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and CNN reporter Jim Acosta about a recent rash of erroneous news stories spilled over into the network’s daily coverage on Tuesday.
Mr. Acosta said that when he and other reporters were escorted into the Roosevelt Room for a bill signing ceremony, Ms. Sanders threatened to bar him from future events if he shouted a question at Mr. Trump.
He vowed not to be intimidated.
“Prior to this moment, @presssec issued a warning to me. She said if I asked a question of Trump at the bill signing ‘I can’t promise you will be allowed into a pool spray again.’ Sorry Sarah. we won’t be intimidated,” he wrote on Twitter.
Indeed, he shouted a question at Mr. Trump at the end of the ceremony. Mr. Trump exited the room without responding.
The reporter’s colleagues rallied to his cause.
“@Acosta was at the bill signing as part of the rotating pool that reps all 5 tv networks. And to be clear: this is not how the pool works. @POTUS doesn’t have to answer questions — but we can sure ask them,” tweeted MSNBC Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson.
At the daily press briefing, Mrs. Sanders was asked about whether the White House was concerned that the president had given license to despots around the world to use claims of “fake news” to quash damaging reports about their regimes.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Philippine President Roderigo Duterte have both recently used the phase “fake news” to dismiss damaging news reports.
“I think the White House is concerned about false and inaccurate information being pushed out and to mislead the American people,” said Mrs. Sanders. “In terms of other leaders, I’d have to look at their comments to be more specific on what they’ve said, but our concern is making sure that the information that the people receive in this country is fair and accurate, and when it isn’t, that it’s corrected and corrected in the same fashion in which it was first presented when it was wrong, which is very rarely the case.”
Friction between the White House and the news media exists for every presidency, but it reached new heights under Mr. Trump.
The feud came to a head after a string of false or inaccurate reports in recent weeks, several of which were originally presented as bombshell reports that confirmed Trump campaign collusion with Russia.
The reports included CNN retracting a story about WikiLeaks alerting Donald Trump Jr. to hacked email from the Democratic National Committee.
The Washington Post quickly took down a photo posted by a reporter that claimed a small crowd at the president’s campaign rally Friday in Pensacola, Florida. The photo was taken hours before the start of the event.
ABC News reported last week that Mr. Trump directed contact with Russia before the election. It turned out it was after the election and the reporter, veteran newsman Brian Ross, was suspended.
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