Donald Trump has a pretty complicated relationship with the press. On one hand, the Republican nominee knows the value of free media; at least part of his meteoric rise to the top of the ticket can be attributed to the billions of dollars worth of free media he’s received throughout his campaign. On the other hand, he routinely bullies and berates journalists for pointing out his least favorite thing (the truth), and occasionally gets off mocking reporters with disabilities and/or vaginas.
Given Trump’s troubling treatment of the press throughout the primaries (when he first floated the idea of “open[ing] up” libel laws to increase his ability to sue reporters), it’s no surprise that the relationship has grown even more turbulent since he became the official candidate of the Grand Old Party and brought on VP pick Mike Pence. Here are some of the more egregious attacks the Trump/Pence campaign has waged against the press.
Refusing to Credential Reporters
This anti-press tactic technically began during the primaries when Trump realized he could punish reporters and news outlets that don’t agree with him simply by refusing them the necessary credentials to enter the press pen. In one particularly telling exchange, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told a CNN reporter covering protests at a rally to return to the designated press zone or risk being “f**king blacklisted” (this was before authorities investigated Lewandowski for manhandling a female reporter trying to ask Trump a question).
The blacklist in question continues to grow as the election cycle drags on, including both news outlets and individual journalists. Reporters from Univsion, Buzzfeed, Politico and the Huffington Post all face a blanket ban from the Republican candidate. Even some local papers are targeted by the Trump campaign: the Des Moines Register was banned back in 2015. At the time, Lewandowski said they weren’t issuing campaign credentials to anyone on the paper “based on the editorial that they wrote earlier in the week.”
Radio host Hugh Hewitt brought Pence on Friday to discuss the campaign’s relationship with the press, asking the wannabe veep if he would encourage Trump to lift his ban on reporters.
“I fully expect in the next 100 days, we’re going to continue to be available to the media, whether they’re fair or unfair, and we’re going to take our case to the American people directly,” Pence said, which of course isn’t an answer to the question. And considering the patdown of a reporter happened at a Pence — not Trump — event, it’s unlikely the VP pick will have much sway over the campaign’s star and showrunner.
For what it’s worth, Trump promised no blacklist in a hypothetical Trump White House, which we can totally take at face value considering Trump never says things he doesn’t mean.
Using Police as Bouncers
What’s a reporter to do if he’s denied press credentials to cover an event. Well, if you’re Washington Post reporter Jose A. DelReal, you opt to attend as a rally-goer, only to end up frisked by police officers and subsequently denied entry.
According to the Post, DelReal was attempting to enter an event for Mike Pence when he was stopped by a private security official and told he could not enter the event with his laptop and cellphone. When he protested having to enter without his cellphone, noting that other event-goers had theirs, the guard reportedly said, “Not if they work for the Washington Post.”
After placing his computer and phone in his car, DelReal returned to the line and was detained again by security personnel, who summoned two county sheriff’s deputies. The officers patted down DelReal’s legs and torso, seeking his phone, the reporter said.
When the officers — whom DelReal identified as Deputy John Lappley and Capt. Michelle Larsuel — verified that he wasn’t carrying a phone, the reporter asked to be admitted. The security person declined. “He said, ‘I don’t want you here. You have to go,'” DelReal said.
Washington Post editor Marty Baron fired back at the Trump/Pence campaign’s rough handling of his reporter. “First, press credentials for the Washington Post were revoked by Donald Trump,” Baron said. “Now, law enforcement officers, in collusion with private security officials, subjected a reporter to bullying treatment that no ordinary citizen has to endure. All of this took place in a public facility no less. The harassment of an independent press isn’t coming to an end. It’s getting worse.”
According to Politico, the RNC doesn’t have any authority over the Trump campaign’s handling of the press. “When asked to comment, two RNC spokespeople simply referred Politico to the Trump campaign, whose spokeswoman did not return a request for comment,” Hadas Gold wrote.
That reporters are denied credentials is one (bad) thing, but to single out a reporter entering as an attendee and subjecting him to increased scrutiny sets a remarkable — and very bad — precedent.
Offering Support for Former Fox Chairman Roger Ailes
While Trump’s relationship with the press is volatile, his relationship with female reporters is downright explosive. If his misogynist comments about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and his public smearing of the woman Lewandowski manhandled aren’t enough proof, just look at Trump’s (unsurprising) defense of Roger Ailes, who was forced out of his role at Fox News after an investigation by the network’s parent company Century Fox substantiated former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson’s claims that Ailes sexually harassed his female employees.
“I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them,” Trump told Meet the Press’s Chuck Todd, presumably conflating helping with sexually harassment. “And when they write books that are fairly recently released, and they say wonderful things about him. And now all of a sudden they’re saying these horrible things about him.”
“It’s very sad. Because he’s a very good person,” Trump continued. “I’ve always found him to be just a very, very good person. And by the way, a very, very talented person. Look what he’s done. So I feel very badly.”
If Trump’s support of Ailes doesn’t seem related to freedom of the press, consider not only Trump’s relationship with female reporters, but also the massive amount of resources Ailes and Fox News expended trying to silence the women he harassed.
In a bombshell report released Friday, New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman detailed the account of a former Fox staffer who claimed she was sexually harrassed by Ailes. The woman, Laurie Luhn, eventually wrote to Fox lawyer Diane Brandi, and while Ailes denied the allegations, he instructed Brandi to work out a $3.15 million settlement with Luhn, complete with a nondisclosure agreement that barred Luhn from speaking to the press or “government authorities like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the FBI.”
Trump has a pattern of silencing his detractors — a move that is right out of the Roger Ailes playbook — so it’s really not so surprising the Republican nominee considers him “a very good person.”
These good people have to stick together.