President Donald Trump won’t attend the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner on Saturday.
The president instead plans on packing them in at a rally in the home of the Packers, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Additionally, Trump has ordered his staff to boycott the event. Thus, our heroic media “firefighters” won’t be able to douse Trump and Co. with insults – at least in person.
Trump’s decision has, as usual, stumped our typically oblivious national media.
CNN’s Brian Stelter, whose network has fewer viewers than the Hallmark Channel, ridiculously called Trump’s refusal to attend the airing of the grievances an “attack on the media.” Stelter’s judgment is suspect. After all, not long ago he suggested that alleged bilker of the handicapped, Michael Avenatti, was presidential timber.
And Whoopi Goldberg, who co-chairs America’s leading panel of political punditry as co-host of “The View,” said Trump has “no sense of humor,” and suggested the president is thin-skinned. “If you can’t take it, you shouldn’t be in the job, because everybody is kicking your a-- as president,” she said. “Every president has taken it, and taken it like champs. Every one of them ... He does not.” I doubt seriously whether Whoopi could weather the constant cascade of insults that comes Trump’s way minute by minute.
Nonetheless, Trump is right to pass. And the reason is simple: He shouldn’t extend credibility to a group that clearly doesn’t deserve it.
For one thing, if he retorted to their insults in person, Stelter would lead the dreary charge to accuse him of “attacking” the media.
But there’s more.
In August 2016, The New York Times’ media critic Jim Rutenberg wrote a piece suggesting that then-candidate Trump, by his unconventional campaign and controversial ideas, had beckoned the national media into “uncomfortable and uncharted territory.”
Given Trump’s demagoguery, as the media saw it, a “working journalist” could feel free “to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it (covering Trump) in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career,” Rutenberg wrote.
“If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.”
Consequently, many reporters for national news outlets seemed to take Rutenberg’s pondering as a how-to manual. And nowhere was that more evident than in coverage of the Trump-is-traitorous-Russian-spy narrative for the last three years.
Shielded by the First Amendment and aided by ax-grinding Obama administration refugees and NeverTrump leakers on the inside, who mostly chose to remain anonymous, the media never seriously challenged the idea that the president was beholden to Russia.
Thus, recently we were almost collectively blown over by the great whoosh of deflated expectations when special counsel Robert Mueller’s 488-page report announced that no one -- not Trump, not his family, not his campaign staff, not one American citizen – conspired with Russian operatives to throw the 2016 election.
Some of those “working” journalists were unbowed by Mueller’s findings. Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, for example, said on Twitter that Mueller’s report “is an exoneration ... of the mainstream media.”
If Tumulty and others who maintain this goop mean that reporters, like stenographers, faithfully transcribed the utterings of the cloaked anti-Trump forces who pushed the collusion narrative, then OK. They got it “right.”
But that part of America that exists outside the Beltway, Hollywood and Manhattan largely understands this was a colossal, unforced error.
Much of that hung on what was spun off of the dossier assembled by former British spy Christopher Steele, a subcontractor hired and paid by a firm retained by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Writing in The Washington Times this week, columnist Rowan Scarborough noted that Mueller debunked and dismissed a dozen different Steele-drafted conspiracy theories, as well as four others unrelated to him, that made prominent, breathless headlines over the past two years.
Also writing this week, Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept noted, “So many of the most touted media ‘bombshells’ claiming to establish Trump/Russia crimes have been proven false by this report.” He added, “This massive investigation simply did not establish any of the conspiracy theories that huge parts of the Democratic Party, the intelligence community and the U.S. media spent years encouraging the public to believe.”
Bill Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editorial page editor of The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida.