The ongoing dysfunctional codependent relationship between the political media and President Donald Trump flared up again on Sunday afternoon during a Rose Garden press conference on the government’s handling of the Wuhan virus that has swept the globe.
Trump needs the media to act the way they do so he can dunk on them and look good by comparison. The media are enjoying the short-term rush of their war with Trump, wearing his abuse as a badge of honor among their peers.
On Sunday, the media were pretty sure they had Trump in a bind when he reacted negatively to a question by PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor. You can watch the whole shebang here, but her first question was about Trump’s comments from a few days ago about ventilator needs and whether they were being exaggerated by some politicians. While the question was typically accusatory, it was somewhat mild compared to many of her typical questions.
Still, in response, he accused her of being negative and then gave a winding three-minute answer in which he complimented her and critiqued her again. Vintage Trump. She wanted a second question and he said it wasn’t fair for other reporters. When he called on a CNN reporter a bit later, that reporter yielded to Alcindor. She asked another accusatory question suggesting it was insane to worry about widespread suicide or depression resulting from an economic catastrophe.
Then followed the CNN reporter’s question. It was a train wreck. Also accusatory, the reporter snipped a quote to make Trump sound like he’d said something different than what he’d said at a previous press conference. Trump forced him to read the quote in context, showing that the accusatory “gotcha” question was not an accurate depiction of what had been expressed.
In this sense, all three questions were absolutely golden for Trump, who could tee off on them in the way he tees off on most political media.
But political media really thought the moment went well for them. Maggie Haberman of The New York Times spun the exchange (and added some trademark Haberman mindreading) as if it were “triggering” for the president widely known for enjoying dustups with his media foes. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post dramatically claimed that Alcindor “routinely gets under his skin with probing questions,” and said Trump was “losing his cool, again.” The Obama bros who host “Pod Save America,” excitedly announced that Alcindor — “The incredible reporter who puts up with this shit from Trump all the time” — would be their next guest.
Many media figures spent the evening doing something very constructive. How constructive? Well, they worked really hard to get #WeLoveYamiche trending on Twitter! “What did you do during the Coronavirus Era, grandpa?” “Well, I spent some evenings trying to get a hashtag trending, and other similar important work, much like firefighters do.”
It is sad that some people think getting something trending, if it was indeed trending, is how one wins an argument. But such is the high-level thinking we’re dealing with these days.
In any case, as trust in media remains low, it is worth noting that Alcindor may be a perfectly fine reporter at times, but she also has done her fair share to make people think she’s similar to her peers in terms of extreme bias and sensationalism.
Most recently, she was the reporter who wasted valuable time asking President Trump if he approved of something that supposedly someone in the White House said to a reporter, although the reporter refused to identify the person in question. The supposed thing that supposedly happened was that someone — we don’t know who — called the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, the “Kung Flu” virus. It was an utterly ridiculous question during a global pandemic even if the event had verifiably happened.
Alcindor was also one of the reporters who deceptively edited a quote to make it sound like Trump had told governors they were on their own, when in fact he had explicitly said the federal government would help them if the more efficient method for acquiring needed goods was a bust.
Alcindor has at times been a poster child for press bias toward Trump, such as in an incident where she sounded more like President Barack Obama’s personal press secretary than a White House reporter. CNN has praised Alcindor for her support of the Russia collusion narrative. She complained when President Trump visited troops in Iraq, suggesting it was nothing more than a political rally. Of Communist China, she wrote, “your chances of improving your station in life there vastly exceed those in the United States.”
Alcindor is not consistently accusatory or hostile toward politicians. Sometimes she is very favorable or gentle toward them, such as when Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., proposed restricting Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights if she were elected president. Alcindor praised Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett, D-CO, when he railed against Republicans on the Senate floor for the government shutdown.
This was way back to last year, when journalists cared about the economic consequences of federal workers not being paid for a few weeks. Alcindor claimed people were scraping together their last pennies and Bennett “losing it on the Senate floor in that way was really a lot of Americans saying, ‘We can’t take this anymore.'”
When Jussie Smollett made his rather difficult-to-believe claim about being brutally attacked by a culturally astute roving gang of MAGA-hat-wearing bigots, Alcindor totally bought it. “We have to do better as a country. This is disgusting,” she wrote.
She’s also the reporter who accused people who support the national interest of being racist.
Alcindor clearly has many friends in the press corps, and they were elated to have a chance to defend her. It’s always good to have friends who defend you when powerful people critique you.
The incident is a good time to remember, though, that the country would benefit from a press corps less concerned with their cliques and more concerned about the American public they ostensibly report for. Perhaps it’s time to give political reporters a rest from the White House briefings and replace them with public health, mental health, business, education, and other beat reporters.
Trump flourishes the more the White House press corps is riddled with political activists posing as journalists. But the country might fare better with more informed questions from reporters able to think through issues less politically.