Enough is enough. The time has come for the media to reclaim our role and aggressively cover the Trump administration without the fear.
The new stooge on the block is Bill Shine, forced out as a top dog at Fox News after lawsuits charged him with enabling all of Roger Ailes’ alleged sexual outrages. That would immediately endear him to Donald Trump, and sure enough, now he’s the new White House communications director, where he’s taken his obvious talent for managing up by becoming the Don’s latest enforcer.
The latest victim is CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins. After POTUS raged at Collins’ routinely impertinent questions at a photo-op, Shine banned her from covering an open press event later in the day. That followed his chewing her out in his office. Apparently, Collins handled the meeting in a classy way. Once again, the various news organizations screamed bloody murder at this latest Trump media thuggery, but this is far beyond the usual wimpy statements of solidarity. It’s time for those who cover this gang to take stronger action. After a bit of thought, I have some suggestions:
• The entire press corps needs to pull out: That’s right, physically abandon the White House. Do the journalistic job of holding the administration accountable from their bureaus and offices.
• No more live coverage of Trump events: Obviously there would be exceptions, such as when he does stuff that is important. When he gives away the national interest to the Vladimir Putins and Kim Jong Uns of this world, take it live, by all means, but not the staged events and political rallies. Sure, show them in their entirety, but only on a tape-delayed basis, after the networks have had a chance to identify all his lies and exaggerations, and as he spouts them, present the facts on the screen’s lower-third.
• Label his tweets as dangerous nonsense when they are: Or ignore them as superficial childish tantrums when they are that.
• Press charges against those who impede Trump coverage: If the local authorities won’t cooperate, press federal charges against them.
• Also press charges against the president if he incites someone to take illegal action against reporters: True, the criminal charges can’t be prosecuted while he’s in office, but that won’t be forever. In addition, he can be sued.
I realize that each of these bullet points might be shot down as unworkable or revised, but some variation would be better than the timid response we’ve seen thus far. Otherwise, these assaults against the public’s need to know will get worse. Actually, it does every day.
Now the boss man is tweeting that the press is “unpatriotic” and endangering “the lives of many.” The only patriotic thing for journalists to do is to get more aggressive with him and his fellow truth molesters. Democracy can survive only with robust media. Neutered news inevitably leads to autocracy.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.