Trump Bullies The Press -- And The Press Yawns

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Donald Trump

"I'm warning you, tread very fucking lightly." Trump attorney Michael Cohen threatening a reporter. 

It's sad that Donald Trump is normalizing so many unsavory traits with his presidential push this season. He's normalizing bigotry and xenophobia in the campaign arena, for instance. He's also mainstreaming the manhandling of the press.

Just ask Trip Gabriel.

The New York Times reporter was tossed out of a Trump event in Iowa last week. He was thrown out by a Trump staff member and a local police officer who suggested he was following the orders of Trump's Iowa campaign chief. (Days earlier, Grabriel had written a piece that raised questions about Trump's ground game in Iowa.)

On the surface, that's a shocking event: the Republican frontrunner's campaign singling out a Times reporter and having him physically ousted. But since last summer, this type of bullying behavior has become quite common, and the media's response has become nearly mute. Indeed, Gabriel's ejection was noted in the media but didn't seem to set off any loud alarm.

Covering Trump today means being confined to metal barrier press pens at events. It means rarely being allowed to ask the candidate questions and being the target of vicious insults from the candidate and his fans. (One CBS reporter covering a rally was recently asked by a Trump supporter if he was taking pictures on behalf of ISIS.)

Trump and his campaign push the press around at will and they pay no real price. If anything, Trump gets showered with more press attention despite calling out reporters as "scum"; despite denouncing them as liars and cheats at his campaign rallies.

On and on the bullying goes and the pushback remains minimal. This is a profound embarrassment for the national press corps. It's a profound embarrassment for editors and producers in positions of influence who have voluntarily acquiesced their power in order to bow down to Trump and his campaign road show.

The gleeful bullying of the press meshes with the bullying that often goes on at Trump rallies, where violence percolates. Like those thug rallies, we've certainly never seen this kind of behavior from a major party's political frontrunner.

But like the Trump rallies, where's the indignation over the constant press intimidation? Where are the outraged editorials? Where are the endless, handwringing TV panel debates about what Trump's hatred of the press really means; what it tells us about his possible character flaws, and his would-be presidency.

It's possible the press doesn't want to make itself the story, that it wants to maintain its role as observers and not newsmaker and that's why it has refrained from turning Trump's bullying into a big story. That theory takes a hit though when you consider the same press corps has written endlessly about Hillary Clinton's relationship with the press and has stressed over and over what a central role reporters play in her White House push.

It's true that last November, representatives from several news networks banded together and held a call to discuss "how embeds and reporters from outlets are being treated" by the Trump campaign.

But as Huffington Post's Michael Calderone recently reported, the Trump campaign seems uninterested in the press complaints: "In recent weeks, journalists have again been ordered not to leave the press pen by campaign staffers and volunteers and even Secret Service agents, according to reporters who were granted anonymity to speak candidly. Journalists also said they were not allowed to approach the candidate to ask questions after events."

Journalists: We think you're treating us badly.

Trump campaign: We don't care what you think.

Consider:

*At a recent Trump rally, a Huffington Post reporter noted, "that a Secret Service agent stepped up to help when a Trump campaign staffer tried to interfere with his reporting."

*Trump bashed Fox News host Megyn Kelly as "bitter" and "overrated," called NBC's Chuck Todd "pathetic," and announced most journalists are "absolute scum."

*Asked about allegations from a 1993 book that Trump had sexually assaulted his then-wife Ivana Trump (she later recanted the claim), Donald Trump's attorney threatened a Daily Beast reporter: "So I'm warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I'm going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?"

*At a South Carolina rally, Trump mocked and mimicked a New York Times reporter who suffers from a chronic condition called arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his arms.

*His campaign barred a BuzzFeed reporter from attending an event in Newton, Iowa, denied Des Moines Register and Huffington Post reporters press credentials to campaign events, and barred reporters from Fusion from covering a Trump event in Doral, Florida.

*Univision anchor Jorge Ramos was physically removed from a Trump press conference.

*A security guard at an Iowa rally threatened to eject any reporter who interviewed Trump supporters: "You talk to people and you leave."

*At a South Carolina event, Trump derided NBC's Katy Tur as "Little Katy, third-rate journalist." Trump fans then rained boos down on Tur, according to the Daily Beast.

One more, from the Washington Post:

After CNN reporter Noah Gray left "the pen" to document a group of protesters who unveiled a sign reading "Migrant lives matter," Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski turned to campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks and said: "Hey: Tell Noah, get back in the pen or he's f***** blacklisted," according to a recording of the incident.

This type of behavior is completely unprecedented. If a leading Democrat were guilty of any of the above transgressions, there would be a roiling Beltway media revolt that would denounce the Democratic campaign continuously. Uninterrupted.

But the Trump campaign has committed all of the above offenses. So why is it mostly crickets from the same press corps?

Creative Commons image via Darron Birgenheier

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Donald Trump
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