On Tuesday afternoon, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders received a series of questions about the veracity of the mainstream media. First, Huckabee Sanders launched into a diatribe about the media’s mission to attack the Trump administration.
She was correct, of course:
I don’t know that the response isn’t good enough for the president. I think it’s the constant barrage of fake news directed at this president that has garnered a lot of his frustration. … There are multiple other instances where that outlet that you referenced has been repeatedly wrong and had to point that out or be corrected. There’s a video circulating now … I would encourage everybody in this room and frankly, everybody across the country, to take a look at it. I think if it’s accurate. I think it’s a disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism. I think we have gone to a place where if the media can’t be trusted to report the news, then that’s a dangerous place for America. And I think if that is the place that certain outlets are going, particularly for the purpose of spiking ratings, and if that’s coming directly from the top, I think that’s even more scary, and certainly more disgraceful. And I hope that’s not the direction we’re headed. I hope that outlets that have continued to use either unnamed sources, sometimes stories with no sources at all … We’ve been going on this Russia-Trump hoax for the better part of a year now, with no evidence of anything. Things like the success at the VA barely get covered, they may get covered for an hour at a time, but this story gets covered day in and day out. … They deserve something better from our news media.
Charlie Spiering of Breitbart News then piped up, “Does the president actually expect us not to report on stories of a foreign country trying to influence the presidential election?” Huckabee Sanders said that reporting on actual news was fine, but “there are a lot of things happening in this world that a lot of people would like to hear about.” She continued:
[I]f we make the slightest mistake, the slightest word is off, it’s just an absolute tirade from a lot of the people in this room. But news outlets get to go on day after day, cite unnamed sources, use stories without sources, you mentioned the Scaramucci story, where they had to have reporters resign.
At this point, to the celebratory cheers of the media, one reporter, Brian Karem of Sentinel newspapers, responded to Huckabee Sanders in fiery fashion:
Come on, you’re inflaming everybody right here right now with those words. This administration has done that as well. Why in the name of heaven, any one of us are replaceable and any one of us, if we don’t get it right, the audience has the opportunity to turn the channel or not read us. You’ve been elected to serve for four years at least. There’s no option other than that. We’re here to ask you questions, you’re here to provide the answers, and what you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, “See, once again, the President is right, and everybody else out here is fake media.” And everybody out here in this room is trying to do their job.
Huckabee Sanders then accused the media of inflaming through dishonesty, and said it was “outrageous” for Karem to accuse her of inflammatory rhetoric.
Huckabee Sanders is obviously correct that the media have an agenda, and they are out to “get” Trump for ratings — a CNN producer was caught on tape admitting as much. But she’s wrong to suggest there are no consequences to reporters who get it wrong — just ask the fired CNN reporters. It is simply untrue that the media can destroy their own credibility without risk, as Trump’s greatest defenders will admit; after all, Trump is doing an excellent job of attacking their credibility successfully. This is the problem with labeling the entire media establishment “fake news” — Karem is correct that reporters are often attempting to do their jobs, and that the vast majority of the facts they report are true, even if their stories are biased in terms of news selection and angle of coverage.
But Karem seems to dismiss out of hand Huckabee Sanders’ accusation that bias exists at all. The notion that reporters are merely there to serve — that they have no agenda other than “doing their job” is untrue. Most reporters in the mainstream media perceive their job as speaking “truth to power” when it comes to Trump, which means aggressively ferreting out and reporting even the slightest whiff of impropriety — all of which would be fine, except that they didn’t do the same with President Obama, and they’re obviously willing to cross more than a few lines in order to target Trump.