Attacks on the media from the President and the White House have reached a fevered pitch recently after a press briefing by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Huckabee Sanders if she agreed with the president that the media is the “enemy of the people.” After she refused to do so — even after Acosta pointed out that Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump had publicly refuted the statement — Acosta promptly walked out of the briefing room.
“I’ve addressed this question, I’ve addressed my personal feelings. I’m here to speak on behalf of the president. He’s made his comments clear,” Sanders told Acosta during the televised briefing.
Acosta was recently booed during a campaign rally for the president, heightening tension between the media and the president.
Over his first 18 months in office, Trump has exacerbated his supporters’ frustrations with the media with statements calling news organizations “fake news” and even calling out individual organizations and reporters during rallies.
The battle has even prompted concerns regarding increased hostility shown towards members of the media by Trump supporters.
“We can’t shrug off Trump’s attacks on the press. Ever,” Dan Rather, the former CBS News anchor, wrote Thursday on Twitter. “They’re undemocratic and invite, even incite, violence. This bears repeating. It demands repeating.”
We can't shrug off Trump's attacks on the press. Ever. They're undemocratic and invite, even incite, violence. This bears repeating. It demands repeating. Last night @CNN's @Acosta faced down a hostile crowd. Support from his colleagues, competitors, and general public is a must.
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) August 2, 2018
As the midterm elections draw closer, the anti-media rhetoric is likely to continue to gain steam as Republicans attempt to hold on to the majority in the U.S. House and Senate. The presidential election will start to get into full swing after the midterms, another event that will likely escalate tensions between the media and Trump supporters.
The attacks between the president and the media have expanded political divisions in the United States. Recently, Trump tweeted about morning news shows, suggesting that Fox and Friends was “blowing away the competition” adding that MSNBC’s Morning Joe program was “a dead show” and that “Fake News CNN is also doing poorly.”
Wow, @foxandfriends is blowing away the competition in the morning ratings. Morning Joe is a dead show with very few people watching and sadly, Fake News CNN is also doing poorly. Too much hate and inaccurately reported stories – too predictable!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2018
That tweet elicited more than 30,000 responses, both for an against Trump’s statement.
Good Ratings do not equal fair or balanced news. Just because your base is brainwashed by watching state TV that does not make them well informed, it makes them stupid. Why is the president tweeting about TV ratings when we need election security & healthcare? Trump =Fool!
— American Patriot Woman (@LuvAmericanPats) August 2, 2018
Even members of the media on opposite sides of the aisle are getting into the fray. Acosta suggested that Fox host Sean Hannity was “not a journalist” and was only “injecting poison into the nation’s political bloodstream.”
Hannity is a propagandist for profit, peddling lies every night. He says he’s just a talk show host, not a journalist. But he’s injecting poison into the nation’s political bloodstream warping public attitudes about the press. I’m confident in the long run the truth will prevail.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 2, 2018
Hannity responded by saying he was “sorry your precious feelings are hurt & that people see through your lying bullshit for what it is …”
But, some would suggest Trump’s media attacks are all part of a strategy to solidify his base ahead of the next presidential election. Republican strategist Susan Del Percio told The Hill that the strategy of calling out the media is putting a face to news and actually elevating reporters and networks.
“What Trump has basically done is put a face to the news, whether it’s Little Katy Tur at MSNBC or Acosta at CNN and when you start calling reporters out by name, you’re able to make it personal and he’s able to give his followers a reason to dislike people and their news organizations, not just their news organizations and that’s the difference,” Del Percio said.
She added that the higher the tensions get, the more it will impact the electorate in the coming election cycles.
“And that means we’re dealing with an electorate that isn’t going to have a balanced education on issues. And that’s why some of the conspiracy theories fester like they do. They just spin around and around and around,” she said.
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