He tweets. He ridicules. He insults. Donald Trump does every-thing possible and he refuses to be questioned for it. As a public figure, Trump has always been involved in controversies either grabbing headlines or allegedly, women’s dignity.
Trump will become the first President to be sworn in office at the age of seventy. Apart from being the first in matters of age, he will also be the first President to tweet his views rather than communicate with the White House correspondents unlike his predecessors. Such is his mistrust in the media; that he continues to tweet even in his position as the President-Elect of America.
On January 11 Trump held his second press conference after six months. The conference soon became a confrontation arena when Trump refused a question from a senior CNN White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. It was no surprise that this incident was not a first.
In August 2015, a journalist was ejected from an Iowa press conference. The reason? Jorge Ramos, the journalist challenged Trump when the latter labelled Mexicans as rapists. In November 2015, at a rally in South Carolina, Trump made an apparent impression of a disabled New York Times reporter. Trump’s performance was no surprise to the reporter Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a condition that affects his joints. Trump heavily indulged in tweeting insults to individual reporters and journalists calling them names or berating them. During a debate in January 2016 moderator Megyn Kelly, a Fox journalist questioned Trump over his statements about women. Trump later tweeted his anger by calling her a lightweight reporter because the term ‘bimbo’ in his world, would be politically incorrect. For Megyn Kelly, Trump’s idea of an apology came after a whole nine months and for others, it never arrived. All of these are just a few of the instances of Trump’s confrontation with media that gained larger attention.
Throughout his campaign, Trump openly lashed out at the press and insulted several journalists. He has made public, his mistrust in the press and further strained the relationship with his comments and behaviour. Routinely he has called the press as ‘dishonest’ and ‘scum’. In his recurring tirades against ‘the dishonest media’, Trump made worrisome statements triggering concerns for the safety of journalists. He warned at various rallies, his plans to broaden libel laws and keep a check on the press. He ensured that journalists were treated with utmost hostility at his rallies.
Unsurprisingly, in the October of 2016, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) passed a resolution declaring Trump as a threat to journalist’s rights. The chairman of CPJ board in a statement said, “Donald Trump, through his words and actions as a candidate for the President of the United States, has consistently betrayed First Amendment values,” and further added, “Since the beginning of his candidacy, Trump has vilified and insulted the press and has made his opposition to the media a centrepiece to his campaign.”
At a press conference held in June 2016, when was asked if he would continue such behaviour if he became the President, Trump’s astounding reply was, “You think I’m gonna change? I am not gonna change.”
Most sections of media have called out Trump on his comments and criticised his behaviour but it has had slight impact. After the confrontational exchange of January 11, 2017 between Trump and CNN White House correspondent Acosta, it is clear that the President-Elect has not sobered down on his open hostility towards the media even after his win.
It is wishful thinking to hope that Trump’s bullying of the media does not escalate to intimidation and detention by use of terror or insult laws for which Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan is infamous.
Lack of unity among the journalism fraternity will come with heavy costs and if Trump’s behaviour as a President goes unchecked, the damage will be heavier. Now more than ever, the media must stand together and stand against any-one who in any capacity becomes a threat to democratic values and freedoms of the press. Silence and cowering in fear are not the answers which the media should choose. Fragmented voices of dissent are also not enough. The times call for a stronger response, and hopefully the media will collectively rise to respond accordingly.
Trump’s behaviour towards the media suggests that he is insecure and afraid of it. But the question begs to be asked, is the Media afraid of Trump?