Whatever else Donald Trump may be, he’s a new kind of politician. He’s not afraid of the press. He doesn’t drop to the fetal position, cowering as if pleading for a little mercy, when The New York Times or The Washington Post — or CNN News — cries boo! The approved reaction to lies and slanders for a pol is to smile and take it, with the hope that accusations of being “undisciplined” or “thin skinned” will die with the next news cycle.
This stuns some of the journalists, who are not accustomed to being called for their own mistakes. The skeptical old editor in a green eyeshade and with a sharpened blue pencil, warning reporters that “if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out,” has gone to the great newsroom in the sky. When the president-elect declined to take a question from CNN at his press conference last week because the network promoted a faked “dossier” of his sins and shortcomings, mostly imagined by opposition research groups, reporters in the audience went berserk. In the Donald’s judgment CNN has become a purveyor of “fake news.”
CNN’s Don Lemon, regarded as unreliable in his own shop after he got spectacularly drunk on camera in a New Year’s Eve broadcast from New Orleans, asks how Mr. Trump would like it if reporters dismissed him as a “fake president.” That’s exactly the verdict of the legacy media, so called, and the president-elect obviously doesn’t like it — hence his calling out CNN. Mr. Lemon is hardly the correspondent to ask the question. He’s a fan of fake news, and sometimes doesn’t recognize it when he sees the real thing.
He watched the horrific video of four young hoodlums torturing a young man of diminished abilities, and rejected the universal verdict that the torture was what any civilized man or woman would recognize as pure evil. No, Mr. Lemon said, it was only behavior of the young deprived of good “home training.” In 2014 he solved the famous mystery of the missing Malaysian airliner, speculating that the plane probably vanished into a “black hole” in space.
CNN, like much of that legacy media, has not a clue to what the stunning 2016 election was all about. An anvil chorus of media voices join those who can’t give up the campaign that ended for everybody else two months ago. The media has a responsibility and duty to press every president with sharp, legitimate questions, questions that the president won’t like. The president has a corollary right — he should regard it as a duty — to choose whom he will take a question from. Any veteran of a presidential press conference understands the feeling of frustration when the president passes over them to take a question from someone else.
Mr. Trump is obviously not CNN’s idea of what a president ought to be. Fair enough. The network has a right to its opinion. But fair-minded readers and viewers of the news have a right to expect the purveyors of the news to purvey actual news. Posing tough questions to presidents and other leaders is one of the things that makes America great, but myths and other “fake news” posing as the real thing deserve the contempt of everyone.