It all really began with Sam Donaldson. Back in the days of Ronald Reagan, the brash and cantankerous reporter with the worst toupee in television history made his name by yelling at the president. He’d yell at him at White House events, on the South Lawn (where Reagan would pretend he couldn’t hear Donaldson over the chopper blades of Marine One), even in the Rose Garden.
His aggressiveness (read: bad behavior) made Donaldson one of the first “star” reporters at the White House. (He was voted best television correspondent in 1986, ‘87, ‘88 and ‘89 by readers of the Washington Journalism Review.) Sure, there had been other famous reporters (early Helen Thomas, Bill Plante, Merriman Smith), but all of them conducted themselves with the proper decorum and respect when covering the White House.
Since then, it’s only gotten worse. Bill Clinton got a pass from the mostly liberal mainstream media, but when George W. Bush took office, the White House press corps went to hell.
Chief among the “journalists” who sought fame covering the White House was NBC News’ David Gregory. He rudely interrupted Mr. Bush at press conferences and berated White House press secretary Scott McClellan at daily briefings. Mr. Bush had a name for it: “Peacocking.” And it worked for Mr. Gregory: He blasted up the ladder at NBC and eventually took over as host of “Meet the Press” (at least until the show’s ratings got so bad that the network canned him).
And now, with Donald Trump as president, it’s all exploded. There’s no decorum at all at the White House anymore. “Journalists” routinely go on extended rants, yell at the press secretary, and grandstand in the briefing room with lengthy (and heavily biased) speeches.
Like last week, when Brian Karem, who the Daily Mail says is “a Playboy magazine writer who covers the White House for a tiny Maryland newspaper,” went on a tirade.
When press secretary Sarah Sanders explained the administration’s stance on immigration, Mr. Karem jumped in, yelling at Mrs. Sanders.
“You’re a parent! Don’t you have any empathy? Come on, Sarah!” he yelled. “You’re a parent! Don’t you have any empathy for what these people are going through? They have less than you do! Sarah, come on! Seriously!”
Mrs. Sanders was cool. “Brian. Gosh. Settle down. I’m trying to be serious, but I’m not going to have you yell out of turn.” As she tried to move on, Mr. Karem yelled over the room. “‘You’re telling us this is the law, and these people have nothing! They come here with nothing!” he shouted.
Mrs. Sanders got the last word. “I know you want to get some more TV time, but that’s not what this is about. I’m not going to recognize you,” she said.
The next day, CNN actually interviewed Mr. Karem about his outburst. He offered a self-serving (and pretentious) apology, then declared: “I am extremely angry at this administration that has lied to me, continues to lie to me. … I’m sorry that as a reporter for so long I thought that I … I forgot that my job is to comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable and ask questions for those that have no voice.”
Mr. Karem is following the lead of CNN’s Jim Acosta, who routinely attacks Mrs. Sanders and interrupts Mr. Trump. While Mr. Trump was signing a document with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week, Mr. Acosta shouted: “Mr. President, did we agree to denuclearize?” After the two leaders exited, Mr. Acosta was caught on a hot mic saying, “Hey, if they’re not going to let me in the f—-ing meeting, then that’s what happens,” according to The Gateway Pundit.
The new fame seekers in the White House are following the lead of liberals nationwide, like late-night talk show hosts, B-list actors and mediocre comedians. After comedian Samantha Bee called first daughter Ivanka Trump a “feckless c—t,” Kathy Griffin — who made headlines when she released photos showing her holding a bloody decapitated head that looked like Trump — came out and called first lady Melania Trump a “feckless piece of s—t.”
The Trump White House, fed up with the “peacocking,” experimented with off-air briefings. Everything was on the record, but with no cameras, they reasoned, there’d be no grandstanding. It didn’t work.
Mr. Trump, who has decried fake news for years, even once suggested pulling the White House passes from some “journalists.”
“The Fake News is working overtime,” he tweeted in May. “Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?”
But that won’t work, either. The new paradigm is attack — as crudely and profanely as possible — in the esteemed mission to “ask questions for those that have no voice.”
The idea now is, make headlines. BE the news. Yes, America, that’s the state of journalism today. Fake news indeed.
⦁ Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.