Jeff Mason of Reuters and Carol Lee of The Wall Street Journal are the incoming and outgoing presidents of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA), and drew a load of negative attention from liberal media critics for implying -- in a USA Today op-ed -- an equivalence between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in their attempts to control and manipulate reporters.
Michael Calderone of The Huffington Post (and as he mentioned, Erik Wemple of The Washington Post) insist Donald Trump is far worse for restricting access to reporters he doesn't like.
Clinton’s refusal to hold a news conference for more than seven months deserves criticism, and White House reporters should be concerned about the precedent being set. If elected president, would Clinton ever meet with the press?
Still, the Trump campaign’s treatment of the press has been far more troubling, including onerous restrictions at events, gratuitous swipes at journalists, threats of opening libel laws, physical attacks and operating a media blacklist that is unprecedented in American politics.
The framing of Lee and Mason’s piece, titled “Trump, Clinton both threaten free press,” was described by The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple as an “absurd false equivalence.”
“On balance, though, Trump is a hazard to the media; Clinton runs from it,” Wemple wrote. “Veteran reporters like Lee and Mason are trained to draw such distinctions, yet they appear to believe that the concept of fairness requires a finding of equal culpability between the presidential contenders.”
Calderone makes no attempt to explain how much more accessible Trump has been to reporters, and Wemple feels forced to admit it as he lists a litany of Trump horrors:
Trump has shown not only a personal animus toward independent, investigative reporting, via bans on certain outlets and insults hurled at particular reporters; he has also vowed to somehow pursue a policy — loosening libel laws — that would cripple criticism of elected officials. If elected, he’d turn the White House into a staging area for non-disclosure agreements. And to give credit where it’s due, he has made himself extraordinarily available to certain media outlets.
Both these gentlemen find no place in their liberal editorials to note that the most hostile president toward the press in recent history is unquestionably Barack Obama. He has shown a personal animus toward independent reporting by starting more leak probes than any other president. He has made "gratuitous swipes" at particular reporters, and in fact has routinely demonized an entire channel -- Fox News -- as a fact-impaired obstacle to democracy.
These men should just admit that they grant a much wider berth to liberal politicians. Obama's hostility to the press costs him next to nothing in the tone of his press notices. Obama's bashing of Fox News endears him to the liberal media. Inside their insular bubble, they lamely consider themselves the objective arbiters of fact, even as they consider it fair (in the case of Calderone's site) to run an acidulous Trump diatribe (serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist
Hillary's failure to submit herself to press scrutiny likewise costs her next to nothing in the tone of her press clips. When she submits herself to interviews, they've been sappy and toothless -- see the anodyne TV questioning after the strange Comey non-indictment. The press that claims to value "independence" and "investigation" seem to think those don't apply when they cover the Clintons, and they actually hound Republicans (see Chuck Todd) when they dare to investigate Clinton scandals that the press doesn't want investigated.
The Trump aide's sorry manhandling of Michelle Fields is somewhat matched by the Clinton campaign's roping journalists like cattle. But again, they don't seem to find that embarrassing (or even worth remembering) when they compare the two candidates. Trump has been an arrogant, hypersensitive, fact-mangling candidate....and guess what? The record shows Hillary Clinton is, too.