Trump Attacks on Media Reliably Drive NYT Into Hysterics: 'Ugly Edge' 'Will Get People Hurt'

August 24th, 2017 1:56 PM

New York Times media reporter Jim Rutenberg dominated the front page of Business Day Thursday, showing his paranoia towards Trump and his media-loathing fans in “Target Practice – Trump’s latest attack on journalism has a particularly ugly edge.” His colleague, columnist Nicholas Kristof, warned that "Trump will get people hurt" via his rhetorical attacks on his enemies in the press.

Rutenberg, whose paper touts its surge in digital subscriptions under Trump, wrote:

Every time you think President Trump’s anti-press rhetoric can’t get worse, he finds a way of surprising you and not surprising you all at the same time....

Yet there he was in Phoenix on Tuesday, telling a crowd of thousands of ardent supporters that journalists were “sick people” who he believes “don’t like our country,” and are “trying to take away our history and our heritage.”

The moment matters. Mr. Trump’s latest attack on the media came at a time of heightened racial tension stoked by a white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville, Va., and continuing now in the national debate over removing statues that commemorate Confederate figures from the Civil War. Mr. Trump’s speech in Phoenix reprised a question spawned by his raucous rallies during the presidential campaign: How long before someone is seriously hurt, or worse?

Rutenberg devoted half a sentence to the violence in Charlottesville against journalists, committed by the left-wing “anti-fascist” goons of Antifa, before swinging back to those scary Trump supporters.

“Coming off the violence in Charlottesville, with tensions so high and the kindling so dry, it felt like President Trump was playing recklessly with fire, singling out a specific group of people -- the media -- for disliking America and trying to erase our country’s heritage,” Jim VandeHei, chief executive of the Axios news website, told me. “He’s just wrong to paint so wildly with such a broad brush, and, worse, putting reporters at real risk of retribution or violence.”

(In a passionate appeal on Twitter on Wednesday, Mr. VandeHei posted the following message: “To family/friends who support Trump: What he said last night was despicable, extremely deceptive, dangerous.”)

The president’s remarks on Tuesday were diciest for the news organizations that he identified by name.

“When you see 15,000 people turn on your colleagues behind a rope, yeah, you worry about it,” George Stephanopoulos, the chief anchor for ABC News, told me on Wednesday. Mr. Trump insulted Mr. Stephanopoulos personally in Phoenix while singling out his news organization.

After half-heartedly conceding that the threats have been purely rhetorical (no flurry of subpoenas yet from the Justice Department targeting leaks), Rutenberg wrote:

But to dismiss Mr. Trump’s rhetoric would be to disregard the risk of violence that comes with the kind of presidential incitement we saw Tuesday night.....

Yes, mistrust of the media was growing even before Mr. Trump emerged on the political scene. But this much is unmistakable: The president is significantly adding to what is, without question, the worst anti-press atmosphere I’ve seen in 25 years in journalism, and real, chilling consequences have surfaced, not just in the United States, but around the world.

Look at how People’s Daily of China disputed reports about the torture that the human rights lawyer Xie Yang said he had endured at the hands of government interrogators, calling it “Fake News,” and how Cambodia threatened to expel foreign news organizations, including Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, because of Mr. Trump’s assertions that reporters were dishonest.

Not sure if authoritarian regimes like China and Cambodia need Trump’s high-sign to persecute their own people.

Some of the most disturbing moves against the press this year stem from a new brand of anti-media vigilantism. And this has been a particularly bad week for that, too...

As if proving its point of a media hostile to any Republicans, he went back to Clinton press secretary turned ABC Sunday talk show host for confirmation:


What seemed to particularly sting on Wednesday was the way that Mr. Trump had impugned journalists’ patriotism.

“Claim bias. Fine. Claim elitism. Fine,” Mr. VandeHei of Axios wrote on Twitter. “But to say reporters erase America’s heritage, don’t love America, turn off cameras to hide truth, are to blame for racial tension, is just plain wrong.”

It’s an old theme for Rutenberg, who claimed back in April to find ominous parallels between a Russian press persecuted under Vladimir Putin and the American media. To the hysterical media, repression of the press is perpetually dawning under the Trump administration, but never actually arrives.

A Twitchy headline responding to a tweet-out of Rutenberg’s story drily noted how rhetorical threats against the media get more furrowed-brow coverage than actual threats recently carried out against Republican lawmakers, like Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana: “New York Times asks how long before someone is hurt or worse, neglects to consult GOP baseball team.”

Columnist Nicholas Kristof piled on Trump in his pleading entry Thursday, “We’re Journalists, Not the Enemy.” After two paragraphs of throat-clearing, admitting that “we in the national media are often out of touch with working-class America, and distressingly often, we are lap dogs instead of watchdogs. Yet for all our failings, journalism remains an indispensable constraint on power. ”

Kristof visualized the White House briefing room as the new Aleppo.

....When Trump galvanizes crowds against reporters in the room, I worry that we may lose journalists in the line of duty not only in places like Syria but also right here at home. Trump will get people hurt.

Kristof made the same facile comparison as Rutenberg of U.S. reporters facing the same dangers as those under authoritarian regimes. (He left off our neighbor Mexico, where reporting on drug kingpins can get you killed.)

I also worry that Trump is buoying the repressive instincts of dictators around the world. Since Trump’s election, I’ve been denied entry by Venezuela, Congo, South Sudan and Yemen, an unusual number of countries -- and I wonder if foreign leaders believe that it is now easier to deny access to troublesome American journalists now that they are reviled by their own president.

After suggesting Trump “has always had a soft spot for racists,” he ventured further:

Yet another possibility, which previously was mostly whispered but is increasingly openly discussed even by members of Congress, is that our president is mentally unstable.

After unwittingly undermining his argument about Trump’s threat to the media by saying that subscriptions to news organizations have risen, Kristof stood up for his profession as a “bulwark of democracy” and “the principles on which our country was founded” (never mind the paper’s bizarrely ambivalent attitude toward free speech).