Is AP Throwing a Temper Tantrum Over Losing Its Press Briefing Priority?

January 25th, 2017 5:32 PM

Since last decade, it's been White House tradition that the press secretary typically calls on an Associated Press reporter to ask the first question at briefings.

Trump administration Press Secretary Sean Spicer has not selected AP for the first question at either of his first two briefings, and numerous press outlets have noted that avoidance. It's more than fair to ask, given the tone of the AP's Trump administration coverage so far this week, whether the wire service's reporters are now carrying a horribly unprofessional grudge, causing them to become even more hostile in their reporting than they were during the 2016 election campaign and the presidential transition. (Update, Jan. 26: They definitely are.)


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Obama Press Secretary Josh Earnest called upon an AP reporter first on January 13, where Obama groupie Darlene Superville got first dibs; January 12 (Vivian Salama); and January 11, (Josh Lederman). On Monday, Spicer first called on a reporter from the New York Post. On Tuesday, it was someone from Laura Ingraham's LifeZette. The universe has not come to a screeching halt.

Any doubt readers may have that AP's reporters have for some reason gone further off the deep end than ever should be erased upon reading the following opening passage in Tuesday's dispatch from Julie "I'm Proud We Hid Obama's Iran Negotiations" Pace and Jonathan Lemire (bolds are mine):

Donald Trump holds the most powerful office in the world. But he's dogged by insecurity over his loss of the popular vote in the election and a persistent frustration that the legitimacy of his presidency is being challenged by Democrats and the media, aides and associates say.

Trump's fixation has been a drag on the momentum of his opening days in office, with his exaggerations about inauguration crowds and false assertions about illegal balloting intruding on advisers' plans to launch his presidency with a flurry of actions on the economy. His spokesman Sean Spicer has twice stepped into the fray himself, including on Tuesday, when he doubled down on Trump's false claim that he lost the popular vote because 3 million to 5 million people living in the U.S. illegally cast ballots.

To be clear, one can contend that President Trump has bigger fish to fry than to talk about the degree of voter fraud which occurred in the general election or the size of the crowd at his inauguration, which appears to have at least drawn the second-largest TV viewing audience ever (perhaps the largest, if streaming viewership could be compiled and included). As to media coverage, he can't stop fighting that because there are no signs that the press plans on stopping its negative, fake-news campaign against him.

But what special mind-reading talents do Pace, Lemire, or these conveniently unnamed and not proven to actually exist "aides and associates" possess (given that it's AP, readers can be forgiven for believing that the "aides and associates" really don't exist) which tells them without any hint of doubt that the only possible "analysis" of the situation is that Trump is "dogged by insecurity" and "persistent frustration"? The answer is that they don't have these talents, and that such renderings are objectively unprofessional and irresponsible, and likely immature and agenda-driven.

Isn't it more than a little likely that Donald Trump is simply quite justifiably angry about all of this bias, and that there's no other psychological baggage involved? Barack Obama, for all of the fawning press references to his supposed "cool," had quite a temper himself, not to mention an obsessive fixation on repeating statements that were proven lies (remember "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan"?) and, based on how many times he referred to himself in his speeches, quite the outsized ego.

We should also note that Trump's concerns, despite AP's implication, haven't prevented a genuine "flurry of actions on the economy" from occurring.

AP and other press outlets continue to erroneously describe the popular vote as something which was "won" or "lost." The 2016 presidential was not a popular-vote contest. The election was a contest over who could accumulate a majority of Electoral College votes.

As to Trump's illegal voting claim, the correct word to describe it is not "wrong" or "debunked." It is, as seen in this CBS News story, "unproven." Another correct adjective would be "unsubstantiated." It would be proper for the press to save three other words its members have routinely used in this matter — "false," "debunked" and "wrong" — until after the results of the "major investigation" Trump announced Wednesday morning are released. But it won't happen. (Because so many states now irresponsibly run their voter-registration systems on an "honor system," it remains sadly possible that Trump's claim will remain in the "unproven" column even after the completion of the just-announced investigation.)

If — note that I'm saying "if," because, unlike AP, I'm not pretending to know what's in their heads — the Associated Press is reacting to the fact that Sean Spicer isn't treating its reporters with kid gloves and providing it special privileges like the Obama administration did by sending its reporters on an apparent single-minded mission to destroy the 45th President of the United States, all I can say is: Get over yourselves, grow up, and for heaven's sake get back to the job the Founders envisioned when they wrote the First Amendment.