Just over four months into his administration—at my time of writing—the American president’s assault on the media is worse than we feared. We wondered whether, with the persuasive powers of a real estate mogul who has bragged to the American public about how he had mastered “The Art of the Deal”, Trump might first try to woo the press, but that didn’t happen. Rather, Trump has made us into the enemy of the people, as he declared in a tweet in February, and then repeated the phrase at a conservative gathering a few days later, showing that he had no plans to reconsider the toxicity of his words, much less retract them.
Although we helped make Trump president by giving him non-stop coverage, by fawning over him with profiles of his fantastic wealth and by putting him on a television show, “The Apprentice”, in which he selected who would be eliminated (from the show, of course), Trump used us on the campaign trail as a scapegoat—and now is trying to convince Americans that the only real problem with his administration is how the “lying press” covers it.
“The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington, and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind,” Trump said in his final campaign ad played across millions of television stations and across social media. It happens that, with the exception of Hillary Clinton, all the faces shown as he intoned these words were Jewish.
At Trump’s rallies, reporters were confined to small, crowded pens, barred from moving around in the crowd to interview people as we normally would. Trump encouraged the crowd to jeer at them, and many reporters on the campaign trail reported being grabbed, shoved and slammed—sometimes by campaign staff. Jewish journalists in particular were subject to antisemitic harassment on social media, often by people associated with white supremacist groups.
Now that he’s in office, Trump’s campaign against the media has mushroomed, using language we couldn’t imagine hearing an American president use in the year 2017. Not only does he label entire papers and cable stations “fake news”, he calls us the lying media—a particularly chilling term because it’s on a direct loan from lügenpresse, the term the Nazis used.
Trump’s sole open press conference was a disastrous event in which he promulgated lies about the size of his electoral college win, calling it the biggest since Ronald Reagan (it wasn’t), and was markedly nasty and condescending to an Orthodox Jewish reporter, Jake Turx, and an African–African journalist, April Ryan. Particularly telling was how Trump approached taking a question from Turx: Trump first demanded to know if he was a “friendly reporter”, then accused him of lying for having asked something that was not a simple question—which was about the rise of antisemitic attacks in America.
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