Instead of grading President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, I take a look on “Full Measure” at how news reporters have done covering the administration.
It’s clearly not a pretty picture. What follows are interviews with Howard Kurtz, the Fox News media critic and former Washington Post reporter, and Frank Sesno, the former CNN anchor who is now the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. Both have some very critical things to say about the media, as well as about Trump.
First, my interview with Howard Kurtz.
Sharyl Attkisson: What are the general differences you see in the press coverage between Donald Trump versus what you saw with President [Barack] Obama?
Howard Kurtz: Well, President Obama, famously got a very easy ride in the 2008 campaign and he never got the kind of sustained, personal criticism that this president gets just about every day.
Attkisson: How has the media coverage changed since President Trump has been elected?
Kurtz: Given that the media were so spectacularly wrong about Donald Trump during the campaign … I thought we would see a little bit of a course correction. … Beginning with the transition and after the president took office, there was virtually no honeymoon, which is traditional. The negative tone has kept up.
Attkisson: It seems like there has been an unprecedented blurring, an accepted blurring between the lines of reporters who report the facts and those who then editorialize very widely on their own broadcasts.
Kurtz: They’re snarky on Twitter, they’re going on TV, they’re slinging their opinions, and these lines got blurred. President Trump has been obliterated because it is deemed acceptable in many quarters to say negative things about this president, to say snarky things, to doubt his word.
You know, the anchors of a network evening newscast have a special place, people still look to them to be fair arbiters of the news. And language Scott Pelley uses while on CBS, when he comes out and essentially calls President Trump a liar, may win him applause from some in the mainstream media but it seems to cross a very clear line.
But Kurtz says Trump also has crossed a clear line.
Kurtz: When he uses phrases like mainstream media, “fake news,” “enemy of the American people,” that in my view goes a little too far.
And now my interview with Frank Sesno, the former CNN news anchor:
Sesno: There was no honeymoon period in this administration. … I think that the first 100 days, which should have been if not a honeymoon at least a time when we can go out and have dinner nicely together, were not that.
Attkisson: The media really missed the mark during the campaign. What has the media done, if anything, to self-correct, that you’ve seen?
Sesno: Well, they haven’t done enough to self-correct in my view. What was missed in the campaign was ear-to-the-ground, gumshoe reporting, to hear what people are experiencing and feeling.
The political filter has never been as thick and obscuring as it is now. … We have more politics in our coverage. We have more ideology in our media. This is where the media are going to have to make a stand, and you know, [The] Washington Post’s [new slogan] “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” … that sounds like a sequel to a Batman movie but it’s also both a calling and a flag in the ground.
This is a different ballgame. We’ve always had an aggressive press, we’ve always had a political press, we’ve always had a snarky White House press. But this is different. I think it’s different because Donald Trump has singled out the press and their treatment. He’s declared war on the press.