We learned three things on Monday about the relationship between cable news and the incoming autocratic regime of Donald Trump and his neo-Nazi cabal. Each one of these three things is more disturbing than the last.
First, we learned that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough has been informally advising Donald Trump on media relations. Media Matters compiled the following:
On November 19, The New York Times reported that Trump “still maintains the routine that sustained him during the campaign,” which includes “often seek[ing] out” advice from Scarborough. CNN media reporter Brian Stelter referenced the Times report on the November 20 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, stating that Scarborough "has been giving Trump advice.” Scarborough failed to address the allegations during the November 21 edition of Morning Joe.
Of course, at no time did Scarborough disclose the fact that he was consulting with Trump, even while Scarborough was covering for Trump's misdeeds every morning for four hours a day (so much for the allegedly "liberal" cable network). Furthermore, don't hold your breath waiting for the MSNBC morning show to report on the perpetual clusterfuck that is the Trump transition.
Meanwhile, on CNN, the normalization of neo-Nazis and autocracy continues. This time, the following happened:
Yes, because this is an issue that demands a debate featuring both sides of this "are Jews actual people?" argument. Video of the segment hasn't been posted as of this writing, but it's not difficult to imagine the introduction: Trump voter thinks Jews aren't people. Here to discuss: a guy who thinks they are, and a guy who thinks they're not.
And finally, Donald Trump summoned a gathering of news media leadership to Trump Tower today. The group included A-listers like Lester Holt, Wolf Blitzer, George Stephanopoulos and Jeff Zucker. According to The New York Post, they thought they were supposed to learn about press access to the incoming administration and perhaps a thing or two about how the administration planned to handle the White House press corp.
Oh, were they wrong.
It turns out, Trump apparently used the opportunity to annihilate everyone in attendance.
“It was like a f—ing firing squad,” said one source.
“Trump started with Jeff Zucker and said I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed….
“The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing down,” the source added.
A second source confirmed the encounter.
So, this is how it's going to be. The host of MSNBC's morning show is in the pocket of the administration. The other not-Fox News network, CNN, is busily debating whether Jews are people. And, for its diligence in promoting Trump's regime, the incoming president basically put the entire press corp on notice -- that the Trump White House intends to be vocally hostile to the free press clause of the First Amendment.
Making matters worse, we can easily combine all of this with Trump's ongoing threat to "open up our libel laws" in order to sue the life out of anyone who insults or challenges Trump and his agenda. (The Supreme Court's ruling New York Times v. Sullivan mandates that anyone suing under defamation law has to prove that the reporter(s) in question knew they were publishing false information. Though the suit itself will surely ruin the defendants, burying them under mountains of legal fees, which I suppose is the point.)
Yes, I get it. No one likes the political press. But even with its myriad flaws, it's the only press we have, and it's the first line of non-governmental defense against executive overreach -- the likes of which will surely occur practically on an hourly basis during the Trump years.
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