‘Fake News’ and ‘Garbage’ were the words Donald Trump used to express his disgust at CNN’s and BuzzFeed’s blunder.
In his first press conference since July 27, the President-elect conceded that Russia was behind the hacking of some democratic institutions in the election campaign, saying ‘I think it was Russia’.
Responding to reporters’ questions over the disconcerting claims, reported by CNN and BuzzFeed that Russia had the material to bribe the Republican, Trump staunchly denied the allegations. Instead, he focused attention on the contentious topic of ‘fake news’, causing in-fighting between media networks.
In his last press conference 168 days ago, Trump controversially spoke directly to Russia saying, ‘ Russia if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing’ from Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Yesterday afternoon, the relationship that Donald Trump is pursuing with Russia was under close scrutiny from the American media.
When CNN led with the story that Intelligence chiefs presented Trump with ‘claims of Russian efforts to compromise him’, there was an explosive reaction. It was certainly a headline-grabbing story. BuzzFeed then released the synopsis of this meeting between Trump, Obama and the Intelligence Services, with the documents explicitly claiming Russia to have evidence of a sexual act performed by Trump in Russia and that they could use this as material to bribe him when facing diplomatic disagreements. It also suggested that Trump’s team had been in talks with Russian officials over hacking Hillary Clinton’s email server in the election campaign.
However, as the day continued the claims soon became scrutinised. Once analysed it was clear that CNN and BuzzFeed had reported allegations that were later admitted as being ‘unfounded’.
The epitome of free and quality journalism, The New York Times decided to not publish these claims, explaining their reason:
Because the 35 pages of memos prepared as opposition research on Mr. Trump contain detailed claims that neither the intelligence agencies nor The Times have been able to verify, the editors decided to briefly summarize the claims and not publish the document.
This is a valuable lesson from the prestigious newspaper. It is paramount that journalists, before informing their trusting audience that their stories are based on confirmed information, double source their claims. CNN and BuzzFeed have made a grave error. Whether these claims are true or not, they are too potentially damaging not to be handled with care.
The claims that these media organisations made against the President-elect have the potential to scar his reputation and standing with the US electorate. For such an explosive headline, you would have expected better journalism.
In a period of hostility towards the US press, where voters see journalists as part of a Washington elite that supports each other, errors on this scale are only adding to the violent fire of criticism and mistrust.
The President-elect vigorously denied these claims and then even joked about the references to sexual acts performed by him. ‘I’m a germophobe’, he joked. However, CNN had little time for laughter. A once respected news outlet was now refused a question. To the anger of CNN’s Washington correspondent, Donald Trump branded CNN as ‘fake news’ and ‘terrible’. He also called BuzzFeed ‘ a failing piece of Garbage’.
By attacking the messengers and not the content of these damaging claims, the President-elect performed yet again, an ingenious strategic move in determining the news media’s narrative.
He admitted for the first time that Russia had been behind the hacking of some key democratic organisations, and also said that ‘ they tried to hack the RNC’. In addition, Trump said that he was preparing the USA against a possible hack. Adding that he shall ‘form a defence against hackers’ — something he suggested the DNC hadn’t done in the election campaign, claiming this to be the reason behind the hacking into the party.
If this is a brief look into the future, it is guaranteed to be an interesting and turbulent four years ahead.
A constant theme throughout the press conference was how the President-elect distanced himself from the journalists in the room and the dirty politics that have caused many American voters to back him in his bid to become president, on the fervour of his promise ‘to drain the swamp’.
Trump is not a great orator. He sounds very monotonous and evidently struggles to stay on script, frequently glancing to the side in order to read the autocue rather than address his audience directly. Regardless, it is Donald Trump’s words and not his conveyance of the scripts that call to the ‘lost’ Americans — those who feel abandoned by the US Government.
Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp in Washington, but he seems to be doing much more: turning the system around. Previously, respected people are now at the front of public criticism. However, this is dangerous water for the Republican. Intelligence is what any president needs to be successfully in control of American security, so he needs to tread cautiously.
Trump also engages with the people at home, by running the press conference like an entertainment show. When announcing David J. Shulkin as the new Veterans Affairs Secretary, he revealed a piece of paper from his pocket as if he was reading the result of a talent show. This showbiz-like take on Washington politics doesn’t just distance Trump from previous administrations, it makes politics appeal to a different type of American — one who’s not particularly interested in the details of policy or the drama that appears as journalistic hyperbole.
In a blatant snub to the interests of Washington journalists, Trump said: ‘the only people that care about my tax returns is the media’. A remark that allows the President-elect to almost appear friends with the public and at odds with the portrayed ‘swamp’. Trump has drawn his battle lines. Already CNN and BuzzFeed have fallen victim to Trump’s army of angry Americans.
Amid all this frenzy however, there were some serious indications of the policies Trump will act upon once president. He confirmed that he would replace Obama Care rather than just scrap the policy. This avoids patients falling off the cliff edge (if I can use that unfortunate metaphor in UK politics at the moment!) and finding themselves suddenly without healthcare insurance.
Trump , with his usual modesty, described himself as the ‘greatest job producer God ever created’. He promised to turn international competition for jobs between the USA and Mexico into a regional battle among states. He also promised to save and create more jobs within America’s car industry, an industry that encapsulates the wider aspects of previous economic struggles in places like Detroit.
The President-elect said that dealing with ISIS was ‘number one tricky’.
To the media and fellow politicians, to call Putin an ‘asset’ is dangerous. To Donald Trump that is him talking to the ‘real people of America’ — those lost voters who secured his presidency. In seven days America will have a new president. It will be a new regime with a new political playbook. As we approach inauguration day, Donald Trump has caused the media to fall out with themselves, politicians to run scared of his messages, but voters to embrace the change that they voted for.
The President-elect described his election victory as a ‘movement like the world has never seen before’. Following yesterday’s conference, I can say with steely confidence, that the Presidency of Donald Trump will be like something the world has never seen before.