By Parker Ortolani
President Trump called CNN “fake news” at his press conference last week after they reported on a leaked component of an intelligence briefing containing damning accusations of Trump participating in tasteless acts with prostitutes in Russia. It was quite a spectacle, considering this entire debacle feels abnormal and unprecedented. As journalist Jim Acosta stood up to ask the then president-elect a question, Trump shut him down and then declared his employer, CNN, a bearer of “fake news.”
This piece is not necessarily a criticism of Donald Trump, but rather an examination of his goals. He is clearly not fond of the press and when news outlets publish something that he deems inappropriate, he punishes them publicly. Donald Trump laid down his law during this rare appearance, asserting himself as the iron-fisted leader he has promised to be throughout the campaign. This was about him setting a precedent that, while dangerous, is not surprising.
There are several pieces to this grossly confusing puzzle. The first is that CNN had every right to report on those documents as they were a part of a national intelligence briefing, whether they are accurate or not.
If these documents are deemed important enough for a presidential briefing, then the public deserves to know about them too. The incredibly popular website Buzzfeed also published the entire 35 page document detailing the event. Trump later declared Buzzfeed a “failing pile of garbage” during his press conference.
I will defend Buzzfeed for the same reasons that I defended CNN. Yes, Trump reserves the right to call them left-leaning organizations just as these news outlets reserve the right to call out Donald Trump for any unsavory facts they find on him.
This event is seemingly less about CNN and more about Donald Trump. He obviously prefers to have a direct line to his constituents rather than having outlets put their own spin on his announcements and achievements.
This is why the President uses Twitter to communicate with his fans. He wants people to pay attention to him, not CNN and the news media. He wants us to believe everything he says and tweets.
President Trump is simply trying to remove the fact-checking component that is so crucial to keeping the executive branch in check.
My biggest concern with all of this is that people will fall for Trump’s act. As he earned tens of millions of votes, there certainly are many people who do not care that he is a serial liar or that he has claimed on video that he can sexually assault women because of his fame. Many of those same people, Trump supporters, now have healthcare thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
It does not make any sense why these people voted for a candidate who vows to remove the healthcare plan that has supported them. They voted for him without ever hearing a proposed plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, and not just repeal it. His supporters are willing to see past his lies, inappropriate behavior and crudeness because of his bombast.
Our fear should not be that CNN and Buzzfeed are reporting news with bias; rather, it should be that Trump will overshadow reputable news outlets. We cannot let him forgo the press that is supposed to keep an eye on him.
This should be troubling for both Democrats and Republicans, this is not a partisan issue. Both sides reserve the right to disagree with reporting that is biased against their beliefs. They both have every right to share their opinions.
We should be worried about fake news on social media. Both parties should fear Trump going after the press. Freedom of the press is a staple of our democracy and no president should be allowed to tamper with it.
All of this is troubling because Donald Trump is not only new to government, but seems to have a radically wrong idea of how government actually works.
Many people keep saying that we need to give Trump a chance. Those same people were the ones who refused to give Barack Obama a chance eight years ago. No one will deny that Trump is a very different kind of president, one that we have not really seen before. The closest comparison I can make is to Richard Nixon, and we all know how that turned out.
Something that appears to be one of Trump’s top priorities is to expose the inner workings of a media the public distrusts. At his first press conference of the year as president, he has already attacked two media giants. His reaction to this event gave us a preview of the kind of president he plans to be.
Whether you like it or not, Donald Trump is the President of the United States now.
Parker Ortolani, FCRH ’20, is a communication and media studies major from Buffalo, New York.