There is nothing subtle about President Trump’s latest tweet about the media. The president made explicitly clear on Wednesday that his definition of “fake” news is “negative” and wondered, “Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?”
The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2018
The implication is that the White House will restrict press access if journalists do not cover Trump more favorably. The tweet is a naked attempt at punishment, something Trump has tried before.
Trump denied press credentials to various news outlets, including The Washington Post, during the 2016 campaign but did not accomplish much. Reporters could still attend and cover Trump’s rallies; they just had to stand in line with the general public. Trump ultimately tore up his media blacklist.
More disruptive was Trump’s refusal to allow journalists to travel aboard his campaign plane. He frustrated reporters in September 2016 when he scheduled a last-minute trip to Mexico to meet with its president, Enrique Peña Nieto, and sent his press plane to Phoenix, where he would deliver an immigration speech later in the day.
Two weeks later, Trump told a crowd in New Hampshire that he had “really good news.”
“I just heard that the press is stuck on their airplane,” Trump said in Laconia. “They can’t get here. I love it. So they’re trying to get here now. They’re going to be about 30 minutes late. They called us and said, ‘Could you wait?’ I said absolutely not. Let’s get going. Right?”
Since his election, Trump has toyed with various means of curbing media access, ostensibly to remind journalists that they are, to some extent, at his mercy.
During his transition into office, Trump repeatedly ditched the pool of reporters that traditionally follows a president or president-elect almost everywhere. He also considered kicking reporters out of the White House briefing room and workspace and moving them next door to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Trump told Fox News before his inauguration that the White House briefing room “is too small. So we said we’re going to move it to a larger room in a nearby area, but not the same area, and the press went crazy, so I said let’s not move it.”
When Sean Spicer served as White House press secretary, he frequently held briefings off camera and even forbade live audio broadcasts of his question-and-answer sessions with reporters.
Around this time last year, Trump floated the idea of scrapping briefings altogether.
…Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future “press briefings” and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
In his brief tenure as White House communications director last summer, Anthony Scaramucci reestablished consistent, on-camera media briefings, which have continued. But according to CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins, Trump often contemplates yanking press credentials.
Fox News host Sean Hannity, an informal Trump adviser, has publicly questioned the need to keep reporters in the White House and endorsed the idea of banning certain outlets such as The Post and the New York Times.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) May 9, 2018
Trump has a mixed record of following through on threats against the media, but his apparent aim is to make journalists so nervous about access that they will ease up when covering him.