An unprecedented and fierce battle is raging between US President Donald Trump and the American media. This is in stark contrast to Barack Obama’s presidential terms, which were mostly smooth except for a few occasions. Former President George W. Bush was subjected to fierce criticism but it isn’t anywhere close to what we have already witnessed during Trump’s term.
Despite the feud between former President Richard Nixon and the media, the argument which we remember well between him and journalist Dan Rather, and which only lasted for few seconds, is considered polite when compared to today’s standards.
The scene is exceptional these days as it is difficult to have someone else like Trump. Even journalists who are skilled at embellishing words and are cautious while doing their jobs have lost their calm. When famous Journalist Thomas Freidman was asked about Trump’s character during an interview, he said Trump “lies as he breathes.”
Republican writer David Brooks analyzed Trump before he became president and said he was pathetic and suffers from loneliness and narcissism. After Trump won the elections, Brooks said Trump will not be president for more than a year. There are other countless articles that ask the same question: “How do we get rid of this nightmare?”
The fiery press conference
The last confrontation was during a fiery press conference that lasted for more than an hour and a half. It was a fierce confrontation during which Trump chose to engage after journalists said he was avoiding them. Trump did not hesitate to accuse the media of hating him and described it as fake news media.
During the conference, a journalist corrected Trump’s false information and exposed contradictory stances pertaining to his national security advisor, Michael Flynn. “The leaks are real but the news is fake,” he said.
Trump won the first round when all major dailies and famous television stations stood against him and announced he is unfit for the presidency. They resorted to all methods that could take him down. They published scandalous audio recordings of him, wrote fiery articles about his problems, published reports about his relations with women and bankruptcies and allocated entire pages to investigate his university, which had closed its doors.
One of these would have been enough to bring any politician’s luck to an end but Trump is not a traditional politician. He does not even view himself as a politician to begin with. As he describes himself as someone who has come from outside Washington’s corrupt institutions to clean them.
Trump has used the media’s intensified attacks against him to suggest an alliance between political and media corruption in Washington and New York against himMamdouh AlMuhaini
This was one of the smart approaches Trump adopted to respond to the fierce media attack, which favored Hillary Clinton, a product of these institutions, and to address the popular base that’s disgruntled with the elite. Trump has used the media’s intensified attacks against him to suggest an alliance between political and media corruption in Washington and New York against him.
He repeatedly said that – just like a simple person who does not have any calculations – he believes in speaking without any hesitation or fear of precautions set by media and political figures. It is certain that this approach has worked for Trump. Its proven by the fact that he is now in the White House while Hillary Clinton is walking in the woods and writing children stories.
A new phase
The tussle has entered into a new phase now. Its signs were clear during the speech Trump delivered at the inauguration. The message is clear: Trump will not back out. Some described his speech as populist and naive while others called it shallow and lacking in eloquence, which people got used to with Obama.
This may be true but it was a simple, smart and direct speech addressed to his audience who voted for him. It was a note of thanks to them at becoming president of the greatest country in the world. During the inauguration, he told the gathered masses: “We are transferring power from Washington DC and giving it back to you, the people.” People chanted in joy. How does it matter then that CNN or the New York Times, believed to be the enemy, get angry afterwards?
But why does Trump continuously say it is a dishonest and fake news media? He repeats this in almost every Twitter message he writes. There’s a good reason he does that and he’s not foolish as we may think. The opposite is in fact true. Trump is adopting a successful strategy by repeating the same statements over and over again until it gets rooted in popular imagination.
He has done it before with candidate Jeb Bush and destroyed him during the presidential primaries describing him as “low energy”. The description just stuck to him. He called his other rival, Ted Cruz, “lying Ted” and repeated this until the idea crept into people’s mind. Trump is now doing this with the media, which he rightfully views as his first enemy and which publicly wants to bring him down. Through this approach, Trump is tarnishing the image of the media, which is clearly biased against him.
It will be difficult to believe what the media says about him even if it is true. Every time this “dishonest” and “fake news” media attacks Trump, it will add to his popularity and show him as the wronged party who is fighting to restore people’s stolen rights. Trump benefits the most from the media’s attack against him and it seems he is enjoying it. Every time he is insulted, he adds a popular point to his record.
When they asked Trump why he doesn’t stop using Twitter, he said he will when the media is fair to him. The message which Trump repeatedly succeeded at delivering is that he is fighting alone during conferences and speeches and on Twitter. Without the support of millions of his supporters, he will break down and Washington will go back to its old habits. This is a fierce battle and it is difficult for Trump to back down from it because it has proved to be a success.
It is also difficult for the media to back down from its stance because Trump is the star these days and following up on his news increases his popularity. It is true that subscriptions have increased and more people are reading dailies despite Trump’s statements that these dailies are a failure.
After his election, there has been a resurgence in the media and we now gaze at television channels and search for the most recent statements and leaks. The media will not stop attacking Trump because it will not settle until it achieves its wishes of seeing Trump outside the White House and perhaps in prison.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain.