The media finds itself with a no-win dilemma contemplating a boycott of White House press briefings that could backfire in President Trump’s favor.
Howard Kurtz, host of Fox News Channel’s “MediaBuzz,” took a look at the media’s options – and their consequences – as the press continues to make the president the center of everyday’s news stories.
Clearly a boycott would be challenging as the media is responsible for making Trump the big news story every day, and often the only news story they will emphasize.
It seems no matter what Trump does, or doesn’t do, he remains the top story as can be seen in the case of his recent trip to France, Kurtz pointed out in a segment Tuesday.
“President Trump often says that he can’t catch a break with the press no matter what he does and the weekend he spent in Paris to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of World War I is kind of a fascinating case in point,” Kurtz began.
A Washington Post story on Monday started off noting that “on a trip to Europe, the president hardly said a word — and he still managed to outrage at almost every turn.”
The president apparently sparked “outrage” even though he hardly said anything, as the press focused on his every move.
“Trump didn’t throw any sharp elbows at his peers here. It was still all about him,” the Post added, noting that the only exception seemed to be one critical tweet about French President Emmanuel Macron.
“Another way of looking at it – the media made it all about him as they do with almost everything when it comes to Trump,” Kurtz pointed out, citing more examples from the Post.
The newspaper suggested “it was because of the images. He looked uncomfortable and listless in a bilateral meeting with Macron, whose sinewy energy stood in stark contrast to Trump’s downbeat expression as the French leader patted him on the thigh.”
“We can’t have that!” Kurtz mocked.
Trump’s previous trips abroad were targeted by the press for his confrontations with other world leaders but, on this visit to France, Trump still made the news but for not having any confrontations at all. The Post noted that he sat “stone-faced as Macron spoke out against the rise of nationalism at an event at the Arc de Triomphe, adding that Trump was “turning away from the world” and “appeared withdrawn and unenthusiastic.”
“It’s the media that choose to provide the megaphone for” Trump allegedly being the catalyst for “outrage at every turn,” Kurtz argued.
And as recent discussions about boycotting press briefings arise, Kurtz noted the vicious circle it would create as the media would become embroiled in a losing battle with the president. The debate comes on the heels of the White House yanking the press credentials of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta over last week’s confrontational exchange with Trump during a press conference in which Acosta refused to give up the microphone even after the president had answered his questions.
Kurtz admitted that Acosta has a “rude and sometimes unprofessional style” but noted that the White House “made him into a martyr.”
CNN President Jeff Zucker told his producers not to over-focus on the controversy, according to an article by New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg, who noted that “CNN would not be led by the nose into giving significant airtime to another Trump attack on the news media.”
Rutenberg did admit though that Acosta “is a somewhat polarizing figure, viewed by some of his press corps colleagues as a showboat,” but argued that a group protest would only serve to prove Trump’s point that the media is at war with him.
“The more they personalize this, the more it becomes a fight between the press and the president, as opposed to the press doing its job,” Anita Dunn, a Democratic strategist and former Obama White House adviser, told Rutenberg. “When they are covering the story, as opposed to being the story, they’re on firmer ground.”
Kurtz noted that any boycott by the press would be a “really bad idea” as it would make journalists “appear completely self-absorbed, making it about them.”
“It would look whiney to a lot of people. It’s a hard sell,” Kurtz said. “The president would absolutely pound away at this and describe mainstream media as moving into the opposition camp. So either way they will get hammered.”
Kurtz concluded that the threatened boycott would likely “never happen” as it would be a challenge to get so many media outlets to agree to a joint boycott, and “therefore, the show would go on.”
“A boycott, folks, is not the way to go and by the way, it ain’t happening,” he said.