On July 20th, President Trump met face to face with A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times. This private meeting came to the center of public attention after the president tweeted,
Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, “Enemy of the People.” Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
According to a five-paragraph statement released by Sulzberger shortly after, he sought to address President Trump’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.” Sulzberger said “I told the president directly that I thought his language was not just divisive, but increasingly dangerous.”
The president’s assertion that journalists are the “enemy of the people” was Sulzberger’s main concern. The 37-year-old Publisher remarked that this sort of rhetoric threatens the lives of journalists and undermines the democratic values of the United States.
In response, the President Trump went on a five-tweet rant in which he diagnosed the media with “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and quoted statistics, saying “90% of media coverage of my administration is negative, despite the tremendously positive results we are achieving.”
On Thursday, Ivanka Trump was asked during an interview with Axios co-founder Mike Allen whether or not she believed the media was, in her father’s words, “the enemy of the people.” Ivanka chuckled at the question and quickly responded that she does not. President Trump then clarified via twitter that “It is the FAKE NEWS, which is a large percentage of the media, that is the enemy of the people!”
This episode, which increasingly frustrated the journalism community as it unfolded, is the newest chapter in the Trump White House’s saga of anti-press efforts. Other recent developments include the banning of a CNN reporter, which was opposed by Fox News, an outlet typically quick to defend the president.
Along with the CNN ban, on July 31, CNN reporter Jim Acosta and other journalists were filmed experiencing verbal abuse and harassment from Trump supporters at a Make America Great Again rally in Tampa, FL.
This comes in the wake of the deadliest attack on on American journalists since 9/11, which happened less than two months ago when journalists at the Capital Gazette in Maryland were murdered. Some members of the media frame Trump’s meeting with Sulzberger as an indicator of Trump exercising his entitlement to a unique press management style, or even an earnest attempt to diffuse tension.
Others are more concerned. A Vox article chose to frame the meeting in the context of Trump’s ongoing anti-press theme, outlining Trump’s sustained verbal attacks on the media and their credibility in the wake of his meeting with Sulzberger.
On July 30th, The Washington Post covered research by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom in Germany that stemmed from recent attacks on German Journalists, which found that journalists were at a heightened risk of danger when labeled as lying or deceitful.
More recently, The Guardian reported that the United Nations issued a warning to the U.S., saying “These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law.” The report cautioned against stoking violence against journalists, and said “[Trump’s press attacks] are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts.”