As his reactions in the wake of the Orlando massacre show, Donald Trump will say anything incendiary in order to push his agenda on America. Despite the caustic nature of his insults directed at everyone -- especially women, Muslims, failed Republican candidates and, of course, the media -- the reality is that fielding a barb from Trump is like getting nibbled by a goldfish: It happens to everyone, it is forgotten quickly, and it reflects more on him than those he disparages.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and now owner of the Washington Post, put it this way after being the subject of another Trump tantrum: “I'm very glad to have any of my body parts go through a big fat wringer, if need be.”
Nevertheless, as Bezos rightfully pointed out: Trump’s aim to “freeze or chill the media,” which has given him plenty of free press yet has a role to play in scrutinizing his candidacy, is disturbing. And now Trump has responded in kind.
It all started when the Post ran a story on Trump's comments following the tragic mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando over the weekend. In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Trump attacked President Barack Obama with more code-language, suggesting that Obama does not care or does not want to protect the U.S. against security threats. Upset over the coverage, Trump revoked the publication's press credentials and banned it from covering any of his campaign events. According to Trump, the original headline of the Post story -- which inferred that Trump linked Obama to the Orlando tragedy -- was too much for him to endure.
“We are hereby revoking the press credentials of the phony and dishonest Washington Post,” Trump announced on Monday via Facebook.
A quick look at the people who Trump follows on Twitter, his preferred social media channel, paints a picture of a man who only wants to listen to people who think like him or will only tell him what he wants to hear. That posse, which includes the likes of Ann Coulter, Diamond and Silk, and his resorts and family members, is hardly one that will ever challenge him any of his views or statements.
Insisting on such a closed view of the world offers an odd strategy, considering the stumbles Trump has taken over the past two weeks, from this attacks on a “Mexican” judge to accusations that he attempted to use the Orlando tragedy for his own personal and political gain. Members of his own party, who seemed to warm up to him late last month, are now beside themselves.
Nevertheless, as NPR pointed out on Monday, the kerfuffle over the Post’s choice of headline is just another chapter in the ongoing battle between the newspaper and the presidential hopeful. Last month, Post reporter David Farenthold challenged Trump over his promise to donate money to military-related charities after a fundraiser. Trump made a donation only after that story hit the newswires, but that didn't stop him from painting Farenthold as a “nasty guy.”
But there is more to Trump’s name-calling than his tone or his behavior. His temperament follows the trend of his business record, one that is full of shortchanging suppliers and structuring his companies so that other investors take the fall while he reaps a high salary and bonuses.
And Trump’s attacks on a free press, long an American ideal, should worry citizens. No matter how obnoxious Trump or his followers may think that some in the media may be, the fact is that a free press is vital to American democracy, as it serves as a referee of information spewed out from candidates on the left and right. The removal of any such filter is a dubious sign of how Trump will run the country should he become the nation’s 45th president.
Image credit: Michael Vadon/Flickr
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.