October 10, 2017

So now "Little Marco," as in Sen. Marco Rubio, morphs into "Liddle Bob," as in Sen. Bob Corker.

The common denominators: President Trump's snappily belittling rhetorical constructions, the targets are both fellow Republicans and Trump is again battling the truth.

On Tuesday the president, with apparent down time in what one presumes is one of the more hectic schedules for any North American executive (public, private or non-profit sector) shortly before 10 a.m. derisively tweeted about Corker, a moderate and smart businessman-turned-Tennessee Republican politician,

"The Failing @nytimes set Liddle' Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that's what I am dealing with!"

Huh? "Set up" Corker? Did it nefariously tape him on the phone, or perhaps hide a device inside a potted plant in his home or office (maybe with assistance from the KGB, North Korea's Kim Jong-un, ESPN's now-suspended Jemele Hill, some NFL player who doesn't stand for the national anthem, or any other high-profile alleged Trump nemesis)?

What sticks in Trump's expansive craw is a Times interview with Corker in which the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee maintained that Trump treats the presidency like a "reality show" and recklessly threatens nations. When Trump tweeted that Corker's recent decision to not seek a third term reflects his lack of "guts," Corker responded via this tweet, “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

So now comes Trump's Tuesday retort and the inference of skullduggery by a paper whose legitimacy he so craves and so often belittles when not receiving it.

Jonathan Martin, one of the two reporters on the Corker story, can't explain the Trump tweet. Corker, he informs, had not one but two staffers on the phone line during the interview, and they were also recording it.

"He knew exactly what he was doing," Martin says about Corker.

Martin also has written about the interview for the Times' Reader Center: 

Far from being set up, Mr. Corker asked that I tape our conversation.

“I know they’re recording it, and I hope you are, too,” he said as two of his aides listened in on other lines, one of them also taping the interview.

It may well be that Trump knew what he was doing with this falsehood. It assumes a certain rationality and premeditation. But maybe those premises are flawed.  At minimum, it's another untruth about an institution whose reporting on him has clearly gotten deep inside his head.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
James Warren

More News

Back to News