Responding to a ‘virtual act of treason,’ plus the baby taken at the border and a gay journalist’s appeal

June 17, 2019

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June 17, 2019

Good Monday morning. It’s Day 96 since we’ve had an official White House press briefing, and soon, press secretary Sarah Sanders will be leaving. Still, major (and disturbing) news comes out of the White House even though we’ve become so numb that we don’t realize just how major and disturbing it is.

Ratcheting up the rhetoric

Trump’s continued attacks on the press reached a new benchmark over the weekend when he called a NYT story a ‘virtual act of treason.’

It’s an all-too-common occurrence, so much so that we now take it for granted when President Donald Trump calls the media “the enemy of the people.”

Yet we should never underestimate just how unprecedented and dangerous his vicious attacks of a free press really are. No president, not even Richard Nixon, has ever assailed this critical part of our democracy quite like this. Three years ago, the kinds of things Trump has said would never have been imaginable coming from a U.S. president.

His latest assault came early Sunday on Twitter. Trump tweeted:

“A poll should be done on which is the more dishonest and deceitful newspaper, the Failing New York Times or the Amazon (lobbyist) Washington Post! They are both a disgrace to our Country, the Enemy of the People, but I just can’t seem to figure out which is worse? The good…..

… is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!”

Not only did the president hope that two of the world’s most important journalism institutions would go out of business, he seemed to suggest that the United States ignore presidential term limits and let him serve like a dictator. Such assertions would normally be major news, but that wasn’t even his biggest attack of the weekend. On Saturday, he accused The New York Times of treason.

Trump was set off by a story in the Times that said the U.S. has escalated online attacks on Russia’s power grids. On Saturday evening, Trump tweeted:

“Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia. This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country…..

…..ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

The New York Times tweeted:

“Accusing the press of treason is dangerous.”

The Times is right. All of Trump’s media attacks — treason, enemy of the people, a disgrace to our country, fake news — are dangerous. This goes beyond mere trolling. This is a U.S. president attacking an institution so critical that the founding fathers guaranteed its freedoms in the very first amendment to our constitution.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Based on his tweets, Trump, it would seem, prefers the former.

Sunday morning showcase

Here’s what caught my eye from the Sunday morning news shows.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (AP Foto/Cliff Owen, Archivo)

AOC weighs in

In her first Sunday morning news interview since taking office, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told ABC News’ “This Week” that she is not endorsing anyone for president right now. She told Jonathan Karl, “I think that we have a very real risk of losing the presidency to Donald Trump if we do not have a presidential candidate that is fighting for true transformational change in the lives of working people in the United States.”

Fightin’ words

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had lengthy exchanges with both CBS “Face The Nation” host Margaret Brennan and “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace regarding President Donald Trump’s comments to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he would accept opposition research on a political adversary from foreign governments. (Trump later walked back those comments by saying he would call the FBI if the info he received was “incorrect or badly stated.” Wallace mocked Trumps’ backtrack on “Fox & Friends” last week by saying, “My reaction to that is it’s like what you hear sometimes at a big grocery store: ‘Clean up on Aisle 4!’”)

Pompeo told Brennan, “I’ve watched him do the right thing every time we’ve had an important national security decision to be made. He’s evaluated options and made very good choices about how to proceed.”

Pompeo’s exchange with Wallace was a little more adversarial. After Wallace asked if accepting info from a foreign government was right or wrong, Pompeo said, “Chris, you asked me not to call any of your questions today ridiculous. You came really close right there.”

Wallace continued to ask Pompeo about Trump’s comments and Pompeo snapped, “I have nothing further to add. I came on to talk about foreign policy and I think that’s the third time you’ve asked me about a Washington piece of silliness that chased down a story that is inconsistent with what I’ve seen President Trump do every single day.”

He meant it

Appearing on ABC News’ “This Week,” former New Jersey governor (and brief Trump transition team leader) Chris Christie said Trump would take information from a foreign power.

“I think it’s what he really thinks. I mean, one of the things you have to understand about Donald Trump is that most of the time, when he’s emotional like he was in that interview, and you could see a number of times he was emotional, he’s saying absolutely what he really thinks.”

Her legacy?

Appearing on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan was asked by host Brian Stelter what the legacy would be for Sarah Sanders, who is stepping down as White House press secretary. Sullivan said, “She tried to mislead reporters and, in doing that, she tried to mislead the American public. And that’s the very opposite of what she should have been doing because it’s the American public that actually employs her.”

Best tweet

Veteran newswoman Soledad O’Brien had praise for Fox News’ Chris Wallace in a tweet Sunday:

“I say this consistently: I’m not a fan of fox news, but Chris Wallace is so much better than everybody else in framing these questions. And he isn’t afraid. He’s just out of everyone’s league. Clean question, roll the tape, make your point, follow up, roll the next tape.”

O’Brien is quite the follow on Twitter, as she is never bashful about ripping into other journalists if she feels they aren’t doing a good job.

Five months in foster care

‘The Weekly’ has the story of the youngest person impacted by the family separation policy at the border.

Constantin Mutu, believed to be the youngest child separated from his parents under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border policy. (Photo courtesy The New York Times)

In a story almost too difficult to watch, “The Weekly,” the new Sunday night show produced by The New York Times, chronicled the story of Constantin Mutu, who is believed to be the youngest child separated from his parents under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border policy. Mulu was just four months old when he was separated from his family and spent five months away from them. This week’s episode is available today on Hulu.

Just three episodes in and “The Weekly” already has established itself as one of the best news shows on television with the kind of deep storytelling that’s rare among cables news shows that focus on the hot topic of the day or “breaking news” that really isn’t breaking.

The immigration reporter on the Times’ story, Caitlin Dickerson, told CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” that “there’s a lot we don’t know” about family separations, in part because of what she calls “faulty data.”

A good Idea

The Atlantic is starting something cool today. It’s called “The Atlantic’s Daily Idea” and it’s for Amazon Echo and Google Home users. Each weekday when users ask their smart speakers to play “The Atlantic’s Daily Idea,” they’ll hear a condensed, two-minute read of an Atlantic story.

‘It makes me feel like I don’t matter’

A gay ESPN staffer gave an emotional appeal for LGTBQ voices and experiences after a fighter’s anti-gay comments.

Tyson Fury of England celebrates after defeating Tom Schwarz of Germany in a heavyweight boxing match Saturday in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

ESPN’s “Around The Horn” is a debate show that’s typically relaxed and light as four sports journalists discuss the topics of the day. But at the conclusion of Friday’s show, Israel Gutierrez delivered an emotional and sobering speech. Gutierrez decided to preview Saturday’s heavyweight boxing match between Tyson Fury and Tom Schwarz by lashing out at Fury. Gutierrez is gay and Fury has spoken outagainst homosexuality.

Gutierrez said that when he watches Fury, “It makes me feel like I don’t matter. It makes me feel like my friends don’t matter, it makes me feel like my partner doesn’t matter. It takes me right back to my teenage years and my early childhood when I looked around and thought everybody was looking down on me, thinking that I’m lesser than, just because of this way I was born.”

Fury, by the way, defeated Schwarz with a second-round technical knockout.

Passings: Guy Reynolds and Katy Textor

News photo editor Reynolds struggled with bipolar disease; Textor was a producer for ’60 Minutes.’

Guy Reynolds, the news photo editor of the Dallas Morning News, died last week. He was 62. The Morning News reported that Reynolds took his own life and that he had spoken openly about having bipolar disorder, which he struggled with for decades.

Morning News editor Mike Wilson was quoted as saying, “(Reynolds) had the eye of an artist. The images he chose always illustrated the story but also told beautiful, poignant stories of their own.”

Also, “60 Minutes” producer Katherine “Katy” Textor died Friday of cancer. She was 45.

Bill Owens, executive producer of “60 Minutes,” said in a CBS News obit: “Katy Textor was a scrupulous journalist and a wonderful storyteller. Her energy and personality will be impossible to replace at ’60 Minutes.'”


Hot type

A list of great journalism and intriguing media.

In this 2015 photo, Donald Trump, accompanied by his wife, Melania, is applauded by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, as he’s introduced in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York before the announcement that he would run for president. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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