For President Donald Trump, the coronavirus is a two-front-war.
Besides marshaling the federal government to help contain the outbreak, the Trump White House is forced to battle a mainstream media clearly intent on using the biological enemy as a political weapon against an administration it’s hated from the beginning.
At a news conference Tuesday, Trump hit back hard.
The president’s target was The New York Times, the obscenely biased “newspaper of record” that has compiled a record of disgraceful coverage of Trump going back to the 2016 presidential campaign.
According to Fox News, Trump was asked how his calls for national unity against the coronavirus squared with feuding with Democratic political figures like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with whom Trump engaged in a Twitter spat Monday. (The two men had made a public peace on Tuesday.)
The president’s answer was simple:
“I only do that when I have to respond … and I will continue to if they’re not going to play fair, because they have the media on their side, I don’t. I just have me,” Trump said, according to Fox. “They’re not gonna play fair, I’m gonna do that.”
Then he called out The Times in particular for its coverage of a Trump teleconference with the nation’s governors where Trump pledged federal help for the states but urged them to take steps on their own if it would be faster than federal action.
“We are backing you in terms of equipment and getting what you need,” Trump said on a recording of the call obtained by The Times. “Also, though, respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment, try getting it yourselves. We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point-of-sale is much better, much more direct if you can get it yourselves.”
That’s should be reasonable to anyone serious about covering this crisis. That doesn’t include The New York Times.
The Times headlined its story about Trump’s answer with a truncated — and highly misleading — version of his statement:
“Trump to Governors on Ventilators: ‘Try Getting It Yourselves’”
To make matters worse, Mara Gay, a member of The Times editorial board who’s already proven herself once this year to not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, published a Twitter post Monday stating: “Trump told the governors they were on their own.”
Trump told governors this morning they are on their own:
“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” Mr. Trump told the governors during the conference call, a recording of which was shared with The New York Times. https://t.co/K0sont7MBc
— Mara Gay (@MaraGay) March 16, 2020
It might not make a difference to The New York Times that that’s not at all what Trump said — the Gray Lady has long since shown its bias. But it obviously matters a great deal to Trump.
“If they’re going to say things that are false, like the story that was written yesterday … they taped the conference call that I had with the governors. It was a good call. It was fine,” Trump said, according to Fox.
“I assumed somebody was going to tape it, they handed it to various people, one of them was The New York Times and The New York Times chose to write totally inaccurately about it. It was a totally disgraceful thing, it was bad journalism.”
In a tweet, Trump called The Times “a disgrace to journalism.”
“Yesterday, I gave the governors the right to go order [ventilators] directly if they want, if they feel that they can do it faster… that was totally misinterpreted by the New York Times on purpose, unfortunately.”pic.twitter.com/pGCFG2kr6K
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) March 17, 2020
“Disgraceful” doesn’t begin to cover it. Nor does “bad journalism.” What The Times headline did was undeniably misleading. While the story itself contained more of Trump’s quote, the tone was set by the headline — and anyone who writes for, edits or reads The Times would know it.
Gay’s tweet wasn’t simply misleading, though. It was an outright falsification of what the president said.
This kind of behavior from the Times is maliciously unprofessional when the country is in a normal state. To deliberately mislead millions of readers at a time when the country is on edge thanks to an invisible killer stalking vulnerable segments of the population verges on unconscionable.
Since Trump entered the political world, The Times has been waging its own war against him — notably in an August 2016 front-page column that declared that objectivity had no place in covering Trump’s career.
But the only real weapon for The Times and any other news outlet is its credibility.
It’s a war with Trump that The Times can’t win because, with every passing day, The Times is destroying itself.
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