Viewers of Monday’s White House briefing on the coronavirus saw a president in meltdown mode, clearly rattled by the reporting of national news outlets.
“That was propaganda,” John King said in no uncertain terms on CNN. “That was not just a campaign video. That was propaganda aired at taxpayer expense in the White House briefing room.”
Look, the video was nothing short of disgraceful. But it did do us a service — by showing us where Trump’s head is at. He is fixated on the past — and by the news media’s scrutiny of the federal government’s failures to protect the public. He should be talking about the present and about the future pathways out of this emergency. His aides and allies should be helping him get back on track, rather than celebrating his reckless attacks against reporters. Cue Laura Ingraham on Fox Monday night: ”I thoroughly enjoyed today’s Coronavirus task force briefing. That was great. It was a tour de force!”
Credible news orgs have taken the virus seriously for months
My two cents
Trump wants to play small ball — he wants to fight with the media — because those fights work for him. Let’s keep the focus on the questions he is not answering. Where are the tests? Where are the plans? Where is the empathy for the thousands of families mourning the losses of loved ones?
CNN’s chyrons call out Trump in black and white
Oliver Darcy writes: Those who watched CNN during the WH briefing saw the network bluntly call Trump out. One CNN chyron declared, “ANGRY TRUMP TURNS BRIEFING INTO PROPAGANDA SESSION.” Another chyron said, “TRUMP USES TASK FORCE BRIEFING TO TRY AND REWRITE HISTORY ON CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE.”
Meanwhile, on Fox, the chyrons told a starkly different story. Instead of fact-checking Trump, the network just repeated his falsehoods. One said, “TRUMP: I WAS ‘BRUTALIZED’ BY PRESS.” Another said, “TRUMP: WE DID ‘AN INCREDIBLE JOB.'” And a third blared, “TRUMP: PRESIDENT HAS ‘TOTAL AUTHORITY.'”
Kudos to Reid and Collins
Oliver Darcy continues: The White House press corps went toe-to-toe with Trump and pressed him repeatedly on a range of topics. CBS correspondent Paula Reid was unyielding as she asked Trump a series of sharp Q’s. Reid asked Trump what his administration did in the month of February, leading up to the crisis. And she asked how Americans could be comforted by his unhinged behavior. Trump didn’t directly answer, resorting only to attacking Reid and her network.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins also grilled Trump: “You said when someone is President of the United States, their authority is total,” Collins told Trump. “That is not true. Who told you that?” Collins didn’t get a clear answer, and when she tried to continue her line of questioning, Trump held up his hand and told her, “Enough.” Kudos to both Reid and Collins for being unflinching in their questioning of POTUS…
In an alternate universe…
Oliver Darcy adds: I know this has become a cliché thought experiment, but please oblige me: Can you imagine how the hosts and pundits on Fox News and in the greater conservative media landscape would have reacted if President Obama walked out into the White House briefing room and declared that his “authority is total”? It’s really, quite honestly, a bit hard to fathom how frantic the coverage would have been. It would have been apocalyptic. Off the rails. Crazed. But with Trump? None of that…
What Trump is hearing from Hannity
With that in mind, here’s what Trump’s trusted adviser Sean Hannity said to Texas governor Greg Abbott on Monday night: “I think most states can reopen even sooner than later — we don’t have to wait til May 1 — but it’s going to be more challenging in a city like New York…”
— Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC an hour later: “Every word that the president says about reopening the country is pure posturing, it is pure propaganda…”