Journalists Versus the White House: A Tale of Two Media Reactions

CNN’s Jim Acosta was inundated by tweeted love and support from his peers after President-elect Donald Trump dismissed him and CNN as a “terrible organization” and as “fake news.”

“This president and his team do not have a respect for the First Amendment the way other presidents have coming before him,” Acosta complained.  His media peers promised to stand together against “intimidation” from the White House.

But it was very different back in 2012, when Breitbart editor Neil Munro, then writing for the Daily Caller, asked a tough question of President Barack Obama when the president emerged from the White House to provide work-permits to at least 700,000 illegal aliens during a recession which sent millions of Americans into the unemployment lines.

Munro’s obvious question—”Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?”—became a media scandal, even though voters have been asking the same question for decades. The press, right and left alike, immediately condemned the question as “heckling”:

It’s an interesting contrast to the neutral or supportive coverage of CNN’s Acosta, whom Smith defended, saying “journalists should [not] be subjected to belittling or delegitimizing by the President-elect of the United States.” Acosta could have told Trump he was a “fake president,” as CNN’s Don Lemon reassured his colleague.

The press’s responses to the two incidents are revealing.

When it comes to Democrat malfeasance, the press immediately pounces on anyone who questions or exposes them.

Attack the leakers—and John McVoter should ignore the leaks, lest he be influenced by their contents and hand Russia a “hacking” victory. (This absurdity reached its height when CNN assured viewers that reading authentic emails from Democrats released by Wikileaks was “illegal.”)

Blogger Erik Wemple adopted this attitude when demanding Munro answer for his journalism via an interview with the Washington Post. Munro declined. “He appears to be learning what it’s like to have the questions coming at him,” Wemple responded triumphantly.

Five years later, shouting at the president-elect became Speaking Truth to Power for Wemple.

“CNN correspondent Jim Acosta wasn’t about to take Trump’s broadside against his employer sitting back,” Wemple writes of Acosta’s shouting at Trump. Better buckle up for this one! The scene was so intense Wemple can only get a partial transcript.

Wemple also turns up the invective against Trump for calling CNN “fake news”: “You read that right: The same guy who stood by his story about thousands of Muslims cheering the attacks of Sept. 11; who promoted the vile and racist lie of birtherism; and authored an untold number of other falsehoods is now ripping others for spreading ‘fake news.’ As if this term hadn’t already been twisted, thrashed and weaponized,” Wemple writes.

Wemple’s “racist” charge ignores the reality that Trump uses blowtorch rhetoric against most of his rivals, including GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. “Rafael! Straight out of the hills of Canada,” as Trump put it, adding that “the first thing that the Democrats are going to do is sue him on the basis that he’s not a naturalized citizen, that he wasn’t born in this country… I happen to think they’re going to win.” Media called this “birtherism” as well, but without the “racist” tag.

Let’s compare media analyst Howard Kurtz, now with Fox News, scolding Munro versus his indulgence of Acosta.

“Wolf, let’s not mince words. This was a monumental act of rudeness act by Neil Munro,” Kurtz intoned in 2012 on CNN. “Yes, reporters should shout questions at presidents when they’ve finished a statement… not while the president of the United States is addressing not just the reporters in the Rose Garden, but the American people via television.”

In 2017, yelling at the president-elect as he addresses the American people at a press conference is understandable for Kurtz.

When Trump is the target of questions, Kurtz shifts down to the passive voice, saying: “There was a confrontational moment at the presser when Trump started criticizing CNN and its correspondent, Jim Acosta, demanded to be heard. I can understand him shouting out, but when he did it repeatedly as the president-elect refused to call on him, it sounded rude.” The end result of the debacle is the media “unfortunately” handing Trump a “gift,” Kurtz writes.

Here is Munro’s explanation of the 2012 event, given to Fox News. Compare to the support Acosta received from media after bellowing at Trump. Obama routinely dismissed the concerns of Americans, and that’s fine with the privileged enforcers of the status quo. But when Trump dismisses a hostile media, that is an intolerable violation of the rights of the so-called “free press.”


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