You may have seen this account from The New York Post of Donald Trump’s meeting with major network media executives yesterday. Needless to say, coming from the Post, we should not necessarily assume any of it is true. The Post had Trump essentially reading the execs and top anchors the riot, yelling, getting red in the face, essentially telling them to fall in line or else. In the memorable words of one Post source, “It was like a f−−−ing firing squad.”
So what actually happened? CNN’s report on the meeting was quite different.
As I noted yesterday, the Trump from the Post story is the classic Trump of Trump’s imagination – high-energy, dominating, ass-kicking. In practice, when we’ve seen Trump meet up with people he’s criticized publicly his demeanor is usually very different – think of his meeting with the President of Mexico. So which is it?
I talked to a number of people in a position to shed light on the meeting. What I was able to gather was that to a significant extent the Post account is accurate – to the extent of Trump’s remarks about the lying press, the deceitful, dishonest press and the like, calling out individuals. But from what I can gather the tone of the encounter was significantly different.
Trump wasn’t a on rage bender. He didn’t yell. His face wasn’t red. It was more razzing and taunting than an angry tirade. This wasn’t a different Trump, rising to or chastened by the realities of the presidential office. It was exactly the same Trump we’ve seen for the last 18 months and perhaps the last 40 years: I won. You lost. Now I call the shots. You’re all liars and dishonest and it’s terrible. So you need to fall in line.
The key thing that came out to me from multiple conversations is one basic message from Trump. To Trump, the fact that most of the news media missed his surprise win (thinking until early election night that Clinton was a strong favorite to win) means that all their pre-election coverage is therefore discredited. It was bad and it was wrong. To be clear, not the horse race or polling coverage which certainly took a real hit – but all the non-horse race reporting. And because all their coverage is discredited – Katy Tur’s, CNN’s, everybody’s – that the news media owes him an apology moving forward.
What I also picked up was that through all the insults, demands for apologies and calling out individuals, Trump was still in his accustomed mode of looking for praise, approbation, friends.
At a basic level, Trump clearly doesn’t understand what the news business does or what the first amendment is. This is obvious from what we’ve seen on the campaign trail, Trump’s insistence in at least threatening frivolous legal action against every story he doesn’t like.
Whether Trump acts on his belief that the press needs to apologize to him isn’t clear. But that’s where he is.