Is Fox News getting a little antsy about being considered President Trump’s media lapdog after the Republican rout in the midterm elections proved that the president’s popularity and political influence is rapidly waning?
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That’s a possible explanation for at least one hard-hitting question that Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace lobbed the president’s way during his rare one-on-one interview today.
Trump has been attacking any credible media outlet as “fake news’ since even before he took office, but his assaults on media credibility have ramped up over time, particularly during the run-up to the midterm elections, where he revived his false and divisive claim that the press was the “enemy of the people,” echoing totalitarian propaganda strategies to undermine public trust in the truth of any negative stories that they may reveal.
Wallace addressed Trump’s antipathy towards the media, directly confronting him with the implications of his angry rhetoric.
“No president has liked his press coverage… Nobody called it the enemy of the American people,” Wallace told the president.
Trump replied with a doubling down of his baseless accusations.
“The fake news is the enemy — it’s fake, it’s phony,” Trump falsely claimed yet again in his typical act of psychological projection.
While one attempt at getting the president to address the issue would have offered the Trump publicity machine masquerading as a news network enough cover to move along to the next question, Wallace nevertheless persisted, pointing out the fact that “leaders in authoritarian countries like Russia, China, Venezuela, now repress the media using your words.”
After Trump replied by demurring to speak on behalf of other countries, Wallace confronted the president with the obvious results of his media bashing.
“You’re seen around the world as a beacon for repression,” the Fox News host told Trump directly to his face.
The president continued to insist that everyone should believe what he says — the man now clocked at an astonishing average of 30 false or misleading claims per day during his midterm election rally spree — rather than rely on the reports of seasoned professional journalists with their jobs and reputations on the line.
He went on to say that when he refers to the media as the “enemy of the people,” he is only referring to the “fake news media,” which he apparently arbitrarily calls any press outlet that dares to say anything negative about him or report facts that differ from what he makes up. That definition would have to include Google, Wikipedia, the research papers of most scientists, and people’s own eyes as falling under the sobriquet of “fake news.”
Trump also used the interview to address the reversal by a federal judge on Friday of his administration’s seizing of the White House press credentials from CNN’s Jim Acosta. The unrepentant president said that he would pull the pass again if the senior CNN White House correspondent “misbehaves” in the future.
“What they said though is that we have to create rules and regulations for conduct, etc., etc. We’re doing that, were going to write them up right now,” Trump declared. “It’s not a big deal. And if he misbehaves, we’ll throw him out or we’ll stop the news conference.”
Given that every press conference that the president gives is simply an opportunity for Trump to spread his own “fake news,” stopping his news conferences would be no great loss for journalism and would only serve to deprive the president of his favorite nemesis to blame for the misalignment of his statements with factual reality.
While Chris Wallace may have been more probing than the typical Fox News host in his interview with Trump, one tough interview question hardly absolves the network for its daily jingoistic repetition of White House talking points. That’s the real “fake news” in question here, and both Wallace and Trump know that quite well.
You can watch an excerpt from Chris Wallace’s interview with President Trump on Fox News Sunday in the video below.
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Original reporting by Justin Wise at The Hill.