It was such a barefaced act of discrimination against certain news outlets as to be repulsive.
On Feb. 24, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held an informal briefing for reporters -- a briefing from which at least 10 news outlets were pointedly excluded, including the New York Times, CNN and the BBC.
Having the door so deliberately slammed in their faces prompted CNN and some of its fellow outlets to call the move retribution for their coverage of President Donald Trump. The White House Correspondents' Association also issued a formal protest -- a natural and expected response, as White House "gaggles" (as informal briefings are called) are not supposed to be exclusive.
Just hours before all this unfolded, Trump had told a packed hall at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), "A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are. They are the enemy of the people." It seems likely that he was thinking of CNN and the New York Times, among others, when he spoke those words.
Both the cable news giant and the famed New York paper had recently reported on possible contacts between the Trump camp and Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign. There is an obvious connection to be drawn between being shut out of the Spicer gaggle and these unfavorable reports.
Trump also declared during his CPAC speech that reporters "shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name. Let their name be put out there." In all the United States' centuries of respecting and prizing a free press, has there ever been a president who said such a thing? The protection of sources' identities is one of the lifelines of a free press, and we are astounded at Trump's comments.
On Feb. 17, too, Trump took to Twitter to call the New York Times, CNN, and NBC News "the FAKE NEWS" and "enemy of the American people. SICK!" Trump replaced the tweet shortly afterwards, removing "SICK!" but also adding ABC News and CBS News to his list of enemies of the people. In short, his attacks on the news media have been furious and consistent.
His recent (once again Twitter-based) announcement that he would not attend the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, held since the 1920s, was also childish.
It is certainly not unusual for a U.S. president to be unhappy with news outlets. However, the news media is the foundation stone supporting the public's right to know.
If the president has nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be embarrassed about, then let him carry out his responsibility to explain matters in as grand a fashion as he likes.
However, since the moment he won the presidential election, Trump has railed noisily against objective facts, from the number of votes he received to the crowd size at his inauguration. His still young administration, with its insistence that white is black, has even spawned the unfortunate phrase "alternative facts." One thing we do know is that it is bad for both America and the world for the good sense of the U.S. administration to remain so relentlessly in question.
It is certainly true that the power of internet information sources and social networks is increasing relative to established media outlets. Most major news organizations failed to predict Trump's November election victory, and we feel this signals an epochal shift.
However, that is no excuse for the Trump administration to shut out established news sources. Doing so seems more likely to spark suspicions that Trump fears criticism because he lacks confidence in his own ability to govern.
Even if Trump tries to silence the news media, he cannot deceive the American people. He cannot escape the judgment of history. These are things Trump must fully understand.