The Press Swoons over Historian Scorching Trump at White House Correspondents Dinner as He Gets Presidential-Press History Incorrect

 

 

Our fractured media perfectly displayed by the press inviting a historian who ignores history to make the press feel better.

This weekend The White House Correspondents Association held its annual correspondent’s dinner, a D.C. tradition that normally had politicians and journalists trading barbs in good-natured fun. Traditionally dubbed “The Nerd Prom” that whimsical title has essentially been dispatched, as Streiff noted the press has taken on a mirth-free and self-serious tone with the ascendency of the Trump Administration.

Doing battle with the President has led to Trump deciding to forego the affair for years, leading to the press corps bleating about the effrontery. Somehow not attending a self-congratulatory self-love-fest and refusing to absorb persistent scorn from the inflated egos is deemed a threat to our democracy. The past few dinners have featured comedians who bombed in spectacular fashion in front of a deeply supportive audience. This led to the announcement last year that the 2019 iteration would feature a more serious speaker.

Enter Historian and Presidential biographer Ron Chernow. He served as the keynote speaker Saturday night and delivered a historical quote-laden speech that was at times light-hearted, but also very pointed and direct about the current White House occupant. Even as the WHCA President Olivier Knox stated, “I don’t want to dwell on the president. This is not his dinner. It’s ours, and it should stay ours,” he and Chernow could not refrain from regular doses of invective delivered towards 1600.

Early on Chernow reached back for a pithy quote that applies to today: “As Will Rogers once observed, people are taking their comedians seriously, and their politicians as a joke.” He then went on to offer another from Jefferson: “If forced to choose between a government without newspapers, and newspapers without government he would unhesitatingly choose the latter.” The media members in the audience devoured the speech heartily.

From the very start of journalism in the country, our early newspapers were adept at printing and distributing falsehoods for political gain. Samuel Adams was only one publisher who brazenly would print outright fabrications on political foes. (The book “Infamous Scribblers” is a recommended read on our newspaper history.) To pretend our press was ever the sanctified realm of the truth is to traffic in propaganda.

But Saturday night we saw a man who was esteemed and beloved by journalists, delivering an impassioned monologue in sheer defense of their industry; so of course they gorged on the reverence. But in a perfect representation of our contemporary press, Chernow made a statement that is at once full of journalistic veneration while at the same time factually devoid of accuracy.

“Campaigns against the press don’t get your face carved into the rocks on Mount Rushmore. For when you chip away at the press, you chip away at our democracy.”

This is a remarkable pull quote from a man whose career is to chronicle the lives and histories of past Presidents. While Trump has been very vocal in his opposition to our contemporary media its members ,who are wringing their hands about what a threat he poses, do so without acknowledging a core fact: He has taken no actions to stifle the press. (No, yanking Jim Acosta’s credentials does not count. He could still report, and CNN as an outlet retained access.) Contrast Trump’s inaction with some of the far more outlandish maneuvers we have seen from prior administrations.

For instance, would shutting down newspapers not be considered far more serious? Take a look at this rather abusive move made by our 16th President: More than 300 newspapers were shut down, most of them Democratic papers that were sympathetic to the Confederacy. Some historians have criticized President Abraham Lincoln for allowing such widespread constraints on the press.

I do not need to remind you, but Chernow needs a refresher on the detail that Lincoln currently finds himself ensconced on the side of that edifice at Mt. Rushmore.

Writer Ed Krayewski was able to provide more examples that directly contradict Ron Chernow’s interpretational history. Behold Roosevelt, whose words if delivered today would be called a threat to our very democracy.

And then there is another notable media combatant from the history books.

Here is an additional quote of contempt from the man: “I deplore… the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed and the malignity, the vulgarity, and mendacious spirit of those who write for them.” I am sorry, but can Jefferson’s words here be paraphrased any better than the contemporary phrase that rankles all journalists today: “Fake News”?

Chernow is blatantly bypassing his historical knowledge on past administration-media relationships in order to paint Donald Trump as acting in unprecedented fashion. To witness the historian doing so so is to see him descending into the very trough of to-be-flung mud occupied by the press that pushed a fake Russian narrative on us for over two years.

Recall that soon after the election in 2016 a number of primary journalism outlets — which had essentially just completed an eight-year vacation — announced they were greatly expanding their editorial workforces in order to deal with the President who had yet to be inaugurated. This set the stage of combative relationships between beltway press members and the administration, something they today blame on the President.

That our press today ignores its own culpability in the rancor between them and the President proves their dwindling relevance will only continue. In a matter of only a few years, they have managed to turn their once posh gala into a bland and forgettable affair. It is telling they had to invite another onto the stage to serve more obliviousness in order to feel they are still as relevant as they hope to be.