Yesterday, I watched Donald Trump’s 100-day rally. I didn’t bother watching the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Two nauseating events would be too much to handle. I followed along on Twitter for awhile, but it didn’t take long for me to lose interest.
Organizers bill the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as an event built around awarding college students money to further their journalism education. In reality, it’s an event where journalists get their pictures taken with celebrities and pretend to be celebrities at the same time. It’s a few hours when the press gets to back slap each other for the excellent work they do for the masses. This year, they increased the force of the back slaps because President Donald Trump refused to attend.
Why didn’t Trump attend? Simple. He’s a thin-skinned narcissist who wasn’t about to hang around for two hours listening to people make fun of him. Sure enough, every speaker teed off on Trump. As I said earlier, I didn’t watch but happened to see several tweets related to something said by WHCA President, Jeff Mason.
Standing ovation for WHCA President Jeff Mason at #WHCD2017: "We are not fake news … and we are not the enemies of the American people."
— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) April 30, 2017
It’s an indirect slam at President Trump who says “fake news” all the time and who tweeted the press is the “enemy” of the American people. It elicited an eye-roll from me because the level of self-righteousness is off the charts.
Before Trump’s announcement that he would not attend the WHCD, many in the press were waxing poetic about their “duty” to stand up to President Trump for his attacks on the media, and many contemplated boycotting the event.
The question I have is, “Where were these voices during the Obama administration?”
Forget for a moment, President Obama’s constant bleating about Fox News and other conservative media outlets. Focus on how President Obama and his administration did “assault” the first amendment. Not with a speech. Not with tweets. But with the full force of the Justice Department. I am talking about the Obama administration going through the phone records of AP reporters. I am referring to the Obama administration reading through Fox News reporter James Rosen’s personal emails, labeling him a “criminal co-conspirator” and designating him a “flight risk” so the Justice Department wouldn’t have to inform Rosen of the surveillance.
The rejoinder you’re reading is not “Whataboutism.” I am not responding to critics of President Trump by deflecting to President Obama. Anybody reading these pages long enough knows I’ve been critical of Trump’s treatment of the media.
I asked a question on Twitter:
It’s not rhetorical. I searched and could not find an example of any journalist attempting to organize a boycott of the WHCD in the Obama era. If I’m wrong, please email me at [email protected], and I will be more than happy to update this post with those details.
That brings me to Bob Woodward. He made one statement that serves as a warning to all of the journalists congratulating themselves on “speaking truth to power” in the age of Trump:
Woodward: "Polling numbers show that most Americans disapprove of & distrust the media. This is no time for self-satisfaction or smugness." pic.twitter.com/7IjI2fLVh5
— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 30, 2017
Woodard’s self-reflection is an example of why he’s one of the best in the business. The mainstream media as a whole would do well to follow Woodward’s sage advice.