At his CPAC speech, Donald Trump made an excellent point about the media’s overuse of anonymous sources:
I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out. “A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being.” Let ’em say it to my face. Let there be no more “sources.”
And he was right about that. How many times has Big Media cited a “source” for an anti-Trump story, only to have the story blow up in their face? Yet they continue to do it.
Which makes it extra strange that Donald Trump himself was an anonymous source yesterday:
Donald Trump on Friday railed against the media’s use of anonymous sources in stories. Four days later, he was one.
In a private meeting with national news anchors ahead of his address to Congress Tuesday night, Trump went on background with reporters as a “senior administration official” to discuss issues like immigration, telling attendees that it was time for a legislative compromise from both parties.
“There’s got to be a coming together,” an “official” said, according to CNN. As BuzzFeed News reported, citing attendees at the meeting, Trump was the one to make that remark, among others attributed to the official.
Reporters were allowed to put some of Trump’s comments back on the record at 6 p.m., according to a person familiar with the terms of the meeting. CNN later updated its story, for instance, with a quote from Trump. “The time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides,” he said.
Of course, the story that Trump was an anonymous source is based on . . . an anonymous source. So we have to keep our skeptical hats on as we analyze it. However, it easily checks out.
Tongues started to wag after stories like this article from CNN quoted an anonymous “senior administration official” as seeming to favor an amnesty-style program:
But the official said Trump does not see the bill as something that would necessarily upset Trump’s base, stressing that there would need to be “a softening on both sides.”
“It has to be a negotiation,” the official said, arguing that the bill theoretically could make people on both the “far right” and “far left” happy — and it’s a negotiation the President believes he could successfully broker, the official said.
The President believes that the nation is now in a position where it can pass immigration legislation after decades of failed efforts, and he believes the country is “exhausted.”
“There’s got to be a coming together,” the official said.
Allahpundit noted yesterday that the language sounded . . . very Trumpy:
You don’t often hear “softening” used as a noun but that’s exactly the word Trump famously chose last August when he described his (tentative, fleeting) evolution on immigration to Sean Hannity: “There could certainly be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people.” “A softening” is the term he reaches for when he wants to describe his willingness to compromise on amnesty. (The gratuitous emphasis on negotiation in the excerpt is also highly Trump-y, needless to say.)
Allahpundit also noted that the story followed hard on the heels of a meeting that news anchors had with Trump. Allahpundit’s conclusion: “the ‘senior official’ Blitzer spoke to is almost certainly Trump himself.”
BuzzFeed’s story simply confirms what everybody already knew.
The very notion of Trump going on background is more than vaguely ridiculous, given that he sounds like nobody else on Earth. I can easily imagine a story that reads like this:
A senior administration official said only Trump can fix the immigration crisis. According to the senior official: “We have to make a great deal. Big league. Nobody knows more about immigration than Donald Trump!” The senior official added: “We have to Make America Great Again, that I can tell you.”
Trump calling for an end to anonymous sources, and then acting as an anonymous source himself, is of course rank hypocrisy. When Obama engaged in hypocrisy — and he did — we called him out. Some conservatives will call out Trump for this. But others will resort to the partisan playbook that unprincipled hacks use to deal with stories they don’t like.
Which path you take is your choice.