In President Trump’s speech at CPAC today he, quite predictably, threw red meat to the audience. One particular flavor of red meat was media “criticism.”
One of the tangents Trump went off on was the heavy reliance of the press upon 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,” Trump said in his remarks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out.”
The president alluded to a Washington Post report published earlier this month. Citing nine current and former officials, the Post reported that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had discussed lifting sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition, a revelation that eventually led to his resignation.
“There are no nine people. I don’t believe there was one or two people,” Trump said. He provided no evidence to refute the Post’s account but suggested he has insight because he knows the sources.
“Nine people,” he continued. “And I said, ‘Give me a break,’ because I know the people. I know who they talk to. There were no nine people. But they say nine people. And somebody reads it and they think, ‘Oh, nine people, they have nine sources.’ They make up sources. They’re very dishonest people.”
And he’s right. The story about Flynn has been pretty well refuted by everyone with direct knowledge of the conversation. To that we can add another Washington Post by Josh Rogin claiming that Steve Bannon and John Kelly had a personal confrontation over the terrorist travel executive order (totally false but based on anonymous sources). Rogin also reported on a en masse resignation by senior State Department officials that proved to be them being fired, again anonymously sourced. There was another anonymously sourced story that claimed the intelligence community wad denying Trump access to classified information. It was followed up by an anonymously sourced story that had Trump calling Mike Pompeo and chewing him out. And on and on.
The usual suspects, like Ryan Lizza, who, if not a pathological liar certainly plays one on the internet, went on the attack
This is incredibly dishonest (shocking!). He was mocking media types who claim it protects them from criticism.https://t.co/7QVFauYs8G
— Drew McCoy (@_Drew_McCoy_) February 24, 2017
But Trump, of all people, knows just how unreliable anonymous sources are and why they are like catnip to the media:
Most everyone realizes why there are anonymous sources. But is seems like now the purpose of anonymous sources is simply to be able to launch attacks on Trump and his administration. It is obvious, especially in the stories cited here, that there was no due diligence, that the stories were fake, and they were run simply because they made the administration look bad, they couldn’t be disproved so YOLO!
I know there are those people who believe that the media hold a special place in our system of government. I’m not one of them. The Constitution says the federal government can’t interfere (generally) with the press. I’m fine with that, that is as it should be. But at no point does the Constitution imply or hint that the press is required to respected (that certainly wasn’t the case in the first century of the Republic) or that it has a quasi official role as a government watch dog. This is all a relatively new affectation on the part of the media. It wasn’t until Wilson’s presidency that presidents even held a press conference. So I think it is ludicrous that people are saying that Trump’s anti-media jihad has any significance for our way of life or governance. It is even more ridiculous when you can read commentary from people who only a year ago were decrying the servile nature of the press in dealing with Obama now setting their hair on fire in rage because Trump openly baits the press. Moreover, the media are the folks providing Trump with his material. If they stopped seeing themselves as the opposition party and even tried to give the illusion that they cared about balance and accuracy, a lot of the criticism would go away and the rest would ring false.