Media's bumbling and bias invites conflict with Trump
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We live in a political media world that is predicated in absolutes: One side is absolutely right, one side is absolutely wrong.

Nuance? Who's got time for that in our 24/7 cable news/140 characters-or-less culture?

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And as exemplified by White House press secretary Sean Spicer's Saturday press conference (that wasn't an actual press conference since no questions were taken), a big, actual, tangible, important news story was missed, and it's the fault of both an insecure Trump administration and a media obsessed with food fights over substance.

 

In case you missed it, and you probably did, the biggest story to come out of Spicer's statements wasn't his attack on the press, but the fact President Trump has scheduled a meeting with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto next week in Washington. As Spicer also shared, Trump also spoke to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and will meet with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday.

"[Trump] spoke to Prime Minister Peña Nieto of Mexico, and talked about a visit on trade, immigration and security that will occur on the 31st," said Spicer of the Nieto meeting.

Pretty significant, right? Upgrading trade deals with Mexico and building a wall between the two countries in an effort to improve border security was one of Trump's central campaign themes. And scheduling a meeting with Nieto so quickly after taking office - who was harshly criticized by the Mexican press for meeting with Trump in Mexico City during the campaign - is absolutely a big story. 

What's that you say? You barely heard about this rather large nugget on the Sunday political shows? How about today? Is the focus on Trump signing an executive order to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Or perhaps on Trump meeting with major business leaders on tax policy?

Rhetorical question.

Of course, this isn't to say Spicer and the Trump administration as a whole have conducted themselves the right way. The new press secretary stepped on his own big story around Nieto's visit by unwisely challenging the shiny crowd size story again on Saturday and giving it another full day of legs extending into the Sunday shows. Picking fights with an unpopular media has worked for the most part in the past, but this brawl over crowd size wasn't obviously one that could be won.

Spicer could have easily turned this negative into a positive by saying something along the lines of, "The media said crowd sizes didn't matter at Trump rallies during the campaign. But now they suddenly have an interest in attendance? It's an insignificant story and shows why the press isn't trusted to do their jobs by an overwhelming majority of the public."

If Spicer said that Saturday while pointing out Time's fake news around a bust of Martin Luther King being removed from the White House (it never happened), he'd have the media on its heels instead of the other way around.

Overall, it was a horrible weekend for everyone involved - the media and the Trump administration - from a messaging standpoint.

On the media end - and this was the biggest misstep that made everyone look bad - you had multiple examples of allegedly-professional commentators connecting Hitler to Trump only minutes after Trump's Inaugural address was over.

Premise: “America First” apparently automatically refers to a 1930s anti-Semitic movement in the U.S. led by Charles Lindberg.  Other politicians have used the term without a whiff of controversy. But since Trump has uttered it, it's suddenly a big issue.

Of course, Trump's own definition of the term is unmistakably an economic one, as outlined in dozens of speeches where he provides four specific examples on what it means to him: Economic protectionism.  Whether that be reforming the tax code, renegotiating trade deals, introducing a moratorium on new federal government regulations, or rolling back regulations on domestic energy resources like coal and oil, that has always been the focus of Trump's speeches when defining "America First" in his own terms.

No matter. ABC's Terry Moran, for example, without specifically citing the four examples just provided, concluded that Trump was broaching "America First" to appeal to all of the anti-Semites watching. You know, like his daughter Ivanka, who converted to Orthodox Judaism upon marrying Jared Kushner, now a Trump senior adviser.

"It's a loaded term in American history," argued Moran. "Now, he defined it here as total allegiance to the United States of America, and it is something, as [anchor] Cecilia [Vega] said, this is why he was sent here by people who want to hear that message of America first.

"However, it carries with it overtones from the 1930s, when an anti-Semitic movement [said], ‘We don't want to get involved in Europe's war. It's the Jews’ fault in Germany!’ Charles Lindbergh led them," Moran concluded. 

If ABC was fair here, they would have played the portion of a Trump speech when he provides his definition. From there, let the audience decide what he means by “America First." 

And you wonder why the Trump administration is so truculent with the press. 

But Trump needs to stop picking fights over every little thing, as it only makes his entire team and him look small. 

As for members of the media, they need to start doing their jobs by concentrating on making actual news a priority, and not just the shallow stuff that generates the most retweets and the most clicks.

Joe Concha is a media reporter for The Hill.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.