Jake Tapper falls — no, leaps — into Trump’s trap
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With enemies like Jake Tapper, President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE really doesn’t need friends.

As a candidate, and now as president, one of Donald Trump’s recurring themes has been that the majority of the big media outlets have been unfair and biased against him. Since becoming president, that theme has become, if anything, even more prominent in Mr. Trump’s public statements.

“Fake news” and the “dishonesty” of the press coverage of the new administration are constant complaints streaming from the White House.

The friction between the Trump administration and the Washington press corps most recently erupted last Friday when press secretary Sean Spicer invited certain news outlets into his office for a “gaggle”—an un-televised news conference—while leaving other outlets uninvited and excluded.

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Among the excluded news sites were CNN, The New York Times, The Hill, Politico, BuzzFeed, the Daily Mail, BBC, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News. The Trump administration has made it perfectly clear that it wants to portray a big segment of the media as enemies of both the administration and, as Trump has said, of “the people.”

 

There can be no doubt that the Trump administration, at the very highest levels, has decided that portraying the so-called “mainstream-media” as the enemy is a winning strategy.

The media, when confronted with that kind of a White House tactic, has a choice to make. Does it continue to try to do its job in as fair, truthful, and objective way as it can, or does it in effect accept the Trump administration premise that the media and the administration are enemies?  That is, does it abandon all efforts to even appear to be fair and simply exchange blows with the administration, tit for tat?

One might think that mature, thoughtful people who have made it their profession to report the news would be able to resist the impulse to get into a mudslinging contest with the new president.  

One might think that, but let me tell you about Jake Tapper.

On Saturday, the New York Times published a story about the new administration’s relations with the press. In that story, reference was made to the fact that press secretary Sean Spicer was born in New England.

As it turns out, the story was incorrect. Mr. Spicer was not born in New England. So, in what was no doubt an effort to reinforce the theme that the main-stream-media is frequently a source of “fake news,” Spicer tweeted that the New York Times “can’t even get where I was born right and failed to ask.”

Later, the Times published a correction.

What we had here was a relatively minor dust-up between the New York Times and Sean Spicer, the press secretary for the Trump administration. The controversy had nothing to do with CNN—not one thing. It was just Sean Spicer tweaking the Times, and that was all.

Enter Jake Tapper. From out of nowhere, a couple of hours after Spicer tweeted his complaints about the inaccurate Times story, Jake Tapper tweets to Spicer:

And he ever-so-subtly copies that tweet to former-President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGOP rep: North Korea wants Iran-type nuclear deal Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight Iran's president warns US will pay 'high cost' if Trump ditches nuclear deal MORE’s twitter account.

So here is Jake Tapper, a leading luminary of CNN, spontaneously barging into a brouhaha between Sean Spicer and the New York Times, and somehow attributing to Spicer the “birther” controversies that Mr. Trump was so active in stirring up even before he began his campaign for the presidency.

Of course, Sean Spicer was not acting as Mr. Trump’s spokesman when the latter was questioning whether Mr. Obama had been born in Hawaii.

I don’t know whether Mr. Trump and Mr. Spicer even knew each other at that time.

But, what is remarkable here is that Jake Tapper, one of the CNN heavyweights, decided to volunteer himself for a role that no one had even asked him to play: the role of enemy of the Trump administration.

Based on his most recent behavior, one might be forgiven for thinking that Tapper spends all his time, whether at work or at leisure, looking for opportunities to embarrass and insult anyone and everyone in the Trump administration.

Trump claims he and his administration can’t get a fair shake at many news outlets, and CNN is perhaps the one he most frequently criticizes for lack of fairness. How does CNN respond?  

One of its most recognizable and important on-camera figures butts into a matter that has nothing to do with CNN and trolls a senior administration figure. That will certainly go a long way to reassure people that CNN will try to be fair and objective in its reporting.

There are many people who think that Trump spends too much of his time engaging in thoughtless, foolish tweeting.

Trump may not be the only one.

David E. Weisberg is an attorney, and a member of the New York state bar. His writing has appeared in the Social Science Research Network and in The Times of Israel.


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