The Atlantic’s Ron Fournier wants TV networks to band together to force Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Giving thanks for Thanksgiving itself Immigration provision in Democrats' reconciliation bill makes no sense MORE to release his tax returns by denying him airtime until he does.
Fournier, an outspoken critic of both Trump, the GOP presidential nominee, and Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future Popping the progressive bubble GOP primary in NH House race draws national spotlight MORE, says it's the media's duty to hold those seeking office to a high standard of responsibility and to use one of Trump's biggest advantages — free media — against him.
"The media is nothing if it can’t hold a presidential candidates accountable — if newsrooms and editorialists can’t force a White House aspirant to keep a promise, uphold precedent, and address suspicions that he’s a tool of Moscow," Fournier wrote Wednesday.
”Journalism is a joke if we let Donald Trump slide."
He particularly called on the major cable news and broadcast networks — which have done countless interviews with Trump, often by phone, since he announced his presidential run more than 13 months age — to not allow Trump on the air.
"And so I have an idea for CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and the three broadcast networks: Stop interviewing Trump, and stop paying his surrogates, until he releases his tax records,” Fournier wrote.
"A TV embargo would starve Trump’s ego, feed his vast insecurities, and rob him of the biggest crutch in his campaign — free media."
For CNN and MSNBC, banning Trump from appearing might not be too difficult to pull off. Research shows the GOP nominee hasn't been interviewed on CNN since June 13 or on MSNBC since May 20. Both interviews were done by each network's respective morning shows, "New Day" and "Morning Joe.”
For Fox News, an embargo on Trump would be more difficult given how often he has appeared. Over the past two weeks alone, he has done interviews on highly rated programs such as "The O'Reilly Factor," "Special Report" and "Hannity.” On Thursday, Trump was on "Fox and Friends" in the morning and will be going "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren in the evening.
A broadcast network ban would also be a dicey proposition. Trump just appeared on NBC's “Meet the Press” on Sunday, as well as on Bloomberg TV with Mark Halperin, for example. He also appeared on CBS's “Face the Nation” in June and ABC's “This Week” in May.
But if all the networks above did somehow implement Fournier's plan, some experts say it would come across more an example of advocacy journalism.
"The short answer is no, but for a variety of reasons," said Rachel C. Weingarten, trends and brand expert and president of Interrobang LLC in New York. "A potential bit of fallout might be Trump using it to paint himself as being excluded from the media and portraying himself as being victimized."
Weingarten added that such a ban "might have the opposite effect when implemented and cause his followers to then rally around their cause and candidate."
Aaron Kall, director of debate at the University of Michigan, argued that while Fournier's idea is unique, it would ultimately be impossible to enforce.
"While a novel idea from Ron, this seems a bit extreme even for advocacy journalists,” said Kall.
"Unless there was universal compliance by the entire press corps, the execution would be riddled with unenforceable loopholes that would be exploited by Mr. Trump,” he said. "This policy would also set a dangerous precedent and slippery slope that could be followed by others."
Jack Hunter, politics editor for Cox-owned Rare.us, said that while Trump's feet should be held to the fire, an embargo does not pave the road to full transparency.
"Responsible journalists should keep pressing Donald Trump on his taxes, but the media can’t blackout the Republican nominee simply because they believe he isn’t being forthright with voters," Hunter said.