Media

ABC's Karl shuns responding to Trump's personal attacks: 'It's not what matters'

Jonathan Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News, says he doesn't want to engage in a "personal back-and-forth" with President Trump, arguing "it's not what matters."

Karl, who serves as head of the White House Correspondents' Association, has been on the receiving end of attacks from the president during White House coronavirus task force briefings in recent days, including Monday when Trump called him a "third-rate reporter" who will "never make it."

"I've been on the receiving end of very public attacks from the president. I've also been on the receiving end of public praise from the president," Karl told The Hill in an interview. "I think in both cases you need to ignore it. It's not what matters. What matters is trying to report the facts and being accurate and being fair and asking the right questions. I don't want to engage in this personal back-and-forth."

Karl's remarks come on the heels of the release of his new book, "Front Row at the Trump Show." The book notes that while Trump often characterizes the media as being "fake news" and the "enemy of the people" at campaign rallies and on Twitter, the president is also a big consumer of news, including outlets that he regularly criticizes.

"One of the fakest things in the world is Donald Trump's attack on fake news," Karl told The Hill. "Donald Trump actually does a lot to court reporters. ... [Trump] is certainly a consumer of news beyond any president that I've ever witnessed. He uses his DVR to watch all of the networks, to watch the cable networks, even those he professes to hate and to not watch."

Karl added that the president also is well aware of the political benefits of casting the media as the villain.

"And then he turns around and he makes really ugly, sometimes personal attacks on reporters or on news organizations," Karl said. "But it's part of the show for him. He's a big [World Wrestling Federation] guy and he knows that any performance requires a good villain. And in 'The Trump Show,' the villain is the media."

Karl said reporters, meanwhile, have a responsibility to avoid appearing too harsh "or like we're a political party or like a resistance."

"I outline in the book that I do believe we need to guard against appearing or acting like we are the president's political opponents. We are not. We got to report fairly and report objectively and report toughly, not toughly, but report in an aggressive way, which can sometimes appear very harsh to the president, and does," Karl said.

In the book, Karl references CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, who once recommended that journalists protest outside the White House and chant, "We are not the enemy of the people."

Karl said "that is not our role."

"Front Row at the Trump Show" is a bestseller on Amazon after being released on March 31.

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