The media is firing back at Donald Trump over his takedown of the political press on Tuesday.
National Press Club president Thomas Bur released a scathing statement attacking the presumptive GOP presidential nominee for “misunderstanding” or “simply opposing” a free press.
“Any American political candidate who attacks the press for doing its job is campaigning in the wrong country,” Burr said.
Carol Lee, president of the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA), expressed concerns about the possibility of a president or candidate limiting free speech or access to his or her administration.
“We don't know who will be in the White House in January, but the presidential campaign has underscored the importance of press freedoms, and the WHCA will continue to defend those rights through the transition this fall and with the news administration next year,” Lee said.
CNN anchor Dana Bash delivered an impassioned speech on her network that defended questions from reporters about Trump’s donations to veterans groups.
“It’s our job to ask questions of leaders,” Bash said. “It’s a fundamental requirement and responsibility of a free press. It’s what makes us different from North Korea and other places.
“I get it. We all get it. We all understand why, and it’s understandable why he’s doing it, but in this particular case, he is somebody who’s got to be ready to take questions, and on this particular issue, the press did its job and did it pretty well,” Bash said.
Political reporters took to Twitter to praise Bash's defense of the media and retweeted the clip of her CNN appearance.
Trump has made a habit throughout his career of taking on and using the media.
He frequently accuses the press of lying about him and invites supporters to jeer and boo members of the media who cover his campaign events.
Trump has also used the advantages of national media attention like no politician before him.
The Republican has garnered wall-to-wall coverage by continually feeding news to the media to ensure that stories about him stay on the air and on front pages. He’s received millions of dollars' worth of free media exposure while largely avoiding paid campaign ads.
The media has also benefitted from Trump. The GOP nominee has boasted of his ability to generate high ratings on cable news shows, and this cycle’s Republican debates were blockbusters for Fox News, CNN and other networks.
But this relationship is showing signs of changing as Trump marches toward November's election.
Reporters are increasingly asking questions about their role in Trump’s rise and coming under more pressure to do investigative stories on Trump’s background and business dealings.
Trump took offense at reports that he had raised less money than he claimed earlier this year at a charitable event for veterans, though press accounts also made clear that much of the $5.6 million he said he raised didn’t go to any organizations until last week.
At a press conference, he labeled the political media as “dishonest” and “unfair.”
David Martosko, U.S. political editor at the Daily Mail, asked Trump if what the public saw Tuesday was a preview of how he’d handle the press as president.
“Yeah, it is. I’m going to continue to attack the press,” he said.
While observers, including GOP strategist Karl Rove, have argued that Trump stepped on his own message about giving to veterans by ripping into the media on Tuesday, Trump showed little remorse after the press conference.
The businessman defended calling ABC reporter David Llamas “a sleaze,” accusing him of “inaccurate” reporting.
“He's just a very inaccurate reporter. He's not a good professional. He doesn't have what it takes. And he writes very inaccurately,” Trump told the Daily Mail. “He's got an ax to grind.”
“And by the way, ABC — of all of them — they treat me terribly. No matter what I do, on ABC, it's always bad,” Trump added.
Not everyone in the media piled on the criticism.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly tweeted that Trump was “wise” to go after the press because “it was authentic.”
Conservative blogger and radio host Erick Erickson, a prominent voice in the Never Trump movement that is seeking a third-party candidate, praised Trump’s press conference as “brilliant” in a Wednesday column.
Polls show the public views the media negatively, so attacking the press could be an effective rallying cry for Trump.
“When you talk about unifying the party, I don’t think anything unifies the party more than a press conference where he goes after the media where a lot of Republicans and conservatives think the media leans left and going after Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden sends 'best wishes' to Clinton following hospitalization The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE,” Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyTrump pushing ex-Rep. Duffy to run for Wisconsin governor Fox News signs book deal with HarperCollins First lady's press secretary calls on Rachel Campos Duffy, Fox News to apologize for host's comments MORE told CNN’s Jake Tapper, mentioning Trump's likely Democratic opponent.
But Rove, who’s been an outspoken critic of Trump's, said the presumptive nominee's current bluster and relationship with the press won't help him win over swing voters needed to win in November.
“I’m not certain it helps him with the people who are swing voters, up for grabs, and it certainly is very unpresidential,” Rove said Wednesday morning on Fox News's “America’s Newsroom.” “It would not be a good spectacle for our country to have a President TrumpDonald TrumpRobert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' MORE acting like Candidate Trump acted yesterday.”