Trump campaign exploits Bloomberg News blunder
One thing that can be said for sure about the Trump campaign’s approach to the media is that it is predictable and consistent. Whenever a news outlet makes a mistake or takes on Trump, the Trump campaign fights back.
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale wasted no time last week in criticizing Bloomberg News’ ill-devised decision to refrain from investigating Democratic presidential candidates, while continuing to eagerly scrutinize all things Trump. Parscale accused Bloomberg News of being openly biased, and then announced the Trump campaign would not credential Bloomberg reporters for campaign rallies or other events.
This act has played out before. The 2016 Trump campaign denied press access to multiple press outlets — including Politico and the Washington Post — during that campaign season. Apparently, that didn’t hurt Trump’s election prospects. The White House has also moved to revoke official press access, last year targeting CNN’s Jim Acosta and earlier this year revoking Playboy correspondent Brian Karem. The courts turned around the White House revocations, but campaigns have more leeway.
The reality is that Bloomberg News blundered with its campaign coverage rules.
Even with months of speculation that Bloomberg would become a candidate, the press restrictions rollout looked like it had been conceived in kneejerk fashion by a couple of random guys at the end of the bar. A far better, easier and fairer decision would have been for candidate Mike to segregate himself fully from Bloomberg News during the election season and show enough confidence in the professionalism of the organization’s journalists to let them continue doing their jobs.
Another option would have been to hire independent, freelance journalists to come on board, and give them sufficient resources and autonomy. Then turn them loose to cover the 2020 candidates — including Michael Bloomberg, all Democratic candidates, and Trump — as their independent judgement dictated.
The main outcome of the Bloomberg News campaign coverage blunder is that it gives Trump yet another opportunity to bash the mainstream, east-coast based big media outlets as unfair.
Keeping the anti-media narrative active is important to Trump’s re-election campaign in that it keeps his supporters energized. Trump backers appreciate the counterpunching style of the Trump campaign, particularly when it comes to the media.
The Bloomberg News decision about campaign coverage provides more optics of the mainstream media’s perceived irresistible urge to probe Trump. Sure, Trump is an easy and necessary reporting target, but had Bloomberg filed to run for president as a Republican challenger to Trump, odds are pretty certain the reporting rules would be much different from those recently imposed.
The Bloomberg News situation is a yawner for most news consumers. The news outlet is well respected enough in professional journalism circles, but it plays to a niche audience and is not a major agenda-setter in the national dialogue. Average news consumers in “flyover country,” including many Trump voters, probably knew little about Bloomberg News until Bloomberg himself became a candidate, and then shamelessly announced enterprise reporting about Democrats was off limits.
In the greater scheme of things, this Bloomberg News commotion is more of the hair-on-fire chaos that characterizes the media world in the era of Trump.
The media largely ignored Bloomberg News’ initial imposition of fairness-challenged reporting rules. The Media Research Center points out that major broadcast outlets totally ignored the decision. But when the Trump campaign announced its ejection of Bloomberg News reporters from campaign events, media executives jumped on their high horses. New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet condemned “any action that keeps quality news media from reporting fairly and accurately on the presidency and the leadership of the country.”
Bloomberg News would be wise to reconsider and then rescind their self-imposed rules about covering the presidential campaign, and then challenge the Trump campaign to restore access for Bloomberg reporters to events and rallies. Otherwise, Bloomberg News just leaves a door open for Trump to exploit in his ongoing battle with the press.
Jeffrey McCall is a media critic and professor of communication at DePauw University. He has worked as a radio news director, a newspaper reporter and as a political media consultant. Follow him on Twitter @Prof_McCall.