In praise of "nasty" questions for Trump
Because now more than ever
Thanks to the 8,000-plus readers who have signed up for PRESS RUN.
If you’re enjoying the newsletter emailed to your inbox, please help spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and among friends. (Click “share” button below.) And thanks again for supporting independent voices. Cheers. Stay healthy.
It's hard to imagine a time in our recent history when journalists speaking truth to power has been more important than now during this pandemic.
At Friday's White House press conference in the Rose Garden, where Trump tried to spin the federal government's deadly and disastrous response, Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBSNewsHour, spoke truth to power when she asked if Trump took any “responsibility” for disbanding the National Security Council’s global health security unit, a short-sighted move that appears especially reckless in retrospect.
“I just think it’s a nasty question,” Trump snapped, before insisting he didn't know anything about that profoundly misguided move. “I mean, you say we did that,” he added. “I don’t know anything about it.”
Context: Trump's administration, as part of its hostile view of science, obliterated the federal government's ability to deal with a pandemic, and then he lied about it.
In May, 2018, "The top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic has left the administration, and the global health security team he oversaw has been disbanded," the Washington Post reported. President Barack Obama had established the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the National Security Council after the 2014 Ebola outbreak, in an effort to head off looming pandemic outbreaks in the U.S., specifically by creating a permanent liaison with the White House.
Highlighting that fact today was what set Trump off. And note that that wasn't the first time Trump has publicly lashed out at Alcindor. During a November 2018 briefing, when she asked Trump since he had once called himself a “nationalist” whether his embrace of “nationalism” was supporting white nationalists, he snapped, "I don’t know why you’d say that — that’s such a racist question,” Trump told Alcindor, who is black.
Being berated by the president is something most journalists do not enjoy, and human nature suggests it's easier to try to avoid such confrontations. But holding public officials accountable is what is so needed at this moment in time, so Alcindor and others deserves praise and respect for their hard work.
Granted, I wish her colleagues in the White House press corps had backed her up in real time on Friday, either by sticking up for her by name while questioning Trump, or echoing her question over and over. I understand we're facing a national public health crisis and perhaps journalist didn't feel like picking a media fight with Trump was the best idea on Friday. But to be honest, there's always a reason — there's always an excuse — for not standing up to Trump collectively, which is why it's been so rarely done over the last three years.
The public need is imperative with Trump's authoritarian tendencies, the Republican Party’s swing to the radical right, and an administration that has embraced congenital lying.
And yes, there's still too much normalizing of Trump in the pandemic coverage, as journalists and news outlets continue to give him the benefit of the doubt, when absolutely none has been earned. Following his disastrous primetime address last week, where Trump mumbled through a ten-minute speech while getting key facts wrong, the Wall Street Journal reported, "Coronavirus has challenged Mr. Trump’s unusual leadership style—blunt, improvisational and shoot-from-the-hip—like no other issue to confront his administration."
Are you kidding me? Trump has lied about the most basic public health facts of this pandemic: Any American who wants to can get tested! The vaccine will be ready in months! The administration's actions have gone against every guideline for a public health crisis: Be consistent. Be accurate. And don’t withhold vital information,
Yet the Journal casually chalks that up to a "blunt, improvisational and shoot-from-the-hip" style? As I asked last week, where are the "Trump Lies About Pandemic" headlines? Because they are drastically overdue.
Recently, The New York Times treated similarly news stories about Trump's widespread misinformation about a pandemic, and a technical glitch Joe Biden's campaign suffered on the campaign trail. (Hint: Those two are not similar in importance.) The Times also had to delete a Trump headline because the headline made no effort to point out that the news article it was attached to featured a blatant White House lie.
As the country struggles through a pandemic that's void of White House leadership, we need less media normalizing. We need more of holding Trump accountable, even if that requires asking lots of "nasty" questions.
Yesterday I appeared on MSNBC's "AM Joy" and we discussed Fox News' insanely reckless programming during this time of crisis. I made three key points:
-Rupert Murdoch is a deeply dishonorable man.
-Fox News is a cancer on our country.
-Fox News has been getting people killed for years, with its crusade against affordable healthcare, for instance.
Some in the conservative media didn't like my last point, and did me the favor of boosting my message in attempt to shame me, ha!
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
The Young Dubliners, “I’ll Tell Me Ma”
One of the sad things about the pandemic — although it's certainly not at the top of the list — is the essential cancellation of St. Patrick's Day. This late-winter month of the year has never been my favorite, and two things I always look forward to help brightening things up are college hoop season's March Madness, and St. Patrick's Day. The second, mostly because of the amazing amount of glorious Irish music. (Despite my clunky German last name, my family heritage is mostly Irish.)
It's not really possible for me to pick a favorite, but this one is up near the top. It's a great old Irish ditty about all the boys enamored with the "belle of Dublin city." Here, the Young Dubliners give the song an irresistible and infectious swing that makes you long for the boozy, buzzing pubs of St. Patrick's Day, 2021.
When she gets a lad of her own,
She won't tell her Ma when she gets home.
Let them all come as they will
For it's Albert Mooney she loves still.