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At first glance, Trump’s last-minute decision to cancel the press conference he had scheduled for Jan. 6, where he was going to tout his cascade of elections lies, looked like just another erratic move from a hardcore narcissist — he was piqued his Q&A session wasn’t going to be picked up live by enough TV outlets.
But by scrubbing the session, Trump continues his long-running streak since leaving office of refusing to address mainstream journalists and take their questions. For a politician who wallows in media attention and spent four years as president using the spotlight to validate his self-esteem, Trump’s current hibernation is strange. It’s especially odd since he’s the most powerful person in the Republican Party and refuses to answer a single, live question from a mainstream reporter.
Always eager to mix it up with journalists when he was president, where he’d insult them and then lie to them nonstop (journalists too often served as eager, willing props), Trump has spent the last year hiding from them. In fact, he has given no live interviews to serious journalists since he left office.
The drastic change in media strategy is curious and foreshadows what a possible re-election from Trump might look like. It could also answer the question, can someone run for President of the United States by hiding from the press during the entire campaign?
Not only won’t Trump answer journalists’ questions, he also has no presence on social media, having been banned from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for constantly violating terms of service guidelines with his online lies and threats. Reduced to issuing press releases for his strange pronouncements, which don’t generate nearly as much news and attention as his tweets did, Trump’s online influence has shrunk dramatically. “Since his social-media ban—just days before he left the White House—mentions of Mr. Trump on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have decreased 88%, according to Zignal Labs, a company that analyzes content on social media,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Locked out of social media and floundering as he tries to create a new company, Trump’s mainstream media footprint has been surprisingly small since leaving office.
I’m not suggesting Trump is ducking the Beltway press because he’s afraid journalists will pierce his shield of lies and hold him accountable in real time. They certainly didn’t do that during his four years in office, when eager White House journalists, addicted to the chaos he created, mostly stayed in star-struck mode and happily relayed Trump’s lies while politely downgrading them to “falsehoods.”
The so-called White House sprays, where reporters were marched into a room and encouraged to shout questions at Trump (who then lied about everything), were relatively pointless exchanges. The same was true for the embarrassing ritual of yelling questions at Trump while he stood near the whirling blades of a Marine One helicopter on the White House grounds.
The so-called Chopper Talk sessions allowed Trump to simply bluster and ramble through questions that clearly stumped him. And because the sessions were strangely covered as breaking news, Trump's lies were instantly amplified by the press, often with reporters failing to provide proper context for them. For years, the press kept bringing knives to the Trump gunfights—to the point where an obvious calculation had been made by the access-hunger Beltway press to not push too hard.
There’s no indication much has changed since 2020, were Trump to grant reporters access this year.
What’s interesting is that last spring Trump did invite down to Mar-a-lago a dozen journalists who were working on books about his presidency and gave them off-camera interviews. “It suggests that the former president is keen on keeping his name in the political conversation with the 2024 election on the far horizon,” Politico noted at the time.
The strategy seemed to backfire though, when several of the books released last year painted disturbing portraits of a White House determined to undercut democracy and obsessed with installing Trump for an illegal second term. Ever since then it’s been mostly crickets from Trump, who finds himself the target of more litigation.
While he hides from mainstream journalists, Trump’s been sitting down for Q&A’s with the sycophantic right-wing media. He’s given extended interviews to One America News, Newsmax, Fox News, pillow huckster Mike Lindell, along with fanboys Nigel Farage, Hugh Hewitt, and Glenn Beck. The "right-wing media, with a few honorable exceptions, is one giant safe space for the Big Lie," historian and "On Tyranny" author Timothy Snyder recently told CNN.
The sessions unfold pretty much as you’d imagine — GOP journalists who resemble potted plants ask opened-ended questions while Trump rambles on, not even pretending to stay within the lanes of coherency or the facts:
• Biden "didn't get 81 million votes, there's no way," he told OAN.
• Gas costs $7.77 in California.
• “When I was running, 2016, Christmas was like you couldn't say the word.”
For someone who is obsessed with, and feeds off, mainstream media attention, Trump’s disappearing act paints the picture of a charlatan.
UPDATE: As I was finishing the column, NPR’s Steve Inskeep tweeted that Trump called in for an interview with him on Monday, which ended with the Republican hanging up on the host. The interview is scheduled to air Wednesday morning.
(Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty Images)
💻 GOOD STUFF:
From Ron Filipkowski’s excellent piece at Bulwark, “How Democrats Can Win the Information War”:
If the Democratic party had even five intelligent, relentless, full-time people working as a team to fight the right-wing disinformation war, it would be more effective than all the traditional media outlets combined. Again: It isn’t the media’s job to fight partisan battles and the media as it currently exists simply isn’t configured to fight bad-faith, malicious propaganda and disinformation. But also, there are things that can be done by a partisan political group that traditional media cannot, will not, and should not do.
🤠 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK:
Miranda Lambert, “Y’all Means All”
“Queer Eye” heads to Texas for Season 6 and country star Lambert contributes the inclusive, sing-along hootenanny.
You can be born in Tyler, Texas
Raised with the Bible Belt
If you're torn between the Y's and X's
You ain't gotta play with the hand you're dealt (woo)
🎙 Click here to listen to the music that’s been featured on PRESS RUN, via a Spotify playlist.
Click here to listen via Apple Music.