Donald Trump getting ready to speak with the media in Mesa, Ariz., in December 2015. (Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0)

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump eschewed news conferences and accused the media of being “dishonest” and “unfair.” Now the president-elect’s team is making efforts to reach out to mainstream media networks and publications for what Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway calls a “reset.”

The week of addressing his complicated relationship with the news media started off with a private meeting on the 25th floor of Trump Tower on Monday. Network executives and their on-air anchors—including CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, NBC News’ Lester Holt and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos—were among the more than two dozen high-profile attendees, The Huffington Post reported. 

The tone of the off-the-record meeting ranged from “like a fucking firing squad,” according to a source for The New York Post, to “largely substantive,” according to a source who spoke with Politico. Publications from The New York Times to Breitbart News agreed on one thing, however: Trump took the opportunity to antagonize his broadcast adversaries face to face.

Trump’s adviser Conway weighed in as well. The meeting “was very cordial, very productive, very congenial,” she told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower. “It was also very candid and very honest.”

The fact that the 25 high-profile journalists and executives attended on the condition of not revealing the contents of the meeting is problematic, according to Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept. He objected to what he saw as weak journalistic ethics:

To begin with, why would journalistic organizations agree to keep their meeting with Donald Trump off the record? If you’re a journalist, what is the point of speaking with a powerful politician if you agree in advance that it’s all going to be kept secret? Do they not care what appearance this creates: the most powerful media organizations meeting high atop Trump Tower with the country’s most powerful political official, with everyone agreeing to keep it all a big secret from the public? Whether or not it actually is collusion, whether or not it actually is subservient ring-kissing in exchange for access, it certainly appears to be that.

[…] But why do media organizations need to have cooperative access agreements with politicians? Just report on and investigate what he says and does. Don’t agree to ground rules that limit or subvert your ability to report aggressively. Don’t turn yourselves into vassals in order to be granted access to the royal court.

Trump is not following presidential tradition with meetings like this, according to Michael Calderone of The Huffington Post:

Network anchors have traditionally held off-the-record lunches with the president ahead of the State of the Union address, and President Barack Obama held several private discussions with leading columnists and commentators.

But it’s less common to have both network bosses and top on-air talent meet with a president or, in this case, the president-elect. And it isn’t clear if the networks pushed to get Trump to speak on the record. 

On Tuesday, staffers at The New York Times live-tweeted their meeting with the president-elect, which took place between Trump’s team and the newspaper only after a compromise of one “small” off-the-record session and a “larger on-the-record session,” according to a statement from the Times.

When asked whether he saw himself as energizing the alt-right movement, Trump replied, “I don’t think so.”

“I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group,” he told Dean Baquet, executive editor of The Times. “It’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why.”

When the journalists at The Times focused on conflicts of interest with his company, Trump admitted he thinks his brand is “hotter” since his election. However, he asserted, “My company’s so unimportant to me relative to what I’m doing.”

Trump upheld his cabinet nominees thus far, as well as the appointment of chief strategist Steve Bannon, who has drawn widespread criticism and accusations of supporting white supremacy.

Trump said: “If I thought he was a racist or alt-right or any of the things, the terms we could use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him.”

Unlike Monday’s meeting in which Trump strongly criticized media organizations, the president-elect was more amenable to making nice. Trump told The Times newsroom staff, “I hope we can all get along.”

However, true to form, he did not resist a swipe at The Times, which he has often accused of dishonesty and inaccuracy in tweets even hours before the meeting.

“I do read [The New York Times]. Unfortunately. I’d live about 20 years longer if I didn’t,” he joked with the staff.

Conway promised the president-elect would hold a news conference “soon.”

Politico’s Brent Griffiths noted that Trump has not addressed the media in a news conference since July. Griffiths wrote, “Going back to Jimmy Carter, no president-elect has waited as long as Trump to address the country after winning.”

Posted by KiMi Robinson

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