From the beginning of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has not hidden his distaste for the press. He’s called NBC’s Katy Tur “Little Katy,” dubbed CNN “The Fake News Network” and encouraged supporters to yell at journalists during his campaign rallies. Over the 16 months that he’s been in office, according to CNN, he’s been privately telling advisers that he’d like to relieve certain outlets of their White House press credentials.

On Wednesday morning he took those concerns public in a tweet in which he asked, “Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?”

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) responded with outrage. “Some may excuse the president’s inflammatory rhetoric about the media, but just because the president does not like news coverage does not make it fake,” WHCA President Margaret Talev said in a statement.

“A free press must be able to report on the good, the bad, the momentous and the mundane, without fear or favor. And a president preventing a free and independent press from covering the workings of our republic would be an unconscionable assault on the First Amendment.”

Maggie Haberman of The New York Times also tweeted her concern, noting that President Trump lacks “understanding of how news coverage actually works, and unfortunately so do a lot of his supporters.”

Both these statements stood in sharp contrast to many White House reporters’ recent defense of administration officials, especially of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, following comedian Michelle Wolf’s remarks at the annual WHCA dinner. Wolf’s jokes implied that Sanders frequently lied.

“Apology is owed to @PressSec and others grossly insulted by Michelle Wolf at White House Correspondents Assoc dinner which started with uplifting heartfelt speech by @margarettalev – comedian was worst since Imus insulted Clinton’s,” tweeted NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

Haberman even defended Sanders, saying, “That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.”

Perhaps their real concern was Wolf’s comments on their work. She took aim directly at reporters and producers for their Trump coverage, implying that by featuring him and his advisers so often, networks and newspapers are enabling them. “You guys have got to stop putting Kellyanne [Conway] on your shows,” Wolf told a room full of bookers and producers who all routinely feature Conway. “All she does is lie.”

Wolf continued, “If you don’t give her a platform, she has nowhere to lie.”

White House reporters depend on access to do their jobs and boost their credibility with the public. Sometimes they appear to have become too cozy with their sources in order to get that access. Perhaps the issue here is not only losing freedom of the press but losing reporters’ freedom to access White House staff members.

It remains to be seen whether the presidential comment on rescinding press credentials is a true threat or Trump is throwing a Twitter tantrum just because he can.


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