CPJ Seeks Trump Meeting Over Ongoing Press Attacks

The Committee to Protect Journalists said President Trump's attacks on press credibility have been "dangerously effective," even as the pandemic kills tens of thousands of Americans.

It has issued a report on Trump (penned by former Washington Post executive editor Len Downie) and the media and has written the President asking for a meeting--virtually or when social distancing is relaxed--to talk about its concerns and improving the press environment.

Related: Trump Brands News 'Fake' Over Coverage

The report said Trump's attacks, which have been a drumbeat on Twitter and have now also moved to his daily COVID-19 White House briefings, endanger democracy and global press freedom.

The report also asserts that the Administration has "stepped up prosecutions of news sources, interfered in the business of media owners, harassed journalists crossing U.S. borders, and empowered foreign leaders to restrict their own media."

Downie, who was an editor at the Post during the Watergate stories, said that Trump's attacks on the press are arguably more damaging and pernicious than Richard Nixon's.

Related: Trump Call NBC Reporter Terrible

At one point in the report, to illustrate the calculation that went behind the attack strategy, he cites 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl. Stahl told a Society of Professional Journalists gathering that when then President-elect Trump started attacking the press off camera before a 2016 interview, she asked why he kept up the attacks given that he had already won. His response, said Stahl: "You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so that, when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you."

CPJ wants Trump to stand up for press freedom, stop discrediting journalists (literally and otherwise), and improve access to information.

CPJ also sent the President a copy of the report, and suggested it was worth reading "in full." That could be a tough ask since the President regularly attacks the Washington Post as among the fake news outlets he says are teaming up with his Democratic rivals to take him down.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.