President Donald Trump got particularly exercised with an NBC reporter at the daily coronavirus briefing Friday (March 20), then took off on the media.
Asked by NBC News’ Peter Alexander whether the President's positive spin on efforts to produce vaccines was giving people false hope, the President said no. When Alexander asked what he would say to the millions of Americans scared by the death toll and infection numbers, Trump shot back: "I say that you are a terrible reporter, that's what I say."
He called it a "nasty" question and a "bad signal" to put out to the American people. He said the American people "are looking for answers and they're looking for hope."
But the President wasn't done.
"You're doing sensationalism, and the same with NBC and Con-cast, for whom you work--I don't call it Comcast, I call it Con-cast," the President added for clarification. Let me just tell you something. That's really bad reporting and you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism."
Asked by another reporter whether a wartime President "going off" on Alexander or Comcast/NBC was appropriate, Trump said "I do, because I think Peter is not a good journalist when it comes to fairness."
Trump said the country has to understand that there is both great journalism and fake news. He said he "hears it all, sees it all, and understands it all."
"When someone does a story on TV and I know it's fake, I call Peter out and I call other people out," said the President. "This is a time to come together, but it's harder when we have dishonest journalists."
He said he thought journalism was an important profession, and that he even cherished it. "When people are dishonest they truly do hurt our country," he said.
“I am sure there are plenty of baseball fans watching right now. In TV terms, we call this a ‘softball,’" said Alexander following the exchange. "I was trying to provide the president an opportunity to reassure the millions of Americans, members of my own family and my neighbors and my community and plenty of people sitting at home, this was his opportunity to do that, to provide a positive or uplifting message.
"Instead, you saw the president’s answer to that question right now. But it really does go to one of the fundamental concerns, Americans are looking for a sense of confidence in their leaders at this moment as many of them are glued to their TVS or stuck behind closed doors in their homes surrounded by only loved ones right now. I think it does sort of reveal a frustration, perhaps an anxiety of his political prospects, about a situation that is hard to keep in control as we witnessed it continue to spiral at this time."
Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, who anchored the network's coverage of the President's coronavirus update, said: "“Peter, on behalf of all of my colleagues here and all of our colleagues, I want to thank you for your professionalism and the way you do represent NBC News and the Comcast family in that room. I wish people on the on the other side of the podium had the same professionalism as well, so thank you, Peter.”
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.
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