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President Trump Battles the Press at a Press Conference

By By: Ilya Arbit
On May 10, 2017

On Jan. 11 President-elect Donald Trump held a Press Conference in the lobby of Trump Tower located in the Midtown neighborhood in Manhattan. Approximately 500 journalists were present for the first press conference that Trump was holding since he was elected in November. As the press crowded around the podium, emblazoned with a formal sign reading “Office of the President-elect,” Trump proceeded to excoriate the press for its flawed coverage, particularly on the heels of a secret “dossier” being published just the night before by Buzzfeed.

While the real purpose of the press conference was the announcement of the transition of his business dealings to his sons and the steps being taken to avoid conflicts of interest, the news of the dossier and its contents quickly overshadowed the initial plan. The energy in the room was charged with emotion and quickly became hostile, particularly after a testy exchange Trump had with a CNN reporter, requesting permission to ask a question after Trump had accused the network of spreading unverified rumors. Trump, in the heat of the moment, called CNN “fake news,” which resulted in shocked gasps by the other members of the media present and cheers with applause from Trump transition team members crowded behind the press.

It is no secret that Trump’s campaign had a critical view of the press but now that Trump is preparing for his first days in the Oval Office, it seems that the vitriol that existed in the months leading up to Election Day is still prevalent during the transition period. It doesn’t appear that the relationship with member of the press by the Trump administration will change once he has fully stepped into the role. In the week after the press conference, several anonymous senior transition officials indicated that Trump and his press secretary Sean Spicer are looking to remove the media from their workspace in the White House. The plan is to move the press corps to an alternative space either in the nearby Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, or across the street to the White House Conference Center.

While the move may indeed allow for more space to be used by members of the press and accommodate more organizations than in the past, thus allowing Trump access to more members of the media than in the past. Trump is well known for his publicity stunts and he enjoys a large media presence whenever it suits his needs. A move like this would allow Trump and his administration to tightly control access of the press without the threat of reporters overhearing privileged information in the West Wing. However, moving the press out of the White House limits the reporter’s abilities in having easy access to members of the cabinet and the press officials inside the White House. The presence of the press inside the White House was also a reminder that ultimately the president is there to serve the public and that the press is there to hold him accountable to the public.

These moves, though small steps individually, collectively can alienate the press from holding Trump accountable for his statements and actions. These steps could lead to unforeseen abuses of power and could cause irreparable damage to society. It remains to be seen how the contentious relationship with the press will play out further as the Trump administration takes the reins of power.

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