Yesterday, President-elect Donald Trump met with some members of the press. Things did not go well, with one attendee saying that the meeting was like being brought before a “f*cking firing squad.” (Trump propagandist spokesperson Kellyanne Conway of course expressed the opposite sentiment, saying the whole thing was “very cordial.”)
That said, Trump was scheduled to meet today with editors and reporters from the New York Times. This morning he announced — via Twitter, naturally — that he was cancelling the meeting with the Times, due to the fact that they’re “not nice” to him and cover him with a “nasty tone.” (Surely this had nothing to do with the Times running a front page story today questioning Trump’s business dealings in foreign countries.)
The New York Times is countering Trump’s claim that it was they who requested changing the terms and conditions of the meeting at the last minute, saying instead that it was Trump who requested a last minute change in terms and conditions (that everything discussed in the meeting be kept off the record). Times’s senior vice president for communications, Eileen M. Murphy, responded with the following statement this morning.
“We were unaware that the meeting was canceled until we saw the president-elect’s tweet this morning. We did not change the ground rules at all and made no attempt to. They tried to yesterday — asking for only a private meeting and no on-the-record segment, which we refused to agree to. In the end, we concluded with them that we would go back to the original plan of a small off-the-record session and a larger on-the-record session with reporters and columnists.”
Late last night New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick provided some additional details about the meeting Trump had with members of the press on Monday. To borrow a phrase from Trump, the who thing sounds pretty nasty.
For more than twenty minutes, Trump railed about “outrageous” and “dishonest” coverage. When he was asked about the sort of “fake news” that now clogs social media, Trump replied that it was the networks that were guilty of spreading fake news. The “worst,” he said, were CNN (“liars!”) and NBC.
This is where we are. The President-elect does not care who knows how unforgiving or vain or distracted he is. This is who he is, and this is who will be running the executive branch of the United States government for four years.
The overall impression of the meeting from the attendees I spoke with was that Trump showed no signs of having been sobered or changed by his elevation to the country’s highest office. Rather, said one, “He is the same kind of blustering, bluffing, blowhard as he was during the campaign.”
Another participant at the meeting said that Trump’s behavior was “totally inappropriate” and “fucking outrageous.” The television people thought that they were being summoned to ask questions; Trump has not held a press conference since late July. Instead, they were subjected to a stream of insults and complaints—and not everyone absorbed it with pleasure.
“I have to tell you, I am emotionally fucking pissed,” another participant said. “How can this not influence coverage? I am being totally honest with you. Toward the end of the campaign, it got to a point where I thought that the coverage was all about [Trump’s] flaws and problems. And that’s legit. But, I thought, O.K., let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. After the meeting today, though—and I am being human with you here—I think, Fuck him! I know I am being emotional about it. And I know I will get over it in a couple of days after Thanksgiving. But I really am offended. This was unprecedented. Outrageous!”
Another attendee told Remnick that Trump “truly doesn’t seem to understand the First Amendment…He thinks we are supposed to say what he says and that’s it.” Another report noted that Trump was upset with NBC for using what he considered to be an unflattering photograph of him (because it made him appear to have a double-chin) in a report.
Trump is still a couple of months away from even taking office. It’s going to be an interesting four to eight years.
UPDATE: Trump has apparently changed his mind and will now meet with the Times editors and writers.