WASHINGTON ― Three former White House press secretaries told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the incoming Trump administration will be a very different beast when it comes to dealing with the press.
“We’ve just elected a man who bullies female reporters at his rally as an applause line,” said Nicolle Wallace, who served as White House communications director under President George W. Bush. “We have just elected a man who started a hot war with a female anchor instead of attending a debate she moderated. We are in a new place. And I don’t think it’s good. And I don’t think it has any parallels to the past.”
The “Meet The Press” roundtable discussed Trump’s predilection for using Twitter to reach people and his frequent disparagement of journalists and journalism. “I don’t think Trump needs the press, but I think he wants them like an addict craves their drugs,” Wallace continued.
Joe Lockhart, who served as press secretary for President Bill Clinton, said that already within the transition period, Trump has diverged from past presidents. “We’re on opposite sides of the parties,” he said, referring to the other press secretaries in the roundtable, “but I think our transitions were really similar, because we shared a couple of things. We shared the idea that the press-president relationship was mutually beneficial. The reason people sit down in the briefing room every day is because both sides get something out of it.
“Traditionally for the last 50 years, we’ve operated on the same basic fact sets,” he continued. “We’re really in a place where ― we haven’t seen this, I think, since the ‘60s with Nixon ― where they create their own facts. You redefine the past, which means you can define the present and future. That’s going to be very difficult for both sides to come to grips with.”
“It’s a double-barreled hostility,” said Ari Fleischer, another George W. Bush press secretary. “His press corps can’t stand Donald Trump, and Donald Trump is happy to return the favor.”
But Fleischer blamed the press, at least in part. Trump is able to use the public’s animosity toward the press to his advantage, because “confidence in the press to report the news fairly has never been lower ― they have lost the trust of the readers and the viewers.”