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For the mainstream media, the Trump presidency is becoming personal

Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, arrives for a meeting with county sheriffs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

February 08, 2017 | by Kelly Riddell

The mainstream media is supposed to be tough on elected officials, even confrontational at times. However, its coverage should never become personal — and that’s exactly what’s happening in their approach to President Donald Trump.

The New York Times alleged in a column yesterday that Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior adviser, was declined by CNN as a guest Sunday because of “serious questions about her credibility.” Last week, Conway stumbled during an interview with MSNBC in defending the administration’s travel ban, citing the “Bowling Green massacre.”

Conway quickly corrected herself on Twitter the next day, saying she misspoke and meant to say terrorists instead of massacre. For there was no massacre, but in 2011, federal authorities did arrest two Iraqi refugees for plotting to send money and weapons to al Qaeda from their homes in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Brian Stelter, the media critic at CNN — before the network’s formal snub — floated the idea of all broadcast and cable networks boycotting Ms. Conway because of her ability to spin the narrative.

“Some critics say television networks should think twice before booking Conway,” he wrote in a column last week.

This is where the press is turning from fact-checkers, and holding the Trump administration accountable, into the opposition party.

The media — if they weren’t taking everything so personally — should love the opportunity to interview someone so high up in the White House. The Obama administration rarely allowed such access to senior level advisers such as Valerie Jarrett.

Yes, Conway can spin, but it’s the reporters’ job to hold her accountable, to quiz her when she seems off, and to try to make news by framing smart questions.

Chris Matthews, who was interviewing Ms. Conway during her Bowling Green slip up, didn’t catch it, so the moment passed by. Perhaps he hadn’t done his homework, or was unprepared for her answer, or just wasn’t listening. In any of these cases, it’s not Conway’s fault.

 

As soon as she realized she committed the error, she corrected herself. That was her responsibility and she owned up to it.

It seems the media can’t own up to theirs. Have her on and be prepared. Period. Don’t take it personal, just do your job.

Every administration is going to try to spin you — every interviewee, whether they’re a politician, CEO, actor or musician, has an angle, a narrative they’d like to promote. It’s up to the reporter to cut through the talking points, and expose the truth.

But, with Trump, it seems the press just wants to label everyone in his administration liars, and not cover them at all — in the name of the public good.

I don’t recall Susan Rice ever being declined from a news show after it was proved she lied about a viral online video causing the Benghazi terrorist attack. And Ben Rhodes still got booked after publicly admitting he successfully spun narratives to young, “know-nothing” journalists.

But that was in another era — a time when the press was less confrontational, and more willing to advocate for the positions of a liberal president. Still not doing their job, mind you, but not doing it happily. For, you see, that was viewed as in the name of public good.