Editor’s Note: SE Cupp is a CNN political commentator and the host of “SE Cupp Unfiltered,” covering contemporary issues on HLN. The views expressed in this commentary are solely hers. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Wednesday’s show of solidarity among the press was a welcome sight after years of giddy media-bashing by President Donald Trump, which has gone largely unreproved by his friendliest outlets.
In a rare rebuke from Trump’s preferred news outlet, Fox News, anchor Bret Baier read a statement from the network in defense of none other than the President’s favorite news foe, CNN:
“Just because the White House is uncomfortable with a question regarding the news of the day doesn’t mean the question isn’t relevant and shouldn’t be asked. This decision to bar a member of the press is retaliatory in nature and not indicative of an open and free press. We demand better. As a member of the White House press pool, Fox stands firmly with CNN on this issue of access.”
Further, Fox News President Jay Wallace, who worked for many years alongside White House deputy chief of staff for communications (and former Fox executive) Bill Shine, issued his own statement, reading: “We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press.”
This stunning show of force all came after CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, representing five television networks as the pool reporter for the White House press corps, was banned from an open press event in the Rose Garden by Shine and press secretary Sarah Sanders for asking what they deemed inappropriate questions of the President during a pool spray earlier that day. Or, better put, doing her job.
As numerous other reporters have observed on air and on social media, the questions she asked were on point and voiced neither disrespectfully nor loudly. CNN released the questions, which covered Trump’s thoughts about Michael Cohen and his relationship with Vladimir Putin, in a statement.
Of course, standing up for competitors in the press used to be a far more usual thing, before Trump. Then-ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper stood up for Fox in 2009 when President Barack Obama implied the latter was not a news organization.
When the Obama administration tried to ban Fox from an interview with a Treasury official, the rest of the pool reporters said essentially, it’s all of us or none of us.
But in the Trump era, when only the most fawning loyalty is rewarded with access, that practice of solidarity has largely gone dormant.
It’s good to see it make a much-needed comeback.
It actually started two weeks ago when Trump again derided CNN as “fake news” at a press gaggle.
“CNN is fake news,” he said to Jim Acosta when he tried to ask a question during Trump’s press appearance with Theresa May. “I don’t take questions from CNN. Let’s go to a real network,” he added, giving a question to Fox News’ John Roberts.
Instead of using that moment to defend his CNN colleague, Roberts went right along with his question.
But the backlash from his fellow supporters was swift, and he eventually issued a defense of CNN, saying, “There are some fine journalists who work there and risk their lives to report on stories around the world. To issue a blanket condemnation of the network as ‘fake news’ is also unfair.”
And last week, NBC reporter Hallie Jackson asked Sanders a question about Russia at a press briefing, but Sanders wouldn’t answer. When she moved on to The Hill’s Jordan Fabian, he ceded his time back to Jackson.
If the people who cover this President are realizing his attacks on one are an attack on all, that’s a good thing.
Unfortunately, some of the damage is already done. Trump has profited off of his phony and juvenile “fake news” campaign since he came into office – sowing seeds of doubt in the veracity of verifiable reporting, stoking conspiracy theories that many of his supporters happily propagate and convincing wide swaths of people that the press writ large is an untrustworthy institution. And to great effect – trust in the media is at record lows.
Gross enough on its face, Trump’s undermining of one of America’s most important checks on power (like the President’s) has been enabled and emboldened by the silence of many people in the very business he maligns.
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Going forward, let’s hope we see more moments like these, when press outlets stand together regardless of the coverage of the President, instead of the relative silence from some corners that has shrouded Trump’s first year and a half in office.