On Monday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted this:
“There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly.”
Given that the President of the United States was blaming the media for creating the “great anger in our Country” and arguing that the mainstream media was the “true Enemy of the People,” it didn’t seem like much of a stretch to ask the White House to name names. Who, exactly, is the fake news? What outlets are the enemy of the people?
CNN’s Jim Acosta did just that during a press briefing Monday with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. Here’s the exchange:
ACOSTA: “The President said this morning the fake news media, the true enemy of the people, must stop. They have a responsibility to report the news accurately and fairly. Can you state for the record which outlets you and the President regard as the enemy of the people?”
SANDERS: “I’m not going to walk through a list but I think those individuals probably know who they are.”
COSTA: “Would that include my outlet, which received pipe bombs last week?”
SANDERS: “I don’t think it’s necessarily specific to a broad generalization of a full outlet, at times, I think there’s individuals that the President would be referencing.”
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So, no names named. Which should surprise exactly no one.
The little secret of Trump’s “fake news” attack is that he doesn’t hate the media at all. He LOVES the media. He cares deeply about what they say and write about him. He likes to banter with reporters. He consumes more media – primarily by watching cable TV – than any president ever. And it’s not close.
All of Trump’s attacks on “fake news” and his labeling of the media as the “enemy of the people” are purely a political strategy. The President knows his base hates and distrusts the media. What better way to motivate them eight days before the midterm election than to cast the media as the real bad guy at the root of the violent rhetoric and actions we have seen over the past week?
Sanders can’t name specific outlets or specific people who are enemies of the people or purveyors of fake news because the whole thing is just empty rhetoric solely designed to motivate base voters. There’s no “there” there. Which becomes readily apparent when a reporter calls out the White House on its dangerous and inflammatory rhetoric.
The Point: Trump’s voters won’t care a whit about Sanders’ inability to name an actual “fake news” organization. ALL of them are fake, they will insist. Which, while wrong and unprovable, will probably be enough for many people. Ugh.