This week, presumptive GOP nominee and peripatetic heap of tannery fleshings Donald Trump announced that his campaign will no longer offer press credentials to The Washington Post. The Post joins a growing number of media outlets that have been similarly blacklisted by the campaign. Over at Gawker, Gabrielle Bluestone runs down the list of those affected. Gawker itself is on the list, as is The Huffington Post. There's also Politico, BuzzFeed, National Review, The New York Times, The Des Moines Register, Mother Jones, The Daily Beast, Univision and The New Tri-State Defender.
Join us. Get on the blacklist.
The Washington Post has found itself blacklisted because it has made a practice of telling the truth about Donald Trump, something that Trump himself does not countenance. In recent weeks, the Post's reporters were at the forefront of a rising demand that Trump disclose the whereabouts of some $6 million he'd promised to veterans charities.
Trump lied repeatedly to Post reporter Drew Harwell, a fact that was subsequently disclosed by Post reporter David Fahrenthold. That disclosure forced Trump to part with $1 million of his own money, in a check written the day of Fahrenthold's disclosure. As The Associated Press reported, Trump had previously lied, telling the Post that this donation had already been made.
The event that seems to have precipitated the Post's blacklisting came on Monday, June 13, when the paper published a story headlined, "Donald Trump suggests President Obama was involved with Orlando shooting." Trump took exception to this, calling the paper "dishonest" and "phony." But the paper gave the piece that headline precisely because Donald Trump suggested that President Obama was involved with the Orlando shooting.
Does it seem inconceivable that Trump said this? It shouldn't. It's no more insane than him insisting that Obama was not born in the U.S., or suggesting a link between Ted Cruz's father and the Kennedy assassination. But let's go to the tape. I'll bold all the places where Trump alleged that Obama was either involved with, or tacitly sanctions, the murder of 49 people at a gay club in Florida:
"Look, we're led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he's got something else in mind," Trump said in a lengthy interview on Fox News early Monday morning. "And the something else in mind -- you know, people can't believe it. People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can't even mention the words 'radical Islamic terrorism.' There's something going on. It's inconceivable. There's something going on."
In that same interview, Trump was asked to explain why he called for Obama to resign in light of the shooting and he answered, in part: "He doesn't get it or he gets it better than anybody understands -- it's one or the other, and either one is unacceptable."
Trump has been given the opportunity to clarify what he intended to say, and he has specifically refused to do so, leaving it to others to come up with their own interpretations. This is nothing more than a litmus test: If you whitewash his ominous insinuations, you stay in his good graces. If you refuse, and tell the truth about what he said and how he said it, you get blacklisted.
My recommendation: Get blacklisted.
As CNN's Tom Kludt and Brian Stelter report, The Washington Post made additional attempts after the original piece was published to be more cautious about what it was reporting:
The Post later adjusted its story to make the headline tamer. The headline now reads, "Donald Trump seems to connect President Obama to Orlando shooting."
Kris Coratti, a spokeswoman for the Post, told CNNMoney that the headline was changed "shortly after it posted to more properly reflect what Trump said."
"We did so on our own; the Trump campaign never contacted us about it," Coratti said.
In the end, it didn't matter. The Trump campaign revoked the Post's credentials anyway. This has dovetailed perfectly with predictions I'd previously made (if you'll allow me a moment of Trump-like self-congratulation). You cannot insulate yourself from Trump's war on a free press by remaining above the fray. You won't avoid retribution by following what's always been the safe path for political journalism -- performing the ritual of neutrality. Donald Trump makes no distinction between negative commentary about him and objectively true facts that cast him in a bad light.
So: Does your publication bend over backward to be neutral? It won't help. If you present objectively true facts about Donald Trump that make him look bad -- like, for instance, a verbatim transcription of the words that tumble out of his cakehole -- you're as likely as not to end up on his blacklist.
Save yourself the time and heartbreak by joining us on it now.
Being blacklisted by the Trump campaign will come at a cost. Reporters will lose access to a presidential candidate. They'll be barred from covering his campaign as it wends its way along the campaign trail. Calls won't be returned. Scoops will be harder to come by.
That's OK. You can still do your jobs without all this access, perhaps even better than you did before. If you're uncertain about that, just listen to blacklisted Post editor Marty Baron, who responded to Trump like so:
"Donald Trump's decision to revoke The Washington Post's press credentials is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press," Baron wrote in a statement. "When coverage doesn't correspond to what the candidate wants it to be, then a news organization is banished. The Post will continue to cover Donald Trump as it has all along -- honorably, honestly, accurately, energetically, and unflinchingly. We're proud of our coverage, and we're going to keep at it."
Baron has some experience in dealing with subjects who endeavored to keep him at arm's length, nesting in a web of lies. There's a whole movie about that.
Typically, the ability to gain intimate access to a presidential candidate offers reporters sundry rewards. In normal circumstances, you wouldn't want to get blacklisted. Trump is an exception.
A reporter in a close relationship with a candidate can plumb his or her depths, and get to the deeper thoughts behind his or her ideas. Trump has offered no evidence that he has any deep thoughts. His inventory of ideas is now completely chronicled. A reporter with access could keep a close watch on a candidate's policy positions. Trump's policy positions keep changing. They change by design: Trump's intent, in this election, is to deny reporters the foothold they need to render analysis, and to inform their audience about what he is for, and what he is against.
Trump has made it clear that everything he has to say about policy is just a suggestion. He's stuck us with the job of imagining how his policies could be implemented, because he'd rather see us pin ourselves down than be pinned down himself. This is another litmus test for us: We can either figure out how he could operationalize his zany plans on his behalf, or we call him out for not having done so himself and risk the sort of punishment the Post got.
And what of the scoops? Those nibble-sized bites of campaign intrigue that fuel our daily news cycle? I think you should either trust your own doggedness or learn to live without them. Last week was a glorious heyday for inside-the-Trump-campaign scooplets, fueled in no small part by the fact that this campaign has warring factions that are, in contravention of Trump's overall media strategy, anonymously fighting one another in the press in an attempt to paint the other side as incompetent. I doubt this is going to stop anytime soon.
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort recently broke with his candidate's overall embargo of The Huffington Post, sitting for an interview with our own Howard Fineman. Manafort told us that Trump was going to moderate his position on a ban on Muslims, saying, "Within his comfort zone, he'll soften it some more." Guess what? Not true. Either Manafort was lying, or he was lied to. Either way, it speaks to the diminishing marginal utility of having access to the Trump campaign.
So, goodbye to all that. Join us on the blacklist.
Donald Trump flouts constitutional norms the way the rest of us draw breath. And he's made it clear that he would wage a blistering war against a free press if given the power to do so. There are many things that he might not get Congress or an independent judiciary to endorse, but he'd have power over numerous regulatory agencies nonetheless. His campaign has threatened the press with the specter of relentless lawsuits. His campaign has threatened to create "such problems" for Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post. His campaign has suggested that CNN might be stripped of its FCC license.
Trump explicitly wants media organizations to pick a side. Those that cover him in the manner he approves will be rewarded. Those that don't -- up to and including all of those striving to be scrupulously neutral -- will be punished. There will be those that opt in to Trump's design. Let the Vichy press go their own way. The rest of us face a decision about whether we're willing to defend each other's ability to do our jobs, now and in the future.
Media organizations should understand that many of the people who properly recognize the danger Donald Trump poses -- his disregard for the rule of law, his disdain for broad swaths of America's population, his Know-Nothingness, his threat to America's principles, his disregard for the alliances that have kept the world secure, his open racism, his xenophobia, his unrelenting ignorance -- blame the media for allowing this all to happen. They see us as having aided and abetted Trump's rise. Many people who oppose Trump have even accused the press of deliberately engineering his nomination, by withholding information that could have prevented it, all for the sake of either ratings or for allowing a stronger Republican opponent the opportunity of coming to the fore.
There are parts of this argument that I categorically reject, and which you should as well. Nevertheless, the notion that the media helped give rise to Trump is one that has been argued compellingly enough to give all of us pause. The argument absolutely has enough substance to become part of the accepted history of this moment. I don't know if it will ultimately become part of the historical record. I don't know who, specifically, will be blamed. What I do know is that right now, there's only one possible safe haven from history's judgment on this matter. That refuge of honor is Donald Trump's blacklist.
So join the blacklist. Join The Washington Post. Join The New York Times. Join Gawker. Join Politico. Join BuzzFeed. Join National Review. Join The Des Moines Register. Join Mother Jones. Join The Daily Beast. Join Univision. Join The New Tri-State Defender. Join The Huffington Post.
Join us today.
Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.
Every week, HuffPost Must Reads features a behind-the-scenes look at how longform journalism is made. We go under the hood. Why did the writer take that unexpected angle? How hard was it to get that source on the record? We're here to tell that story. Learn more