November 22nd, 2016

So, why did Trump have a meeting with the press and then excoriate them?

By now you probably have read the stories about how Trump called a meeting with the press, only to give them a dressing down. If you don’t care much—well, the press certainly does.

Just as an example, see this from David Remnick of the New Yorker:

The fantasy of the normalization of Donald Trump—the idea that a demagogic candidate would somehow be transformed into a statesman of poise and deliberation after his Election Day victory—should now be a distant memory, an illusion shattered.

First came the obsessive Twitter rants directed at “Hamilton” and “Saturday Night Live.” Then came Monday’s astonishing aria of invective and resentment aimed at the media, delivered in a conference room on the twenty-fifth floor of Trump Tower. In the presence of television executives and anchors, Trump whined about everything from NBC News reporter Katy Tur’s coverage of him to a photograph the news network has used that shows him with a double chin. Why didn’t they use “nicer” pictures?

For more than twenty minutes, Trump railed about “outrageous” and “dishonest” coverage…

This is where we are. The President-elect does not care who knows how unforgiving or vain or distracted he is. This is who he is, and this is who will be running the executive branch of the United States government for four years.

The over-all impression of the meeting from the attendees I spoke with was that Trump showed no signs of having been sobered or changed by his elevation to the country’s highest office. Rather, said one, “He is the same kind of blustering, bluffing blowhard as he was during the campaign.”

Another participant at the meeting said that Trump’s behavior was “totally inappropriate” and “fucking outrageous.” …

“I have to tell you, I am emotionally fucking pissed,” another participant said. “How can this not influence coverage? I am being totally honest with you. Toward the end of the campaign, it got to a point where I thought that the coverage was all about [Trump’s] flaws and problems. And that’s legit. But, I thought, O.K., let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. After the meeting today, though—and I am being human with you here—I think, Fuck him! I know I am being emotional about it. And I know I will get over it in a couple of days after Thanksgiving. But I really am offended. This was unprecedented. Outrageous!”

I keep waiting for the punch line.

Seriously, who sounds more like blustering blowhards, Trump or the quoted press (quoted by the sympathetic Remnick)? Who sounds more unforgiving, vain, and distracted, Trump or the quoted press? Who sounds more full of invective and resentment, Trump or the quoted press? Who sounds more outrageous and out of line (not to mention biased), Trump or the quoted press?

And who outside of the press thinks the press was fair to Trump after his nomination? It was pretty clear during his campaign that—after the first month or two of their unfavorable coverage didn’t hurt him, and it became apparent he wasn’t just a joke but had a chance for the nomination—that they were essentially fattening him up for the kill (in the metaphoric sense), promoting him till he was nominated and then portraying him unfavorably afterward so that their favored one, Hillary, could beat him.

It didn’t work out quite that way.

You wouldn’t put me in the category of “Trump fan,” and yet it’s clear to me that the press lies about him with some regularity. I’ve been chronicling press bias on a host of issues for many many years; it’s nothing new and nothing unexpected.

I think the more interesting question right now is why Trump called the meeting in the first place only to excoriate them during it. So I’ve prepared a little survey for you, with a choice of answers:

(1) He didn’t excoriate them; the press lied about how he behaved in order to smear him.

(2) He didn’t plan to criticize them so strongly, but he’s emotionally impulsive and lost control of himself.

(3) He purposely did it because he was angry with them, but thought they’d keep it off the record, as he’d requested of them.

(4) He purposely did it because he thought it would intimidate them into covering him more fairly in the future.

(5) He purposely did it and knew it would be leaked, because he wanted to play to the majority of Americans who happen to agree with him that the press is a bunch of no-good liars.

(6) He purposely did it and knew it would be leaked, because he figured it would cause the public to discount future bad press for Trump as a spiteful and retaliative backlash on the part of the press.

(7) He purposely did it and he knew that articles such as Remnick’s, quoting the over-the-top nearly-hysterical reaction of the press, would be written, and that those articles would end up reflecting poorly on the press. In other words, he set a trap for the press, and they fell right into it.

(8) None of the above.

You can choose more than one answer.

I know what I think, but I’ll tell you later.

43 Responses to “So, why did Trump have a meeting with the press and then excoriate them?”

  1. J.J Says:

    I choose 5 & 6. Why? Because I want to believe that Trump is a master of baiting the MSM with the motive of exposing them for the biased, dishonest journalists they are.

    I have, since the 2008 campaign, encouraged the GOP candidates to employ a media quick reaction team to deal with lies, innuendoes, rumors, and character assassinations by the MSM. Trump is the first one to actually use this strategy. I never realized that the quick reaction team might be the candidate him/herself. If nothing else, the Trump candidacy and election has exposed the MSM for what they are – the communications arm of the Democrat party – not as the represent themselves – as fearless seekers of truth and speakers of truth to power.

    In his ability to stand up to the MSM, Trump is doing a great service to the nation.

  2. blert Says:

    5,6,7 I say.

    He WANTS to have a foil.

    For Adolf it was Jewish-Bolshevism.

    For Trump it’s going to be the MSM and the billionaires.

    This time around history will play as farce.

  3. Cornhead Says:

    6 & 7.

    Trump is playing 3D chess.

    David Remnick! He’s Barack’s best bud and a total Dem shill. I don’t believe a word he writes.

  4. Brian E Says:


    1. Conway said it didn’t happen the way it was reported.

    2. Trump speaks what is on his mind. In the interview with Woodward, he said at one point that sometimes he’s too harsh. This is just the way of New York.

    6. Because he’s the puppet master.

  5. Yancey Ward Says:

    #7 is the closest, but #5 and 6 are also true.

    And I think the initial leak came from Trump himself just to goad the morons like Remnick.

  6. Yancey Ward Says:

    And with the release of the YouTube videos, Trump is telling the media that he doesn’t need them, and he is right.

  7. Conrad O'Connor Says:

    I think it’s 5-7, but what’s interesting to me is how his approach with the press contrasts with his post-election conciliatory approach to Hillary, Obama and even Mitt Romney. Trump seems to think there is some utility in mollifying these people (even if only by making him look magnanimous), but none to be gained cozying up to the press.

    Basically, he seems to view the press the way the rest of the world views Obama’s America: harmless as an enemy but treacherous as an ally. Better to keep the media all negative all the time, rather than start treating him fairly and regain a bit of credibility.

  8. physicsguy Says:

    I like 5-7, but favor 7. Sympathy for the poor press? Couldn’t happen to a better bunch of folks. 🙂

  9. mezzrow Says:

    Looks like 5, 6 & 7 from my perspective.

    It appears that Trump is a master at leveraging the hatred the press brings to the party to make them turn him into a sympathetic character to his ever enlarging base.

    If this is true and not just blessed coincidence, he’s inside their OODA loop, and we’re in for a show. The attractiveness of his prospective appointments to his base (I’m not his base, but I’m pretty pleased so far…) and the emetic reaction of the left to them will make for some interesting viewing over the coming weeks.

    Every day brings something new.

  10. T Says:

    5,6 & 7 here.

    IMO Trump understands the press better than they understand themselves. When one lives in a bubble, one becomes inured to the circumstances of that bubble, i.e., one fails to notice the most obvious things. This is natural to human behavior. So much more so for the press.

    As you know, it has long been my contention that Trump’s campaign was a campaign against the media as much as (if not more so) than a campaign against Hillary. This hasn’t ended yet because I’m certain he understands that they intend to pick at him like a scab over the next four years.

    IMO even his Youtube video of his first 100 days is an attempt to neuter and diminish them by bypassing the traditional press conference.

  11. Oldflyer Says:

    Any combination that suggests purposeful.

    I am cautiously, timidly, coming around to believing that I underrated Trump in many ways. Overly thin skinned and reactive would probably be high on the list.

    With due credit to his team–which he chose of course–he obviously understood the country better than most poltiical professionals, and is a much more strategic thinker than credited.

    But, who knows? We are a ways yet from learning how he will govern. He can do things now that would not play at all after he is President. As I indicated, I hope he understands that, and accordingly is using this time to establish boundaries for those who will oppose him. In other words in the vernacular of the military, that he is in the “prepare the battlefield” stage.

  12. T Says:

    BTW, in my opinion, 5,6,&7 do not exclude 1. It would not surprise me that having spoken sternly to them, they took great umbrage at being criticized at all.

  13. Yancey Ward Says:

    Yes, #1 can’t be discounted, but the first report was in NYPost, which is why I think it was Trump that leaked it.

  14. Gringo Says:


    The media hounded Trump continually before the election, and continued to do so after the election. There was no point in hoping they would become fairer after this meeting. There is no point for Trump to play Mr. Nice Guy with the media. The media has never played Mr. Nice Guy- or even Mr. Tough but Fair Guy- with a Republican President in my lifetime, while most Republican Presidents have tried to be Mr. Nice Guy with the media.

    Perhaps when the press had 70% public approval, it made sense to play Mr. Nice Guy with the media, but given the blatant partisanship of the media and the low opinion the public has of the media, there is no point to do so. I rather like his being nasty to the media. 🙂

    I doubt that the media will try to become fairer until they receive stronger indications that their partisanship is hurting their bottom line. For example, how many people will cancel NYT subscriptions as a result of NYT bias? Not many, I fear. I am going to watch some TV news shows to find out who pays for their advertising, and write nasty letters to the advertisers.

    It was interesting that Trump had left an opening for developing a relationship with B.E.T.

  15. Yancey Ward Says:

    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Trump has the entire episode recorded, too.

  16. DNW Says:

    I think the more interesting question right now is why Trump called the meeting in the first place only to excoriate them during it. So I’ve prepared a little survey for you, with a choice of answers

    I vote 5 and 6 too.

    Might as well fan the flames now, and get it into the open. He knows there will be no “honeymoon”.

    As he said earlier in another context: what have you got to lose?

    Funny that they even showed up.

    There was a dog loose in the neighborhood not long ago. It roamed around invisibly mostly but would race up in the dark barking behind you and snarling, as you reached in the trunk of the car to take a package out.

    A pathetic animal which excited pity one moment and a desire to kill it the next. It begged and menaced in almost the same second: whining outside a door for a handout, snarling and barking seconds later if shown any pity and tossed a bone.

    Don’t know why a discussion of the press brought it to mind just now.

  17. Cornflour Says:

    9) He was angry, wanted to give ’em hell, and didn’t care about the consequences. If the consequences make him mad, he’ll give ’em more hell, etc. Why should this be complicated?

  18. DNW Says:

    By the way. I actually have no real idea if he is deliberately engaging in provocative acts in order to set up a conditioned reflex response in the press, or if he has a narrative he is seeking to drive, or if he is just the prima donna I thought he was – instinctively giving in to impulses which have usually worked for him before.

    Certainly an interesting development.

    How much Machiavelli versus how much unplanned tantrum?

    Should be interesting to see how it plays out.

  19. T Says:

    “Basically, he seems to view the press the way the rest of the world views Obama’s America: harmless as an enemy but treacherous as an ally.” [Conrad O’Connor @ 2:20]

    I think this is a brilliant insight especially as a critique of the Obama administration.

  20. T Says:

    “How much Machiavelli versus how much unplanned tantrum?

    Should be interesting to see how it plays out.” [DNW @ 2:49]

    I agree, we are in for an interesting four years. I have reached the belief, however, that Trump is consistently “misunderestimated” especially by the press, and I think he counts on that.

  21. Yann Says:

    Trump is quite an strategist who likes to play the fool. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have won.

    Right now, what he needs is to get rid of the press. Press conferences can be handled using internet and new media like Breitbart or The Blaze, or bloggers and blog-journalists like Paul Joseph Watson or you, Neo. Mass media are not really needed anymore.

    But for that he needs to keep the relationship with the Press in a state of conflict until he takes charge. This way, he’ll have the excuse to dismiss them.

    Look the outcome: Trump kept the conflict with press alive, and however, it was the press who fed it. Win-win.

  22. Sergey Says:

    No matter how the press will spin it, it will end with an egg on its face. They have no plausible path to restore their shattered credibility.

  23. Sergey Says:

    I vote for Machiavelli, or rather Machiavelli, Richelieu, Bonaparte, Talleyrand and Bismark wrapped in one. The man is a political genius playing a dunce when it suit him.

  24. Nick Says:

    Let me propose the Czervik Rule, named after Rodney Dangerfield’s character in Caddyshack. If you want to know what Trump is going to do, or why he did something, think in terms of Al Czervik. He was rich, and had no class, and went everywhere that only the elite could go, and acted like Rodney Dangerfield. The Republican candidates and Clinton and the press are all playing Ted Knight – and nobody roots for Ted Knight.

    So, why did Trump conduct the meeting the way he did? Someone told him he was supposed to meet with the press during his transition. So he did, and acted just like Al Czervik would have. The Czervik Rule: get used to seeing me write about it.

  25. neo-neocon Says:

    Sergey, I think you’re in love 🙂 .

    I’m not.

  26. Sergey Says:

    I have only one advice to all his political opponents: be afraid. Be very afraid!

  27. Sergey Says:

    It is not a love. It is an awe, in all its meanings, included gloomy ones. He has a hand of destiny over him. A manifest destiny.

  28. Sergey Says:

    As was mentioned by many serious people, the whole Trump affair has overtones of a Greek tragedy unfolding before our eyes. Or of some other ancient mythology, Scandinavian, may be. Odin, Thor, Loki and Götterdämmerung.

  29. F Says:

    5, 6 and 8

  30. Sgt. Mom Says:

    I’m torn between five and seven. Yes a lot of ordinary Americans were and still are P’Oed at how the national press basically made themselves Hillary’s stenographers and lickspittles. An epic ass-chewing was richly deserved, and news of it warmed the cockles of my cold, cynical heart.

    Set a trap for them to walk into – the national media thinking that they could just waltz in and be forgiven, because they ARE THE PRESS and essential to any administration – I think someone on his staff, of not DT himself is twisty enough to sit back and let them damn themselves.

  31. Chris Says:

    5 and 7 are so close I can’t pick a favorite.
    6 isn’t far behind.

    People keep saying that trump is thin-skinned. All he does is run his mouth more than he should.
    Obama sicced the irs on his critics. Now THAT is thin-skinned.

  32. Cap'n Rusty Says:

    Now, if Trump would follow that up by naming Milo Yiannopoulos as his press secretary . . .

  33. Monte Meals Says:

    Who knows what really transpired.

    Plausible but Deniable Scenario ?
    The MSM honchos goaded him
    until he “popped off”

    And then leaked how Un-Presidential
    he was.

  34. Steve S Says:

    8. None of the above

    He has found it to be politically expedient to beat up on the press – indeed, how could he not know that? Plus, belittling one’s opponents undermines their confidence. That puts him in a narrative-controlling position, which is a key advantage to “the art of the deal.” He is “dealing” with the press, and apparently winning.

  35. JuliB Says:

    5 and 6.

    But I’m still trying to figure out what I think about his Twitter posts – especially wrt/SNL.

  36. neo-neocon Says:

    My answer is a combination of 5 and 6.

  37. Vanderleun Says:

    You have to remember that Remnick is a creature of Tina Brown and all that that entails.

  38. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Why he did it? ‘cuz he could, and it felt GOOD. Damn. Love to be able to do that.

  39. El Polacko Says:

    Nick’s “Czervik Rule” is brilliant.

    Nobody roots for Judge Smails.

  40. Big Maq Says:


    The usual business of press pool coverage, while not ended, is not going to be how this admin works.

    trump is aiming for alternative means to get his message out, and leaving the MSM in the dark / cold for much of it, except for the ones who will play by his terms.

    Alternative media, and social media will play a MUCH bigger role.

    He was effectively putting them on “notice”, in his usual trumpian way.

  41. Lizzy Says:

    I think it was a planned shot across the bow: he was putting them on notice that he was very aware of their collusion with the DNC and that he was not giving them the benefit of the doubt/trusting them going forward. Trump was referencing wikileaks emails in the last few weeks of the campaign, so he is fully aware of their comfy relationship with the DNC & their shared goal of destroying him.

    Think one also needs to consider that in Trump’s line of business, specifically management at a construction site (i.e. non-office environments), this type of behavior may be more common. I have a friend who supervised assembly lines for a defense tech contractor, and in that environment it was common for a superior to take a subordinate (within management and/or with union personnel) into an office and scream at them. I may be assuming this is common, and not specific to that particular (large) company; however, we’re also assuming Trump will behave like a politician when nothing he’s done so far indicates he has or ever will do that.

  42. Tom G Says:

    4,5,6,7 — but on #4, not to really “intimidate” them, merely to get them talking about whether their coverage is fair and thus to get better press in the future.

  43. Ymarsakar Says:

    The MSewerM lies about Bush II and other Republican Presidents. In fact, Trum believes a lot of their lies. So what’s people complaining about as if it was new.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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