The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump camp blasts BuzzFeed reporter via Breitbart

A fight between Donald Trump and BuzzFeed reporter McKay Coppins just got too fun to resist.

The quick study: BuzzFeed last Thursday published Coppins’s story about The Donald titled, “36 Hours On The Fake Campaign Trail With Donald Trump.” The story stemmed from a compelling question — what on earth drives Trump to repeatedly toy with the possibility of running for president, or governor of New York?

These should-he-or-shouldn’t-he moments are a “charade,” writes Coppins, who notes that Trump is “consumed” by a need to recover lost relevance. An excerpt:

In Trump’s version of events, America is constantly pleading with him to descend from his eponymous tower and submit himself to the world of terrestrial politics for the good of the country — all while he does nothing to invite the attention. “People have always wanted me to run,” he says.

The dramatic turn in the story comes from happenstance. After hitching a ride in Trump’s private jet returning from a New Hampshire event, Coppins gets caught up in a rerouting. LaGuardia “effectively” shuts down on account of bad weather, forcing the Trumpers and Coppins to reroute to Palm Beach. Reporter, subject and aides retire to Trump’s insanely luxurious Mar-a-Lago compound, and the travels yield a conclusion for Coppins: “Within the bubble of luxury and loyalty Trump has created for himself, he hears about his own greatness every day from people on his payroll, or people who profit from his TV show, or people who are simply excited to see a famous person in real life.”

The snark got to Trump, apparently. There are reports that he fired aide Sam Nunberg, who campaigned for the interview. There are also reports that Nunberg resigned. Whatever the case, Nunberg ripped Coppins in an e-mail to CNN’s Brian Stelter:

I tendered my resignation directly to Mr. Trump on Friday morning after the publication of what I considered to be an incredible pejorative hit piece by McKay Coppins in BuzzFeed. While I did not expect a love letter, I expect an unbiased, professional and balanced article. Sadly, the number of rife inaccuracies, mean spirited tone and complete failure of Mr. McKay to properly reflect when Mr. Trump was speaking to him in a sarcastic manner, in a blatant effort to depict in the worst possible light.

The reaction of Camp Trump shores up Coppins’s argument that they’re wrapped in a bubble. What did they expect? After all, Coppins notes in the piece that he’d informed Trump of his own conclusions: “Near the end of our conversation, I try to press him on the unsolved mystery of his motivations. I tell him flatly that I’m skeptical he will ever actually run for president — or governor of New York for that matter — and that I’m confused about why he’s so intent on keeping up the pretense.” That sounds a lot like full disclosure to the Erik Wemple Blog. After that, the Trump people can be only so astonished at this highly negative portrait.

And it does contain at least one glaring unprofessionality. Coppins slimes Trump’s aides in the story’s first sentence: “Donald Trump is sitting in the passenger seat of a black SUV packed with four well-dressed yes-men — and me — as we wind through the snowy roads of Manchester, New Hampshire on a quiet Tuesday morning in January.” These fellows may well be yes-men, but are they more yes-mennish than aides hovering around any other non-politico politico? The demeaning and churlish label, furthermore, amounts to a cheap venture in narrative “telling” when “showing” would have worked much better.

A full run-down of Camp Trump quibbles can be found in this Breitbart story about Coppins’s venture: A woman at the Trump resort claims that Coppins looked at her “like I was yummy,” Coppins allegedly botched a fact about the reporters who were at the New Hampshire Trump speech, Coppins allegedly took a quote out of context, Coppins was “quiet, reserved, and nervous” on the Trump plane, Coppins allegedly misinterpreted a comment from Trump about his wife, Coppins allegedly ogled a waitress, Coppins allegedly remarked that he’d wished his wife looked like a couple of the women at Mar-a-Lago.

These allegations about a reporter’s wandering eyes are serious business. The Erik Wemple Blog is thinking about reporting them to some higher authority. Perhaps the BuzzFeed ombudsman. There is certainly no place for such boorish behavior, even at a lush, 17-acre Moorish Florida resort including “jacuzzi tubs, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, and a spa.” And these transgressions on Coppins’s part were egregious enough to have prompted a pre-publication complaint from Camp Trump to BuzzFeed, right?

“No,” writes BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith via e-mail.