Bloomberg News faced a journalistic quandary when its owner, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, decided to jump into the 2020 Democratic primary last month. In a widely criticized decision, editor in chief John Micklethwait announced that the newsroom would continue its tradition of not investigating Bloomberg’s personal life and finances, and would extend the same policy to his Democratic opponents. The move was intended to avoid conflict of interest in the Democratic primary.
Micklethwait noted, however, that Bloomberg News would continue to investigate the Trump administration.
After the Trump campaign announced its decision Monday to bar Bloomberg News, President Trump took to Twitter to attack the news outlet and the New York Times for their coverage of him.
“Mini Mike Bloomberg has instructed his third rate news organization not to investigate him or any Democrat, but to go after President Trump, only,” Trump tweeted. “The Failing New York Times thinks that is O.K., because their hatred & bias is so great they can’t even see straight. It’s not O.K.!”
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement Monday that Bloomberg News had exhibited “preferential reporting policies.”
“Since they have declared their bias openly, the Trump campaign will no longer credential representatives of Bloomberg News for rallies or other campaign events,” Parscale said.
“We will determine whether to engage with individual reporters or answer inquiries from Bloomberg News on a case-by-case basis,” he added. “This will remain the policy of the Trump campaign until Bloomberg News publicly rescinds its decision.”
Though the full impact of the ban is not clear, the restrictions will make it harder for Bloomberg News journalists to do the daily bread-and-butter reporting that defines campaign coverage. Reporters may lose access to campaign officials, and they may have to enter rallies and other events with the general public, facing long lines and crowding, rather than joining other credentialed reporters in media-only areas.
Micklethwait rejected the campaign’s accusation of bias in an emailed statement to The Washington Post. “We have covered Donald Trump fairly and in an unbiased way since he became a candidate in 2015 and will continue to do so despite the restrictions imposed by the Trump campaign,” he said.
Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, a perennial target of the president’s anger, criticized the campaign’s move in a statement Monday.
“Bloomberg News is one of the largest and most influential news organizations in the world. We condemn any action that keeps quality news media from reporting fairly and accurately on the presidency and the leadership of the country,” he said.
On many occasions over the past four years, Trump and his surrogates have refused to credential reporters or blocked them from events. During the 2016 election, journalists from major outlets, including The Washington Post, were temporarily barred from campaign events after publishing tough coverage of Trump’s rallies and campaign.
The Trump campaign walked back its policy of blacklisting media outlets in the fall of 2016 after some top aides, including then-campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, now a White House senior adviser, advocated lifting the restrictions.
But as president, Trump has repeatedly sought to penalize journalists when he feels mistreated, venting at aides about what he sees as disrespectful questions and demanding retaliatory actions against them.
Earlier this year the White House barred four journalists from covering a dinner between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam after two of them called out questions to the president. In November 2018, the White House suspended credentials for CNN correspondent Jim Acosta after Trump took issue with his questions at a news conference. And in February 2017, the White House made the rare decision to bar the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and several other news outlets from attending an informal, nontelevised briefing.
Press freedom groups cried foul on the Trump campaign’s latest action against Bloomberg News. Parker Higgins, director of special projects for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said it marked an escalation in the Trump administration’s clashes with news outlets and reporters.
“At this point it is widely understood that Trump and his campaign will call most any coverage they disagree with ‘fake news,’ ” Higgins said. “But to extend that name-calling to denying journalists access — and to do so in advance, based solely on editorial statements — is an unsettling incursion into even darker territory for the free press.”