President-elect Donald Trump met Monday with television news executives and some well-known TV journalists and repeatedly told them that the campaign reporting about him was “unfair” and “dishonest.”
Participants in the meeting at Trump Tower in New York described it as a contentious but generally respectful gathering.
But if the media elite attended in hopes of improving relations with the forthcoming Trump administration, that wasn’t quite in the cards. The president-elect specifically called out reporting by CNN and NBC that he deemed unfair, according to four people who attended the meeting, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was off the record. (The ground rules prevented the networks from reporting the very story they were part of.)
On Tuesday, Trump reopened another front in his media criticism with a series of tweets that said he called off a planned meeting with the New York Times, claiming that the newspaper changed the ground rules. The newspaper said no such last-minute shift was made.
“I cancelled today’s meeting with the failing nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not nice,” Trump tweeted.
But a statement from Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the New York Times, said the newspaper did not change the rules for the meeting. Murphy said the session had been planned in two parts: a small off-the-record portion and then a larger on-the-record section with reporters and columnists.
“We were unaware that the meeting was canceled until we saw the president-elect’s tweet this morning,” Murphy said. “We did not change the ground rules at all and made no attempt to. They tried to yesterday — asking for only a private meeting and no on-the-record segment, which we refused to agree to.”
Trump later tweeted that “perhaps” another meeting could be scheduled with the New York Times, but he once again pitted himself against the newspaper.
“In the meantime, they continue to cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!” Trump wrote.
The Trump team has not made attempts for a similar meeting with The Washington Post, which has been placed temporarily on a Trump campaign blacklist in apparent punishment for aggressive coverage of the race.
The group Monday included some of the top news media figures targeted by Trump during the campaign, including “Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd; ABC News anchors George Stephanopoulos and David Muir; CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett; ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz; “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt; and a CBS News contingent that included Norah O’Donnell, Charlie Rose, John Dickerson and Gayle King.
Among the network news executives present were CNN Worldwide Chairman Jeff Zucker, NBC News President Deborah Turness, MSNBC President Phil Griffin, ABC News President James Goldston, and the four top executives from Fox News, Bill Shine, Jack Abernethy, Jay Wallace and Suzanne Scott.
Trump was joined by his newly appointed chief White House strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top adviser.
Instead of striking a harmonious tone to build a rapport after the election, Trump was combative, participants said. In a calm and deliberate voice, he told the group sitting around a conference table that they had failed to provide their viewers with fair and accurate coverage, and he told them that they failed to understand him or his appeal to millions of Americans.
Trump showed no love for the media during the long campaign, calling reporters the “lowest form of humanity.” And on Monday he repeatedly used the words “unfair” and “dishonest” to describe the coverage, participants said.
But he made no mention of the enormous amount of airtime that the networks, especially on cable, devoted to his campaign. A number of analyses have noted that Trump’s presidential effort was boosted by the news media’s fascination with him.
Trump directed particular ire at CNN and several reporters at other cable networks whom he sees as unreasonably antagonistic toward him, though he did not mention them by name. He also referenced both NBC News reporter Katy Tur and ABC’s Raddatz without using their names.
The thrust of his critique of Raddatz involved her alleged emotional reaction on election night while she discussed the implications of a Trump presidency on the U.S. military (ABC has strongly disputed reports that Raddatz choked up on air, calling such stories “ridiculous and untrue”).
One participant asked Trump for his definition of “fair,” noting that part of the news media’s job is to critically examine a candidate’s words and background. Trump replied that his definition was “truth.”
The participants variously described Trump as “combative,” “proud,” and “dismissive” toward the news organizations present.
Trump shrugged off the need for a constant pool covering him, the people said, though he did not delve into specifics. He has repeatedly shirked his pool, upending a long-standing tradition of the president and president-elect.
Robert Costa and Brian Murphy contributed to this report.