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At Trump hotel opening, cable news channels refuse to be ‘played’ again

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We wrote six weeks ago about journalists' complaint that they got "played" by Donald Trump, who turned an expected news conference into an advertisement for his new Washington hotel. Trump dragged his press corps back to the hotel for a grand opening on Wednesday, but this time all three major cable news stations refused to air the event live.

Reporters noted the difference in coverage.

The original post from September follows:

Sometimes Matt Drudge is ridiculous. And sometimes he is right on.


As Chris Cillizza wrote, Donald Trump's "birther" news conference Friday turned out to be one big trick. The Republican presidential nominee lured the media to his new hotel in Washington with the promise of a "major statement" about his longtime suggestion that President Obama might not have been born in the United States. Then, with every cable news network carrying his event live, Trump talked about the grandiosity of his high-end lodging, trotted out military dignitaries to vouch for his fabulousness, and finally said this: "President Obama was born in the United States. Period."

No elaboration. No apology. No questions. The only thing Trump added was a false assertion that "Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy."

Journalists got played, and they knew it.

(Update: Politico reports that fed-up television networks agreed to pull a shared camera out of a post-event tour of Trump’s hotel, after the campaign barred reporters from joining. Trump apparently wanted only photographers and videographers to take the tour, presumably so that images of his gleaming facility could not be accompanied by critical words.)

Since the beginning of Trump's campaign for the White House, critics inside and outside the media have complained about the volume of coverage devoted to the former reality TV star — specifically the frequent airing of live events.

Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly said in April that she and her producers stopped showing Trump rallies live on her prime-time program because — despite their entertainment value — the events were not newsworthy in their entirety. "We also have to worry about our souls and journalism," Kelly told Katie Couric at a women's conference.

CNN President Jeff Zucker, however, has consistently defended the level of Trump coverage.

"I actually reject that premise that we've given too much attention to him," Zucker said at a lunch meeting with reporters in March.

In any case, there is a difference between a rally and a news conference — or at least, there ought to be. While networks might rightly be criticized for airing rallies that they know will be purely promotional, they should be able to take the word of a campaign operating in good faith that a news conference will focus on, well, news.

Donald Trump took time off the campaign trail to cut the ribbon at his D.C. hotel Oct. 26. How that and other campaign stops have affected Trump's businesses. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post, Photo: Andrew Harrer/The Washington Post)

The trouble, in this case, is that the Trump campaign did not operate in good faith in its billing of Friday's event. While many journalists lamented how they were used by Trump, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell took a more optimistic view.

That is indeed what voters "got to see." Perhaps the whole episode will backfire on Trump.

But so far in this campaign, things haven't really worked out that way.