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.
None of the cable networks — Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN — are carrying Donald Trump live as he opens his DC hotel.
— Matt Viser (@mviser) October 26, 2016
Amusing: cable news totally bailing on Trump hotel thing. Fool me once, I guess...
— Kai Ryssdal (@kairyssdal) October 26, 2016
After not taking Trump hotel opening, MSNBC is taking Hillary rally live
— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) October 26, 2016
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.
Guys, I think we got played
— Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) September 16, 2016
Media got played. If only there were a way for TV news to record events without broadcasting them live. Oh what's that? There is?
— Jose A. DelReal (@jdelreal) September 16, 2016
Well that was extraordinarily well played by Trump, who got a massive free infomercial in return for saying Obama was born in America.
— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) September 16, 2016
“We got played, again, by the Trump campaign.” — John King just now on CNN.
— Matt Viser (@mviser) September 16, 2016
He played us. Got easy 25-mins of airtime with vets promoting him. But he'll get hammered in online content for it. https://t.co/Uo3pDVFarL
— David Catanese (@davecatanese) September 16, 2016
Obviously the best response for all the journalists who just got played by going to a Trump promo is to get played again by going on a tour.
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) September 16, 2016
"We all got Rick-rolled and played," @jaketapper on CNN right now
— Joshua Green (@JoshuaGreen) September 16, 2016
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 16, 2016
(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.
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.
Any "media being played" argument omits this: voters got to see & can evaluate Trump misstate facts, evade questions and self-promote
— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) September 16, 2016
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.