Witness White House press secretary Sean Spicer's reprimand of American Urban Radio correspondent April Ryan on Tuesday (“please stop shaking your head"), which offended many reporters, and his characterization over the weekend of Politico's Tara Palmeri as “an idiot with no real sources,” which offended even Breitbart News.
Breitbart Washington editor Matt Boyle, with whom Spicer shared his low opinion of the Politico White House reporter, defended Palmeri's credibility by citing her recent scoops.
Also, after Trump said in February that he would skip the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, the White House said Tuesday that no staffers will attend. The event, scheduled for April 29 this year, has traditionally been an occasion to ease (for one night, at least) whatever tensions exist between the president and the media.
Sitting presidents have attended every year since 1981, and Ronald Reagan had a pretty good excuse for that year's absence. He was recovering from a gunshot wound — and he still managed to deliver remarks to the press corps by phone.
The Trump White House simply does not care about having a good relationship with the media. Spicer's characterization of Palmeri as an “idiot” is particularly telling because he wrote it in an email to Breitbart. He didn't just blurt it out, in other words; he typed it, had a chance to reconsider — before anyone else would have read the insult — yet decided to leave it in his message and hit “send” anyway.
When Trump snubbed the correspondents' dinner, deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “There's no reason for him to go in and sit and pretend like this is going to be just another Saturday night.” The message is clear: Trump and his aides do not want to play nice, if they don't feel like being nice.
Credit the White House with being authentic in this department, but remember that Trump has bragged about being able to fake cordiality. His go-to explanation, when asked about his history of hobnobbing with — and donating money to — Democratic politicians is that he was not always genuine.
“I was a businessman; I was with everybody,” Trump told CNN early in the Republican primary. “Everybody loved me. When I called them, they always treated me well. And that's part of the game.”
Trump is not playing the same game with the media, and voters have noticed. In a Monmouth University poll published Wednesday, 81 percent of respondents said Trump has a worse relationship with the press than previous presidents did.
Here's the survey result that Trump should worry about: 58 percent said his bad relationship with the media has hurt his image.