Three Wall Street Journal reporters — Jeremy Page, Wenxin Fan and Natasha Khan — shared the byline on the March 6 investigative reconstruction of China’s efforts to stop the novel coronavirus. The headline: “How it all started: China’s early coronavirus missteps.” Two other correspondents — Fanfan Wang and Lingling Wei in Beijing — contributed information for the article, which clocked in at more than 4,000 highly readable words. Through on-the-ground reporting — the piece was datelined Wuhan, the pandemic’s starting point — and extensive interviews with medical personnel and victims, the story pieced together how China failed the rest of the world.

The subhead says it all: “China’s errors, dating back to the very first patients, were compounded by political leaders who dragged their feet to inform the public of the risks and to take decisive control measures.”

The motivated Trump supporter/apologist, in other words, couldn’t whip up a more helpful or sturdy piece of journalism. It has the ingredients for all the talking points that have been marshaled on the president’s behalf — that China lied about coronavirus, that it prevented other countries from developing their own defenses, that it might be justified to call the whole thing the “Chinese coronavirus,” despite the compelling and convincing advice from the World Health Organization that such language carries harmful stigmatization. The Asian American Journalists Association has issued statements deploring the term.

In a press briefing on Thursday, President Trump said, in part, “It amazes me when I read the things that I read. It amazes me when I read the Wall Street Journal, which is always so negative ... Because, you see, I know the truth.” Perhaps Trump was peeved by this Wall Street Journal piece about how the U.S. government failed to roll out coronavirus testing.

Yet this Trump broadside against the media was worse than his routine claptrap. That’s because it came in response to a frightening question from reporter Chanel Rion with One America News. There will be no abridging this humdinger:

TRUMP: OAN, very good.
RION: Yes, sir. Thank you. I have two questions --
TRUMP: Thank you very much. They treat me very nicely. Go ahead.
RION: -- do you consider the term Chinese food racist --
RION: -- because it’s food that originates in China or it has Chinese --
TRUMP: No, I don't think it's racist. I don't think it's racist at all.
RION: And on that note, major left wing news media, even in this room, have teamed up with Chinese Communist Party narratives, and they're claiming you are racist for making these claims about Chinese virus. Is it alarming that major media players, just to oppose you, are consistently siding with foreign state propaganda, Islamic radicals, and Latin gangs and cartels? And they work right here at the White House with direct access to you and your team?
TRUMP: It amazes me when I read the things that I read. It amazes me when I read The Wall Street Journal which is always so negative, it amazes me when I read The New York Times, it’s not even — I barely read it. You know, we don’t distribute it in the White House anymore, and the same thing with The Washington Post. Because, you see, I know the truth. And people out there in the world, they really don’t know the truth, really don’t know what it is.

And so on. As he continued to prattle, Trump tried to take credit for the term “fake news,” though all he did was redefine it for propagandistic purposes. He also said that journalists don’t call him before publishing their stories, even though his press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, has told this blog on repeated occasions that she is routinely swamped with calls and emails from reporters.

Speaking of Grisham, we pointed out in an email to her that Trump didn’t challenge Rion’s characterization of the media as siding with overseas gangs and other bad actors, perhaps proving he really does believe that enemy-of-the-people rhetoric. We asked whether she agreed with the characterization. Her response:

As members of the media are always quick to point out — a free and independent press is one of the essential pillars of democracy.
Freedom of the press is the principle that communication and expression through various media should be a right to be expressed freely, and, is legally protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Nearly five years into Trump’s nonstop attacks on the media, it’s bewildering to consider the proper way to rebut them, or whether to rebut them. They come in torrents, based on thoughtless, factless presidential eructations. They serve their political purpose: solidifying a population of supporters who believe Trump over the media even when presented with evidence upending their inclinations. Asked about Trump’s false assurances about the availability of coronavirus testing, one supporter recently told the Erik Wemple Blog that he holds the president harmless: "You have to have lived in New York to understand Trump. New Yorkers say things in a certain way and you have to have been there to understand what they’re really saying.”

It’s unclear whether Trump & Co. have taken note of their hypocrisy. As this blog has noted on many occasions, this crowd alternates between attacking major news outlets and quite enjoying the fruits of their investigations into political opponents. That’s the deal with the Wall Street Journal — how on earth could it produce a story that advances Trump’s political cause one day, and then another story that hinders it a short time later?

It’s called honesty, a trait that Trump not only doesn’t practice but also can’t even recognize.

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