Kalb Report: How Trump’s Gotten into Our Heads

President Trump is trying to demonize news reporting to shape information reaching the public that only makes him look good—and it won’t work, CNN’s Jake Tapper and the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold told host Marvin Kalb on the latest edition of The Kalb Report, April 8.

Just days after the program, Fahrenthold won the Pulitzer Prize for his presidential campaign stories that probed Trump’s charitable giving.

Kalb began the program by noting that Trump refers to news reports he doesn’t like as “fake news” and that he has called journalists “the most dishonest people in the world” and “enemies of the American people.” To what end?

“He is trying to delegitimize any reports, any reporters, who report on him in any way critically and factually,” Tapper said. “I don’t think we live in a post-fact world. I think the president would like us to live in that world, but I reject the notion that we’re there. If no facts are correct, then President Trump can say and do whatever he wants.”

But while Trump excoriates the news media, no president has ever been so fixated on the news media, Fahrenthold said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a president who relies on the news media so much as Trump does for his own sense of self-worth and as his intelligence services, as his view into the world,” he said.

Most people think presidents get their information from intelligence sources, Fahrenthold added, but “President Trump seems to learn almost everything he acts on from television, or from reading the newspaper.” For example, he decided to launch Tomahawk missiles at Syria after watching a CNN report on children suffering the effects of a chemical-weapons attack.

With all the misleading information coming from the White House, Kalb asked, should reporters be calling him a liar?

“I think it is better for us to cover the things that are said and say whether or not these things are true or not true, or decent or not decent,” Tapper said. “I do not choose to label him and assail his character. I choose to focus on the action.”

Fahrenthold noted how Trump’s Tweets initially received a tremendous amount of coverage, but when no action resulted from the Tweets, then their importance diminished.

“He’s really diluted the power of that weapon by seeming to imply that he was going to take presidential action that he never follows up on,” Fahrenthold said. “They’re covered much differently now than they were.”

Still, Trump has taken over the American conversation like no one else, Tapper said. “It is interesting that a successful real estate developer is now living rent free in all of our heads.”

Now at the end of its 23rd season, The Kalb Report is a joint project of National Press Club’s Journalism Institute, the University of Maryland University College, the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, the Gaylord College of Journalism at the University of Oklahoma, and the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. It is underwritten by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.