Donald Trump Hosts an Off-the-Record Meeting for Journalists Who Can’t Stop Getting Played

No press conference in 144 days, but champagne at this OTR meeting.

Yesterday, members of the institution protected by the First Amendment decided to get cozy with President-Elect Trump, off-the-record style, in a meeting Trump hosted for his press pool in the White & Gold ballroom at Mar-a-Lago. There were sandwiches and Trump champagne, even an opportunity for an on-the-record photo op with Donald J. Trump himself. And as Axios’ Mike Allen tweeted out photos of the event, he affixed to one of them the hashtag #NotYourTypicalPoolHold.

It inspired us to come up with a list of ways in which Trump has had a #NotYourTypical relationship to the press, both before and after the election.

  • Donald Trump has not held a press conference for 144 days, since July. That was the press conference, incidentally, in which he said, “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
  • Donald Trump “postponed” a press conference planned for Dec. 15, although he did find time that week to meet with Kanye West.
  • Donald Trump ditched his press pool for his meeting with President Obama following the election, and then ditched them again.
  • Following the election, Donald Trump held an off the record meeting with TV news execs that was, to quote a New York Post source from its piece on that meeting, “a f−−−ing firing squad.”
  • Donald Trump first agreed, then cancelled the morning of via Twitter, then agreed again to a meeting with The New York Times, which, wonder of wonders, insisted on having a good chunk of that meeting be on the record.
  • Donald Trump regularly insults the media in general, publications in particular, reporters in particular, mocked a journalist with a disability, blacklisted media orgs from his rallies and wants to weaken the first amendment.

We could continue, but we’ll let the Committee to Protect Journalists sum it up with the statement it issued on Donald Trump’s candidacy in October: “Donald Trump, through his words and actions as a candidate for president of the United States, has consistently betrayed First Amendment values.”

But against this backdrop of hostile atypicality, some have defended the decision of reporters to attend this meeting using typical arguments for typical practices that may work under typical circumstances, like in these tweets from Politico’s Marc Caputo, who was not there:

Trump has demonstrated throughout the election and during the transition phase that he knows exactly how to handle a political press who does things as they have always been done, because they are done that way and will continue to be done that way.

Air Trump rally after rally, after rally, because it’s news. Devote a disproportionate amount of coverage to Donald Trump, because he’s a frontrunner, and to the winner goes the media spoils. Accede to off-the-record meetings because that’s how the game is played, even when the on the record part is missing.

Agree to Trump’s terms in the name of proximity to power, even when those concessions wear away at the power the press has to cover this administration in ways that benefit the public, and not the president.