Excerpted from a longer piece by Margaret Sullivan for WaPo
President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, rarely speaks publicly and is known to egg on the president in his trashing of the mainstream media.
But when he decided to break that silence, Bannon chose the venerable Charlie Rose as his interviewer and CBS’s flagship Sunday-night show, “60 Minutes,” as his venue. There could be no more mainstream choice.
Trump himself is a constant critic of the establishment press who delights in disparaging the (“failing”) New York Times and The (“Amazon”) Washington Post.
But last spring, when he wanted to put his own spin on the decision to withdraw the Republican health-care bill, he quickly made two phone calls to break the news: to The Post’s Robert Costa and the Times’ Maggie Haberman.
And when Trump wanted to get his message out about the firing of FBI Director James Comey, he sat down for an Oval Office interview with Lester Holt of NBC News.
“It’s a combination of stunning calculation and deep irony,” said Frank Sesno, director of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, speaking of Bannon’s appearance on “60 Minutes.”
If the mainstream news media is the Trump administration’s archenemy, you’d think these fraught-with-significance appearances would go to friendly media outposts such as “Fox & Friends” or Gateway Pundit or Alex Jones’s Infowars. Or perhaps even to Breitbart, headed by Bannon himself.
But the calculation dictates otherwise: “They know where the numbers are, and where the reach and the clout is,” Sesno said. As usual with this president and his cohort, it’s all about the ratings.
And, Sesno added, the irony is clear: “They’re wading about as deep into the mainstream as they can get” after making media hatred the poisonous centerpiece of the Trump campaign and presidency. Stoking his base’s resentment of the news media sometimes seems to be the only constant for the ever-changing president.
When Trump and his allies constantly disparage the press — attempting to turn citizens against reality-based journalism — they undermine democracy.
That they do so, and then blithely turn to the very same news organizations to take advantage of their credibility, shows that what we’ve got can be summed up in a single word: hypocrisy.