Trump privileges his trolls and attack dogs over legitimate reporters at his social media summit, Ksenija Pavlovic McAteer writes.
Trump has a plan. One Thursday afternoon, he announced a social media summit in the White House. Based on his announcement, many reasonably assumed the summit would include representatives from major social media platforms. Instead, Trump invited conservative political “influencers” to instruct them on his attack plan on the Fourth Estate. You have not heard of them. But a swing voter in the 2020 election may have.
The conservative influencers summit took place, catch the irony, behind closed doors, with the members of the WH press corps barred from access. Trump controlling journalist’s access and controlling his influencers’ message is, he says, an attempt to combat liberal media bias, but it is clearly a campaign strategy. The social media attack dogs are ready, and they made their first pitch in the Rose Garden. The target? Journalists in the White House press corps.
At 5 pm on Thursday, I made my way through the Palm Room doors to the Rose Garden to cover Trump and Attorney General Barr’s announcement about the quite controversial citizenship question. The scene I encountered there was unique. Conservative influencers were seated on the white chairs as guests of honor, and we, the press, were scattered on the edges of the Rose Garden behind a black rope, on the muddy grass from the earlier rain.
As Sebastian Gorka walked in, he immediately started his usual grabbing for attention in front of us, the press, the “enemy of the people.” He despises us enough to verbally attack journalists but needs us to make headlines. Sebastian Gorka is an unstable bully who cannot control his behavior in a public setting and is ready to do anything to bump his ratings with Donald J Trump.
“Fake News panorama”, Gorka said, his voice raised, as he photographed us before the event began. The rest of the influencers followed suit, snapping photos of us as if they were on the Hollywood walk of fame. We were, in their eyes, a museum exhibit or petting zoo, a mildly interesting diversion at this summit made for them.
Trump delivered his remarks and AG Barr echoed. The two left the podium without allowing any questions.
But the day was not yet over.
One of the influencers told my friend Brian Karim, ‘do not be sad.’ To that, Brian responded in his typical style. Influencers, he suggested, are eager to get demonized. There was no ill intent in anything he said, just an observation.
Then, attention-seeking Gorka yelled from another side of Rose Garden ‘and you are a journalist?.’ He knew Brian would respond to provocation. Karem told Gorka to come over and have a conversation.
Gorka stormed over the Rose Garden, yelling, got in Brian’s face and spat the words: “you are a punk!”
I told Gorka he should not be attacking journalists. Though the President has set a precedent of attacking journalists--most recently by his spat with Jim Acosta--this, however, was the first time that a guest has verbally assaulted the media. Gorka confused the Rose Garden for a MAGA rally.
The story does not end here. It continued on social media. These same influencers started attacking me, Brian and Jim Acosta on Twitter. Their Mainstream Media grievances were sent to me as if I were the President of CNN.
I do not mind taking the heat. What I mind is the weaponization of the White House for campaign purposes. The White House is supposed to represent all Americans. Calling only conservative influencers to a closed press summit with the president of the United States is a bias, erodes the value of the office.
This social media summit was an attempt to validate pseudo-journalists and mobilize them for Trump’s 2020 campaign. President Trump hosted an exclusive political summit for his attack dogs to discredit the media. They are working overtime.
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