Forgive us for taking offense, but Donald Trump's latest attack on the media really hurt our feelings.
It's no secret that he has been unkind to many, many people — including women, Muslims, former POWs, people of color — but he has reserved much of his odious bile for the journalists covering his campaign.
Most recently, after the media demanded he come clean on his charitable donations to veterans' organizations, Trump took the press to task. "I think the political press is among the most dishonest people that I've ever met. The media is made up of people — in many cases, not all cases — of bad people. The press should be ashamed of themselves."
During that same press conference, Trump called ABC News reporter Tom Llamas "a sleaze" after Llamas asked him to explain why he had misled people about how much money he'd raised for veterans. And when CNN's Jim Acosta asked Trump if he could take the heat of media scrutiny, Trump replied "Excuse me, excuse me. I've watched you on TV. You're a real beauty."
His attacks on the media started with Fox News' Megyn Kelly, who was asking tough questions of the then-candidate for president. He called Kelly a "bimbo" and said "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her, wherever." After being criticized by the Wall Street Journal, he tweeted "They better be careful or I will unleash big time on them. Look forward to it!" And who can forget him making fun of a disabled reporter with a degenerative disease?
As CNN's Dylan Byers and Jeremy Diamond noted, "(A)t nearly every rally, the brash billionaire reams the press as 'dishonest,' 'disgusting,' 'slime' and 'scum,' calling political reporters the worst types of human beings on earth, prompting his crowds of thousands of supporters to turn, without fail, to jeer and sometimes curse at the press."
Why does Trump act this way? asked Byers and Diamond. "To discredit the people who call attention to his lies, his contradictions, his lack of transparency and the less seemly aspects of his history." Verifying what someone says — especially someone who hopes to one day be "the leader of the free world" — and asking tough questions, is exactly what the media should be doing. But Trump, if he is anything, is a master of spin, whether it's about his business acumen, his failed ventures or the now-infamous Trump University. A big part of his con job is distraction.
As James Poniewozik, of the New York Times noted, "By railing at the questions, he was able to send a headline to voters ... that the candidate raised money for vets — while mostly pushing past questions of when he did it and whether his earlier claims had been truthful at the time he made them."
Trump sure seems to be biting the hand that feeds him — the New York Times estimates he has received $2 billion in free media coverage — and his base is eating it up. "(H)e attacks, mocks and threatens news outlets when they aren't 'nice,' building bona fides with a voter base that has been encouraged for decades to see Big Media as the enemy," wrote Poniewozik.
Maybe Trump has taken the temperature of the American public and really does understand its distaste for the media and is using it to bludgeon journalists into submission. While we all have issues with the state of journalism today — especially its incessant worship of celebrity and its compulsion to splash unfolding tragedies across our TV screens — most dedicated journalists continue to chip away at injustice, corruption, ambiguity and deception. As George Washington said, "If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter."
Yes, while the media might be complicit in its own denigration by demagogues such as Trump, it still plays a crucial role in the functioning of our nation, our cities and our communities. All Americans should be horrified by his attacks and should condemn them. If not, the result will be more celebrity news and more fear-inducing reporting that serves no purpose other than to titillate, distract, amuse, enrage and separate us from each other.