The president’s daily Coronavirus Task Force presentations have morphed into a beast that bears no resemblance to the informative crisis briefings they were originally intended to be. Once managed by a composed and eloquent Vice President Mike Pence, they are now the vehicle for the uninterrupted rambling and factually suspect musings of President Donald Trump.
Whenever other officials speak, as if by command, their first-spoken words typically are in praise of Trump’s decisive, bold, courageous leadership. If the crisis weren’t so serious, the scene would be comedy material.
It’s time for the major television news networks to abide by their own professional standards and cease live broadcasts of Trump’s briefings.
He has less of an interest in keeping the public informed or helping beleaguered cities than in ensuring the spotlight stays on him.
State governors who fail to properly acknowledge Trump’s decisive, bold, courageous leadership will risk being placed at the back of the line for federal assistance. Woe to the journalist who dares read back the president’s own words to him and ask for accountability.
“Sir, what do you say to Americans who are upset with you over the way you ... downplayed this crisis over the last couple of months?” CNN’s Jim Acosta asked on March 30. He listed a series of quotes from Trump, including: “We have it very much under control in this country. The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. It’s going to disappear. It’s like a miracle. It will disappear.”
Trump responded, “Instead of asking a nasty, snarky question like that, you should ask a real question. And other than that, I’m going to go to somebody else.”
PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor asked Trump about a statement he made on Fox News suggesting New York might be exaggerating its need of 30,000 ventilators. Trump interrupted her question before she could finish. “Look, let me tell you something: Be nice,” he snapped. “Don’t be threatening.”
The networks keep airing these tantrum-filled briefings because Trump’s buffoonery is ratings gold. But the public should not confuse this with news. Airing it live, knowing Trump’s record for dishonesty, is professionally irresponsible.
He is using this free airtime to substitute for the campaign rallies he cannot attend in a time of social distancing. It’s up to the networks to deny him the live, unfiltered coverage he clearly desires but no longer deserves.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH