After CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s blistering exchange with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, it’s easy to see that Donald Trump and everyone in his administration cares more about flattering news reports and avoiding any accountability for the things they do and say than they do about the lives of reporters.
During Sanders’ uncomfortable press briefing on August 2, in fact, one unnamed reporter in the room actually shouted at her mid-tirade “Tell that to the 5 dead people in Annapolis,” referring to the targeted attack on the reporters of Maryland’s Capital Gazette newspaper that left three reporters, an editor, and even a sales assistant dead, shot to death by a man with a grudge against the publication.
Acosta himself called on the Press Secretary to denounce Trump’s dangerous rhetoric, and she absolutely refused to do so:
But Jim wasn’t the first national news reporter to call out this administration’s foul treatment of the press. Chicago-based, nationally-syndicated columnist Rex Huppke used his considerable platform right around this time last year to deliver a similar message, albeit in a little funnier way — laughing if only to keep from crying about the fact that Donald Trump wants so badly to be seen in a positive light that he’s willing to put Americans in danger to get that treatment.
Huppke’s “sincere apology” letter to Trump went viral at the time, and now is as good a time as any to remind America that the Trump administration’s war on the press has been purposeful, unrelenting, and remorseless, even when it’s resulted in outright violence.
From the letter:
As a fake news media member in good standing, I would like to sincerely apologize for forcing you to hold a campaign rally eight months into your first term as president. I’m sorry that in the course of that rally I forced you to misquote yourself and to devote one reference to Heather Heyer, the woman killed during the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, versus an inordinate number of references to the journalists who cover you and your administration.”
Rex goes on to list a number of ways the news media has “forced” Trump to do the things that they accurately report about him — and how “deeply sorry” he is for it.
Perhaps with time we can mend the damage my recklessness has done to your reputation.”
And how could the Chicago writer have known a year ago that Trump would still be singing the same tune on his border wall?
Convincing you to say that you will, if necessary, shut down the government in order to build your preposterous border wall was folly of near-biblical proportions, framing you as either: stubborn and narcissistic to the point of jeopardizing the country’s fiscal well-being and doing real harm to Americans who rely on government services just to save face, or a liar.
I will never live that one down.”
Huppke closed with a summation of his “apology” to the President:
I promise, from here on, to pamper you, to coddle your ego, to deflect all blame on others and to never accurately report on you, because that causes you to call me fake news.
Please accept this apology. I am not at all proud of the things I’ve made you do.”
Rex Huppke knew last year what those in television media seem to just be learning now: That Donald Trump is willing to sacrifice literally anything, even human lives, in order to make himself look good. That’s shameful, and it is a concentrated effort to undermine the First Amendment.
Featured image via screen capture