Donald Trump is in open hostilities with the news reporters who helped make him a presidential contender.
On Friday, he lured journalists with a quick statement declaring that President Obama was born in the United States, then turned to boasting about a new hotel — breezing over the fact that he has raised questions about Obama’s birthplace for the last five years. Breitbart’s Milo Yannopoulos — the only member of the media who adores Trump enough to call him “Daddy,” described the bait-and-switch as a “thrashing.”
“Daddy Trump has conquered the media, burned its corpse, and salted the earth of its grave,” he said. “Daddy managed to achieve free publicity for his new hotel.”
But reporters finally did something they’ve rarely done this campaign: Stand up to Daddy. A few crews even deleted their footage of the hotel to ensure it wouldn’t see the light of day.
“To me it seemed like this was the last straw,” former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau said during his “Keepin’ it 1600” podcast on Monday.
Throughout the primaries, Trump infuriated his rivals by riding a wave of free news media publicity to the Republican nomination. Cable networks ran his rallies in their entirety. Morning shows welcomed his phone calls.
But the tone has changed. On Sunday, John Dickerson, host of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” grilled Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway on why Trump pushed claims that President Obama was born outside the U.S., saying he “advocated something for five years that was a lie.”
“Well, you’re going to have to ask him,” she finally said.
But Trump was busy. On Saturday, he threatened to sue the New York Times, and called columnist Maureen Dowd a “neurotic dope.”
Trump bashing the press is nothing new. You may have heard about his run-in with Megyn Kelly. He mocked a reporter with a disability. Throughout his campaign, he has banned reporters from outlets ranging from Politico to the Washington Post. (The ban is lifted, for now.)
Some outlets, like the Huffington Post, have been proudly antagonistic throughout his run. But many others have failed to challenge him even on factual inaccuracies, perhaps out of over-sensitivity that they would appear liberal. (There’s no telling why NBC’s Matt Lauer didn’t call Trump out at a town hall earlier this month, when Trump lied that he had opposed the Iraq invasion all along.)
In the past week, mainstream outlets have become more confrontational.
CNN now calls Trump out regularly in its reporting and in text at the bottom of the screen. Washington Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold, who has closely investigated Trump’s charity, posted a note to the campaign Friday asking when Trump would give $5 million to the charity of President Obama’s choice. (Trump promised, years ago, to make the donation if Obama would turn over personal documents.)
Last week, Trump gleefully taunted reporters of his own traveling press corps because they were late for one of his rallies in New Hampshire.
“I have really good news for you,” Trump told the crowd. “I just heard that the press is stuck on their airplane. They can’t get here. I love it.”
But again, instead of taking it, the press pushed back. While TV cameras continued to cover the rally, still photographers opted not to shoot any images out of solidarity with their missing colleagues.
One reporter told Politico: “The press corps is at a boiling point here and was more frustrated tonight than ever.”
But the news media may be too late to stop the candidate it helped create. An email last week illustrated just how much Trump has benefited from the news media.
In it, Smart Media Group, which works with the Republican National Committee, told Trump’s advisers that he has only spent $17 million on TV ads, compared to Hillary Clinton’s $126 million, according to Politico. If you add Super PACs to the equation, Trump’s has spent even less, by comparison — $33 million to Clinton’s $244 million.
Since last May, Trump received the equivalent of nearly $3 billion in free advertising, according to the latest numbers from the firm mediaQuant. Meanwhile, Clinton earned about $1.1 billion in free advertising through April.
Related stories from TheWrap: