If you came away from Donald Trump’s first press conference with the impression that he had bested the media, you’re hardly alone. The media got the same impression, and they’re less than happy about it. The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins writes that the press conference yesterday was the culmination of Trump’s winning streak against media antagonists, which left them uniquely vulnerable to Trump.
And of course, the Buzzfeed debacle didn’t help matters:
Indeed, the press corps Trump faced Wednesday seemed more divided and less sure of itself than the one that grilled him six months ago, when he last held a formal press conference. With his surprise victory last November, Trump didn’t just beat and embarrass his foes in the political press—he burned down their villages, defiled their temples, and danced on the graves of their dead. In the months that followed, news outlets entered into prolonged periods of soul-searching and self-flagellation while Trump took victory laps. Some of the same reporters and pundits who once laughed off his chances at victory were reduced to aggregating his tweets, pleading for access, and posing for chummy group photos at Mar-a-Lago.
At the dawn of the Trump presidency, America’s political press corps is feeling anxious, territorial, threatened—and the president-elect showed Wednesday that he’s ready to take advantage.
In the 18 hours leading up to Trump’s news conference, the press had been busy obsessing over BuzzFeed’s controversial publication of a dossier containing salacious, and unverified, claims about his relationship with Russia. Knowing they would field questions about the story, Trump and his team came prepared with a divide-and-conquer strategy—seizing on the intra-industry ethics debate surrounding the report to drive a wedge between their media adversaries.
Chris Cillizza also declared Trump the winner, although he doesn’t connect the dots in the same way Coppins does:
By the time Trump was done with his lunchtime press conference — one filled with half -truths and distortions — he had won the day.
How? By turning the Russia story into a debate over fake news and the media — and in so doing, turning the media against itself.
This was no accident. From Trump’s opening statement, it was clear that he wanted to make the story of the day one about the media and its foibles.
Would that be the same media that has spent the last several weeks hyperventilating about “fake news”? Why, yes it would be, despite the lack of any evidence that it’s a new phenomenon (hardly) and any hint of correlation to voting, let alone causation. In fact, the hyperventilation began with Buzzfeed, which makes its credibility-shattering debacle this week all the more ironic, as I write in my column at The Fiscal Times today: