Trump's war against the news media is rooted in some of his deepest fears

  • President Donald Trump has frequently asked White House aides to punish some reporters when he’s unhappy with the way they approach him, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
  • Reporters who shout questions at Trump, or who press him with questions about the news of the day tend to get the president most riled up, The Post said.
  • White House staffers, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, have sought to calm Trump in his most heated moments after interactions with the news media.
  • On some occasions, Trump has asked that certain reporters be punished. His aides have resisted those requests until this week, when CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins was barred from an open press event because of questions she asked the president.

President Donald Trump has sought to punish reporters when he’s unhappy with the way they approach him, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

Trump’s angst can be triggered by a reporter shouting a question at him, or asking him to comment on the news of the day, The Post said, pointing to occasions when Trump apparently felt overwhelmed or disrespected during such interactions.

White House staffers, including the press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, have sought to calm Trump in his most heated moments. But The Post notes that the communications staff has resisted the president’s requests to punish certain reporters who have angered him most, pointing to the certain backlash that would follow.

News reporters, including the credentialed press who are tasked with covering the president and daily happenings at the White House, are expected to query the commander-in-chief, and to be assertive about it.

It is a long-standing practice and tradition of the free press, which is charged with holding people in positions of power accountable for their words and actions. This is protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

As a private citizen and candidate in the 2016 election, Trump has successfully prevented reporters and entire news organisations from obtaining media credentials to attend his campaign events. He is not afforded the same latitude as president.

However, the internal resistance toward Trump’s urge to punish reporters apparently ended this week when CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins was barred from an open press event at the White House – because of questions she asked Trump about his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, earlier the same day.

The White House’s reaction was roundly criticised from the likes of CNN, Fox News, and the White House Correspondents’ Association.

White House officials have countered that criticism by noting the president’s willingness to engage with reporters in certain settings, such as when he is walking to or from the White House, and after events in the Oval Office.

However, Trump does not always respond to their questions, and frequently uses the bullhorn of his personal Twitter account to rail against the press, who he has on multiple occasions called “the enemy of the American people.”

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