I have to admit that I found Michael Wolff’s column about Steve Bannon in The Hollywood Reporter to be informative. With that said, let’s hope the media doesn’t listen to what he wrote in Newsweek about why they keep losing to Donald Trump, or what he said to Brian Stelter yesterday.
First of all, given this president’s abysmal approval ratings, it is not clear that the media is losing anything by fact-checking the administration, except in the minds of Trump’s most avid supporters. But as Wolff told Stelter, he thinks the media is having a nervous breakdown over Trump and should instead be covering him like they would any other new president, despite the fact that he lies prolifically, has business arrangements that present conflicts of interest and faces unanswered accusations of being blackmailed by Vladimir Putin. That makes this situation unprecedented and the media would be remiss to pretend otherwise.
During the interview, Wolff’s fluff piece on Kellyanne Conway came up. Here’s how he described her infatuation with “alternative facts.”
And while the “alternative facts” statement might seem like a catastrophic error of credibility — a few days later she was walking it back, rephrasing it as “alternative information” and “incomplete information” — it was the kind of challenge-me-if-you-can, chin-forward taunt, rendered with ladylike composure, that the new president has come to love her for.
Given that the interview with Stelter came a few days after her latest rollout of alternative facts, one can only assume that if Conway had told Wolff the lies about how Obama banned Iraqi refugees due to the Bowling Green massacre, he would be equally impressed with her “ladylike composure” while doing so.
Wolff suggested that by fact-checking this administration, the credibility of the media becomes a problem. So it’s interesting to note how he opened his piece in Newsweek.
Donald Trump is obsessed with the media. And the media is obsessed with Trump. Let’s take it as a given that this obsession is unhealthy. The last time there was such a level of neurotic fixation and overwhelming distrust between a president and the press was during the Nixon administration.
Let’s put aside the question of whether or not Wolff is suggesting that the media was as neurotically fixated on Nixon as he was on them. One can only imagine what would have happened if someone like Wolff had been in the shoes of reporters like Woodward and Bernstein. All of that time they spent tracking down whether or not the story the White House told about the Watergate break-in was true would be seen as a threat to media credibility. Instead, they should have been interviewing the president and his spokespeople to see what they had to say.
As an alternative, take a look at how one of those journalists, Carl Bernstein, talks about what it means to report on this president.
Bernstein says that this presidency is unlike anything he’s seen in 50 years as a reporter and that we are in uncharted territory. He goes on to say that what Trump and his administration are describing is an alternative universe that is totally at odds with the facts. That is not, as Wolff suggested, a journalist having a nervous breakdown. It is a journalist accurately describing the current situation. To pretend otherwise is to step into the insanity.