Trump and the press: off to a rocky start?

President-elect Donald Trump met with TV news reporters yesterday and today cancelled a planned meeting with The New York Times today.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
CBS 'This Morning' anchor Gayle King walks through the lobby at Trump Tower, Monday, Nov. 21, 2016 in New York.

President-elect Donald Trump’s tense relationship with the media may see little improvement as he heads to the White House.

Throughout his campaign, President-elect Trump repeatedly attacked the “liberal media,” saying that various networks and newspapers had cast his bid for the presidency in an unfair light and vowed to “open up” libel laws, making it easier to sue the press. That tense relationship has caused many to wonder how Mr. Trump may restrict press access to the White House during his presidency, and how journalists can seek to cover both his transition to the presidency and his actions there.

On Monday, Mr. Trump and several of his top advisers hosted a group of top news anchors from networks such as NBC, ABC, CNN, CBS, and Fox at Trump Tower, marking the first time since his election victory two weeks ago that the real estate mogul met extensively with members of the press to discuss his transition. Several of those in attendance – speaking anonymously later to The Washington Post – said that Trump used the opportunity to repeatedly call out what he saw as “dishonest” and “unfair” coverage of his campaign, but they also noted that the mood in the room was one of general respect.

Those in attendance included “Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd; ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz; anchors George Stephanopoulos and David Muir of ABC News; Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett of CNN; “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt; and a group of CBS anchors including Norah O’Donnell, Charlie Rose, John Dickerson, and Gayle King. Network executives from CNN, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, and Fox also attended the meeting.

During the hour-long off-the-record meeting, news personnel say that Trump criticized NBC for using an unflattering photo of him and went after Ms. Raddatz for “choking up” on the air when he won the presidency. But he also spoke of his policy plans, appointments, and goals, showing what could be interpreted as a new openness to transparency.

Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, acted as a buffer to his critiques, thanking the press for their coverage and stating that the new administration wanted to reset and mend the relationship between the president-elect and the media. Those present say Trump agreed, stating that he wanted to create a “cordial and productive” relationship.

But on Tuesday, Trump started the day by canceling a meeting with The New York Times via Twitter, levying similar complaints against the organization that he’s inveighed against on the campaign trail.

“I cancelled today's meeting with the failing @nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not nice,” he wrote at 6 a.m.

Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Trump did not reach out to the paper to cancel the meeting.

“We were unaware that the meeting was canceled until we saw the president-elect’s tweet this morning,” she said in a statement published in the Times. “We did not change the ground rules at all and made no attempt to. They tried to yesterday – asking for only a private meeting and no on-the-record segment, which we refused to agree to. In the end, we concluded with them that we would go back to the original plan of a small off-the-record session and a larger on-the-record session with reporters and columnists.”

The president-elect also allegedly continued to dismiss the need for a press pool, a move that shirks a White House tradition in news coverage.

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