‘Compared to what I see today, my time covering presidents and their press secretaries was a cakewalk.’
That’s veteran newsman Sam Donaldson, sounding off in an op-ed posted Tuesday on CNN — arguably President Trump’s favorite target for his “enemy of the people” and “fake news” jabs
As a journalist who spent 52 years covering presidents in Washington, Donaldson has seen just about everything.
Just about. Trump’s something completely different.
Donaldson says he’s never seen anything like the “contempt and apparent hatred” Trump has for the media
“The effect is to undermine the credibility of the media, leaving him free to pursue policies that harm us at home and abroad,” Donaldson wrote. “Trump’s wholesale attack on the mainstream press is wrong, and it is dangerous. History shows that tyrants and would-be tyrants always attempt to destroy a free press.”
Key Words: Trump told Lesley Stahl in 2016 why he pillories the press, the veteran broadcast journalist recalls
Donaldson explained how every president he covered, with the exception of Nixon, “fundamentally understood and accepted the important role of the press.” That doesn’t mean he didn’t get into it with members of past administrations. For instance, he recounted how Carter’s press secretary once threw a full glass of red wine at him.
“Back then, press secretaries tried to put the best face on it when things went badly for their boss. But they didn’t lie to you, as Mr. Trump’s press secretaries have done regularly, and they didn’t call you names to your face,” he wrote. “Both sides recognized the responsibilities of each other’s jobs, and we got along.”
Donaldson’s piece coincides with the release of a book penned by CNN’s Jim Acosta, whose attack-dog style has ruffled White House feathers to the extent that his press pass was revoked — and, ultimately, restored by a federal judge.
But Donaldson says Acosta, like many before him, was just doing his job in that infamous dust-up by asking “perfectly reasonable and appropriate” questions, only to be called out as a “rude, terrible person” by the president.
“Jim Acosta and the other hardworking men and women who cover the White House will continue the effort to do their job. And the news organizations who send them there will continue to back them up,” Donaldson wrote. “I salute them and am proud to stand with them.”