The outgoing and incoming presidents of the White House Correspondents’ Association, respectively Carol Lee of the Wall Street Journal and Jeff Mason of Reuters, have written an op-ed in USA Today criticizing the treatment of the press by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
From the piece:
The White House Correspondents’ Association is alarmed by the treatment of the press in the 2016 presidential campaign.
The public’s right to know is infringed if certain reporters are banned from a candidate’s events because the candidate doesn’t like a story they have written or broadcast, as Donald Trump has done.
Similarly, refusing to regularly answer questions from reporters in a press conference, as Hillary Clinton has, deprives the American people of hearing from their potential commander-in-chief in a format that is critical to ensuring he or she is accountable for policy positions and official acts . . .
The United States will not have a free press if its president gets to choose which journalists and which media organizations are allowed access to the executive branch. We will not have a truly free press and an informed electorate if the president doesn’t believe he or she should be held accountable to inquiries from the media.
As a White House reporter, I am a member of the White House Correspondents’ Association. I know this won’t be popular with some of you, but I completely agree with the conclusions in the piece, and I applaud Lee and Mason for taking an aggressive stance.
Hillary Clinton’s failure to answer questions is reprehensible. She has a lot to hide, and she’s hiding it. Though I haven’t experienced it myself, her lackeys no doubt try to intimidate the press when negative stories that are written, just like the Obama people did.
Trump takes all press scrutiny personally and doesn’t seem to have any conception of the roll of reporters in performing accountability on politicians. His decision to ban many reporters from his press conferences stinks of the actions of a third-world despot. And his demagogic press bashing during his speeches is a play to the crowd that is unhealthy for our democracy.
To be sure, the press has undermined itself by failing to restrain its liberal bias. But most mainstream news reporters I know — not all, but most — do their best to keep their own agenda out of it and honestly report the news. Bias creeps in anyway, because we’re human. But the cause of accountability for politicians is so important that even if there is some bias, a potential president demonizing and banning the press is a danger to the republic.
Presidential candidates should allow access to all responsible journalists, even those with an opinion, whether from the left or the right. The Founders enshrined freedom of the press in the First Amendment, and for good reason.