"Media is fake!" - An abridged history of Donald Trump vs the media

The President-elect's strong words for a CNN journalist was only the latest incident of Trump taking on the media...

"Media is fake!" - An abridged history of Donald Trump vs the media

Picture by Seth Wenig AP/Press Association Images

"Not you... Your organisation is terrible... Quiet... She’s asking a question, don’t be rude... No, I’m not going to give you a question... You are fake news."

Donald Trump's extraordinary confrontation with CNN's Jim Acosta was one particularly heated moment in the President-elect's first major press conference in months. It came after CNN initially broke the story of a salacious but unverified dossier containing allegations about Mr Trump's links with Russia.

BuzzFeed published the entirety of the widely criticised document - which led the President-elect to describe the site as a "failing pile of garbage". BuzzFeed, incidentally, responded quickly by selling 'failing pile of garbage' t-shirts and a 'limited edition BuzzFeed garbage can'. As of writing, they were sold out.

Tuesday and Wednesday's events were dramatic and acrimonious even by the standards of last year's election campaign. But of course they are far from Mr Trump's first attacks on the media.

With many major outlets making few efforts to disguise their opposition to his candidacy - The National Enquirer was one of the few internationally-known US media outlets to actually throw their support behind him - it was no surprise that Donald Trump made the media itself a target for attacks throughout the campaign.

Mr Trump holds a particular grudge against The New York Times (he usually throws 'failing' in front of the paper's name). Just a few of his colourful Twitter descriptions of the newspaper and its articles: "no longer a credible source"; very dishonest!"; "every article is unfair and biased"; "incompetent"; "a joke!".


Appropriately enough, it's the NY Times themselves who have put together a 'complete list' of the people and organisations Mr Trump has insulted on Twitter. His political opponents have been subjected to a long and colourful list of insults, but the media has been another clear focus for Mr Trump. Associated Press, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, National Review, Politico, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post... Mr Trump's criticisms of the media regularly cross ideological lines, with even the conservative-leaning likes of Fox News and The National Review having received some harsh words from the now President-elect.

Individual journalists are often targeted too. One of his most high-profile feuds has been with Megyn Kelly, the Fox News (although soon to be NBC) anchor. In the New York Times, she described "the relentless campaign that Trump unleashed on me and Fox News to try to get coverage the way he liked it was unprecedented and potentially very dangerous".

With the popular anchor having been unafraid to call out Mr Trump's behaviour and actions, the then Republican hopeful had plenty to say in response.

But beyond these specific examples, Mr Trump has shown a more general disdain for the "dishonest mainstream media". "It is being reported by virtually everyone, and is a fact, that the media pile on against me is the worst in American political history!" he wrote in one tweet.

Trump bluntly but effectively took (and continues to take) advantage of many voters' distrust of and hostility towards establishment media - and some supporters at his rallies were caught on camera taunting or criticising the gathered reporters. "The press always got booed at Trump rallies. But now the aggression is menacing," The Washington Post noted.


Donald Trump poses a unique and new challenge for media outlets. Despite having criticised Hillary Clinton's reluctance to hold press conferences, he himself has aggressively expressed his dislike of the media and has been reluctant to engage with reporters. He wants to control the conversation, and an active media often gets in the way of that. As Wired argues, "he appears to have a new goal: to prime the public to believe he is the only reliable source."

Amid all this, Trump himself has emphasised the need for a probing and critical media. As Angie Drobnic Holan, Editor of PolitiFacttold Newstalk.com shortly before the election: "Donald Trump is unlike any candidate we’ve fact-checked before. He does not have a background in politics or holding elected office, and basically from the beginning of his candidacy he has said a lot of things that aren’t accurate."

While he has recently appropriated the phrase "fake news" to attack specific stories - sometimes a justified criticism, it should be said - news outlets have been kept extraordinarily busy fact-checking and calling out his falsehoods and distortions.

But even in this often toxic relationship, Trump has had some kind words for specific media outlets. In yesterday's press conference he called BBC News "another beauty". In an interview with the 'failing' New York Times shortly after the election, he praised them as well, telling the gathered journalists: "I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special."

Without question that could be part of his efforts to curry favour in a particular circumstance, even if sees him directly contradicting himself. But it's clear he has the capacity to engage with the media in a more respectful manner - even if that might just be to try and avoid the difficult questions.

Trump hasn't even been inaugurated yet, and his history with the media is a bizarre and colourful one. What will happen when he's finally in the White House will be fascinating to behold.