Trump's White House counselor thinks the problem with the media is that "they are not compelled" to report things that make Trump look good.
It is no secret that Donald Trump resents the media's constant pushback on his lies, corruption, and bigotry. His allies and surrogates constantly make the rounds on TV to complain about it.
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, who famously proclaimed that Trump is simply using "alternative facts," is particularly bothered.
On Thursday, during an appearance on Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy asked Conway about former CIA director James Clapper questioning Trump's fitness for office in the wake of his openly pro-Confederate speech in Phoenix. Conway pivoted to an attack on the media, and finished with a stupefying claim about press freedom:
DOOCY: A couple nights ago on television, he said he wondered whether or not the president was fit to be president, fit to serve. If James Clapper is watching right now, what's your message to him?
CONWAY: It's such an absurd analysis, playing armchair psychiatrist. It's not just him. It's a lot of people on TV. I remember — I'm old enough to remember when news stations reported the news. And didn't just have a parade of pundits going out there and opinionating and rendering their opinions and pontificating and conjecturing. And I think it leads to analysis like this, because people end up with very little to say. They are not compelled. They are not forced. Nobody demands that they actually report facts and figures. [...]
You know, the media and other opinion figures — they were way too afraid of President Obama and his administration. They're not afraid enough here.
Conway is saying the media should be "forced" to report the news in a way that is favorable to Trump. She is lamenting that America does not have full-blown government control of media content and that reporters are not sufficiently "afraid" of Trump and his White House.
Authoritarian, anti-press impulses are nothing new from this administration. Conway has previously threatened to revoke Chuck Todd's interview access if he kept criticizing former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, and said pundits who "talk smack" about Trump should be fired.
Terrifyingly, though, some corners of the media appear to be moving in the direction Conway wants.
Ousted white supremacist adviser Steve Bannon is back at Breitbart and prepared to wage "war" against any politician who questions Trump, even members of his own White House — a plan that has Trump's tacit blessing.
Meanwhile, Trump's FCC is rewriting broadcasting laws to advance the merger of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media, creating a kind of "Trump TV" that will reach 72 percent of U.S. households. Sinclair, which owns hundreds of local news stations around the country, is infamous for forcing journalists to air "must-run" segments against their wishes, most of which praise Trump, attack Democrats, and promote the right-wing agenda. Even some right-wing media companies worry about what this could do to news markets.
On the face of it, Conway's demand for journalists to be "forced" to praise Trump may sound so ridiculous and un-American that it could never become reality. But it is deceptively easy to erode a nation's fundamental rights over time. Americans should take Conway at her word that Trump's allies dream of dismantling the Fourth Estate, and hold the line to protect our democracy.