During an interview with Fox & Friends on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lamented the “negative” coverage President Trump received in 2017 and suggested journalists would start giving the administration positive coverage once they received money as a result of the Republican tax bill passed in December.
“Look, I have said it before, I will say it again: I think it is disgraceful the way this president is treated. If he was anybody else the media would be going on and on trumpeting his successes,” Sanders said, referring to a study by the right-wing Media Research Center, which showed coverage of the president among the big three media networks (NBC, ABC, CBS) in 2017 was negative 90 percent of the time. “…Things are going well for America. We have a president that is putting our country first and I think that is something that should be celebrated, not mocked, not laughed at. Certainly not attacked every second of every day.”
She added, “Hopefully, over the course of this year, we’ll have a change of heart of some of the media as they get more money in their pockets due to massive tax cuts…. Maybe they will have a change in their heart too.”
Sanders’ suggestion that journalists could be bought with partisan tax handouts is troubling for a number of reasons.
First is the idea that journalists — who the White House and Trump regularly refer to as “fake news” — might have a “change in their heart” and begin producing mostly positive stories in 2018 because they supposedly benefit from certain Republican legislation. A journalist’s job, of course, is to report the facts in order to hold powerful figures and entities accountable. To suggest that their coverage is conditional on favors or handouts from those same powerful people is damaging to the industry as a whole and another method of maligning the free press — something which the Trump administration does on a regular basis.
Second, the passage of the tax bill itself was hardly a boon for journalists, who on average make between $25,000 and $70,000 a year, according to PayScale. Most tax analysts agree that the GOP legislation, though billed as a tax “cut” for all Americans, is instead a gift for the ultra-wealthy and massive corporations, given that it lowers the top tax rate for high-income earners from 39.6 percent to 37 percent, as well as the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Middle- and low-income earners — including the majority of journalists — by contrast, will see their taxes decrease temporarily, but will see a tax hike after 2025, when those cuts expire.
The president has long maintained a tense relationship with the press, claiming that any news outlets whose coverage he dislikes are “fake news.” The White House, using its official platforms, has echoed that sentiment several times over.
In December, Sanders claimed during a briefing that mistakes and errors in reporting were proof that the media was deliberately lying to paint the Trump administration in a bad light. “There’s a very big difference between making honest mistakes, and purposefully misleading the American people — something that happens regularly,” she said during a tense exchange
Sanders produced no evidence to back her claim.
“90% of Trump 2017 news coverage was negative” -and much of it contrived!@foxandfriends
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 16, 2018
On Tuesday, Trump himself responded to Sanders’ Fox & Friends comments, taking things a step further by suggesting the press was making up stories to discredit him.
“‘90% of Trump 2017 news coverage was negative’ -and much of it contrived!@foxandfriends,” he tweeted.
The president has also previously promised to hold a “Fake News Awards” ceremony, something experts say could violate several ethics rules.