Politics

Dean Baquet and Maggie Haberman Discuss Trump’s War on Journalism

Just a month into his Presidency, Donald Trump called the news media “the enemy of the American people.” Shortly thereafter, the New York Times and several other news organizations were barred from attending a White House press briefing with Sean Spicer, who was then Trump’s press secretary. The Times’ executive editor, Dean Baquet, said at the time, “Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple Administrations of different parties.” And that was just the beginning.

A new Showtime documentary series, “The Fourth Estate,” chronicles a year at the Times, during which journalists scramble to cover an Administration with a slippery relationship to the truth. David Remnick sat down with Baquet and Maggie Haberman, a Times White House correspondent, to discuss parsing Trump’s statements, whether there’s a difference between a falsehood and a lie, the many phone calls that this pair of journalists have fielded from an upset President, and the effect that Trump has had on the news-reading public. “He has made our audience care deeply about news,” Baquet says. Both he and Haberman have front-row seats to the White House circus, and in the conversation, which you can watch above, they comment on the shifting allegiances within the Administration, which have splintered over time.

Both see, at the core of Trump’s hostility toward the press, a sense of frustration that the media is not treating him fairly. Trump made his fortune, such as it is, creating luxury apartments for wealthy New Yorkers who couldn’t get into the city’s white-glove apartment buildings. And he’s carried this idea of the establishment snub with him. “It really seems to make him angry . . . when the New York Times, which he sees, rightly or wrongly, as the ultimate establishment institution, questions him or criticizes him,” Baquet says. Haberman sees Trump as driven by the desire for approval. “What’s frustrating to him,” she says, “is that he feels like he secured the biggest piece of property in the country, the most impressive address in the country, and he still feels like he’s not being taken seriously, and that’s what drives him nuts.”

But journalists have certainly been taking the Administration’s actions seriously. Baquet says, “The institutions that are important to democracy are being challenged, and I think that’s a big deal.”


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