On Monday, President-elect Donald Trump invited some of the biggest names in the New York media into a Trump Tower boardroom to discuss transition coverage, journalistic access, and his relationship with the major networks and newspapers. In the room were TV executives and on-air stars like Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, NBC exec Deborah Turness, George Stephanopoulos, David Muir, CNN exec Jeff Zucker, Charlie Rose, and others.
Since the meeting was off the record, none of the participants have come forward with their account of what took place. At least, not openly. Anonymously, however, several of the attendees have said it was a rhetorical bloodbath.
“It was like a fu**ing firing squad,” one source told the New York Post. “Trump started with Jeff Zucker and said, ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed.'”
The source said many of the participants felt ambushed.
“The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down,” they told the Post.
Another source confirmed the tone of the meeting.
“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong,’” the second source said. “Trump didn’t say Katy Tur by name, but talked about an NBC female correspondent who got it wrong, then he referred to a horrible network correspondent who cried when Hillary lost who hosted a debate — which was Martha Raddatz, who was also in the room.”
Trump’s spokespeople have denied this characterization of the meeting, telling reporters that it was “cordial.” Still, knowing Trump and observing his frustration with the New York Times, it’s not hard to believe the alternate versions of the summit.
To be sure, Trump doesn’t need to spend his presidency bogged down in a neverending feud with reporters. But after the last 18 months, he deserved to have his say about the breathtakingly biased coverage that colored his campaign. Maybe a couple of reasonable people in that room took his words to heart. Maybe they’ll bring some objectivity back to their reporting.
Anything’s possible, right?