Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is revisiting a cherished pastime, picking a fight with the “fake news station” CNN.
On Tuesday morning, the president’s campaign blasted out an email denouncing CNN for refusing to run a Trump advertisement on the president’s first 100 days in office — a mark Trump hit on April 29. “FAKE NEWS STATION REFUSES TO RUN AD HIGHLIGHTING THE PRESIDENT'S FIRST 100 DAYS,” the email read.
“It is absolutely shameful to see the media blocking the positive message that President Trump is trying to share with the country,” Michael Glassner, the Trump campaign’s executive director, said in a statement. “It's clear that CNN is trying to silence our voice and censor our free speech because it doesn't fit their narrative."
CNN responded to the accusation of censorship by explaining that the advertisement was refused because the campaign inaccurately claimed the mainstream media was “fake news,” and CNN has a policy against running factually inaccurate ads.
In response to the Donald J. Trump for President campaign’s accusations of ad censorship: pic.twitter.com/0Rbanpf0dn— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) May 2, 2017
As a cable network, CNN has the right to refuse political campaign advertisements. But Trump’s campaign wasn’t having it. Glassner doubled down on calling CNN “fake news” simply because it rejected the campaign’s paid advertisement.
“By rejecting our ad, CNN has proven that it supports censorship, is biased, and fears an opposing point of view,” Glassner said. “President Trump’s loyal supporters know the truth: The mainstream media mislead, misguide, deceive, and distract. CNN epitomizes the meaning of fake news and has proven it by rejecting our paid campaign ad.”
For those who followed the Trump campaign, these superficial media wars are common practice, especially with CNN. Trump has long had a love-hate, or rather a love-to-hate, relationship with the cable news network, taking every opportunity to drag them on social media and in press conferences, while still taking their calls and interview requests.
This latest fight is no different.
The Trump campaign’s love-hate relationship with CNN runs deep
Trump’s campaign and the president himself are honest about their understanding of the press: They get that the relationship is a codependent one.
Trump needs the press. “The public gets it, you know — when I go to rallies, they start screaming at CNN,” he said at a press conference about “fake news” in February. “Remember, I used to give you a news conference every time I made a speech, which was, like, every day. That’s how I won. I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn’t win by people listening to you people, that’s for sure.”
And yet Trump’s team team must also brand the press as his enemy. Trump wages a war with the media, yet he makes time for a press conference. He blasts CNN at every turn, but still takes their calls. It’s a tested and successful strategy. During the campaign, Trump would go on air with various networks, and then lambast them at rallies to cheering crowds. As president, not much has changed.
All the while, they understand that the media is less liked than Trump is — at a time when Trump is deeply unpopular.
After the election, Trump’s campaign managers and strategists said they believed free media coverage helped Trump to victory. By attacking CNN with claims of “bias” and “censorship,” the campaign is trying to preempt negative coverage of his administration — something that worked for Trump during the primaries and general election.
“Donald Trump understands that with the media world fragmented, people have gone into the echo chambers. And the way to keep your base intact is to go into your echo chambers and deliver the messages,” Purdue University political scientist Josh Scacco said about Trump’s obsession with news in February. That’s what the campaign is doing now with its trivial back and forth with CNN.
Trump will still answer calls from journalists and take their questions. He knows “how good everybody’s ratings are right now,” and that he does “get good ratings.” And CNN, as every Republican staffer for a failed presidential campaign will tell you, fell for Trump’s tricks over and over again during the campaign, airing empty podiums at Trump rallies, spreading his often misleading messages.
Now, it seems, they are standing their ground. And in lieu of actually airing a campaign ad, the campaign is picking a fight.