Fox News anchor Shep Smith went after three-week President Donald Trump for his continued denigration of the press Thursday, specifically Trump’s repeated bashing of reporters gathered at the White House press conference earlier in the day. The contentious affair, which saw Trump label CNN “very fake news” and say his administration was running like a “fine-tuned machine,” prompted Smith to call out the president to answer the very legitimate questions being raised by the various news agencies represented about what was (is?) actually going on with regard to Trump, his campaign and administration, and their association with the Russians.
“(Trump) keeps repeating ridiculous throwaway lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we’re some kind of fools for asking the question. Really?” Smith said (per The Hill). “Your opposition was hacked and the Russians were responsible for it and your people were on the phone with Russia on the same day it was happening and we’re fools for asking the questions?”
Smith was, of course, referencing the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computers (the “opposition”) during the 2016 presidential campaign, an act that both the CIA and the FBI have reported actually occurred. “Your people were on the phone with Russia” is a reference to the apparent conversations that were taking place between recently resigned National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and the Russians, where Flynn, while working as part of Trump’s presidential campaign, reportedly spoke about the current sanctions against Russia, something he was not authorized to do.
Trump was asked repeatedly by different media outlets about reported conversations between aides working for his presidential campaign and Russian officials. Trump repeatedly side-stepped the questions, instead slamming such stories as “fake news” and criticizing the journalists.
“Russia is fake news. Russia — this is fake news put out by the media,” he said at one point. Trump said (the entire transcript of the press conference can be read at CNBC) it was likely due to the “people probably from the Obama administration because they are there,” noting that he had his appointee already in place the CIA and would soon have James Comey at the FBI replaced.
Throughout, Trump maintained that he knew nothing of any conversations with the Russians. He did say that if he had known about Mike Flynn’s talks with Russia, he would have allowed it. He insisted, however, that he knew nothing of the conversations. When asked why he asked for Flynn’s resignation if he would have allowed the dialog with the Russians, Trump said he was fired for lying to Vice president Mike Pence. Pence reportedly found out about Flynn’s actions through the media just days ago.
But Shep Smith was done with all the verbal dancing and Trump’s seeming insistence on warring with reporters, pointing out that the American people deserved answers to the questions about Russia.
“No, sir,” Smith continued from his desk. “We are not fools for asking this question, and we demand to know the answer to this question. You owe this to the American people. Your supporters will support you either way. If your people were on the phone, what were they saying? We have a right to know, we absolutely do and that you call us fake news and put us down like children for asking these questions on behalf of the American people is inconsequential. The people deserve an answer to this question at very least.”
It has become Trump’s mantra, either personally or through surrogates like his press secretary and chief counselor, to upbraid the media in general — and certain reporters and outlets specifically — when he finds anything negative written about his administration. For that matter, the new president even castigates the press for disagreeing with him or his policies. But accusing the media of being “fake news” and misdirecting through commentary on how he is supposedly being misrepresented is not answering the questions being asked. It is avoidance.
Fox News anchor Shep Smith appears to have taken it upon himself to speak for the entire Fourth Estate that the media is tired of the president’s antics and tired of being ignored and dismissed when doing its job. The question then becomes: Does President Trump, who has found that sparring with the media has been to his political advantage, really care what the press — be it one reporter or collectively — wants?
[Featured Image by Richard Drew/AP Images]