On Monday, following the release of Attorney General William Barr’s summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, President Trump’s re-election campaign issued a memo to television producers, listing five Democratic political figures and one former CIA director and citing the lack of “credibility of certain guests.”
The memo, published by The Washington Post and attributed to Trump campaign director of communications Tim Murtaugh, listed six people “who made outlandish, false claims”: DNC Chairman Thomas Perez, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, and former CIA director John Brennan. All six of them have said on television in the past that there was collusion, or evidence of collusion, between Trump and Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
“Moving forward, we ask that you employ basic journalistic standards when booking such guests to appear anywhere in your universe of productions,” the memo says. “At a minimum, if these guests do reappear, you should replay the prior statements and challenge them to provide the evidence which prompted them to make the wild claims in the first place.”
The memo was characterized by Deadline as the campaign having “blacklisted” Trump critics. But that’s a highly misleading way to state what this memo was.
The president does not have the power to block television programs from booking certain guests, nor does his campaign, nor are such networks or producers under any obligation to go along with such pressure.
And it’s highly unlikely that any of them will. For one thing, Perez is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, while Schiff and Nadler are heads of important congressional committees. Schiff, in particular, appears as a guest on cable news in a nearly daily basis.
Swalwell, who is also on cable news regularly, has been mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential candidate, meaning he’s likely to end up on TV again at some point as well.
As people likely to stay in the news often in the coming months or years, through further investigations of the president and eventually the 2020 presidential campaign, it’s hard to imagine television networks deciding they’re no longer going to book them just because the president’s campaign said so.
And furthermore, there’s no precedent for TV shows to stop booking certain guests because they have been wrong or dishonest in the past. Many pundits who advocated for the Iraq War, for example, continue to appear regularly on television.
The term “blacklist” means something very specific historically, usually involving actual prohibitions on certain people working. The Trump campaign letter, outside the usual norms as it might be, is not blacklisting in any sense.