Donald Trump has had a tumultuous time with the media—he has previously called journalists the “lowest form of humanity” (paywall). Somehow, the last couple of days have been even worse.
The customary meeting yesterday between the president-elect and the heads and anchors of the US’s five largest news networks—ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC—was rumored to be a fiasco. The discussion was off-the-record, which means both sides agreed not to disclose what happened behind the closed doors. However, two sources who spoke anonymously to the New York Post said that Trump pegged the media as “deceitful,” “dishonest,” and “liars” in the meeting.
He allegedly called out CNN, which he referred to during his campaign as the “Clinton News Network,” and his former network NBC for getting coverage of his campaign wrong. However, Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway, who was in the meeting, gave a completely different account of it on MSNBC, denying the reports. (Trump’s team did not immediately respond to Quartz’s request for comment.)
Today, Trump abruptly cancelled an interview with the “failing” New York Times via Twitter—before changing his mind and reinstating it—in what seems more like a bitter divorce battle than a presidential sit-down.
Trump said the publication tried to change the terms of the meeting. A spokesperson for the New York Times said it learned the meeting was cancelled from the tweets, and that it was the president-elect’s team who tried to change the terms over whether the interview was public or private. In any case, the meeting has begun, is on the record, and updates are being posted here.
His latest back-and-forth, coupled with Trump’s attacks on reporters during his campaign, creates a continually murky picture of the relationship he will have with the press during his presidency. Two weeks after his election, Trump is yet to hold a press briefing. He is the first president-elect to wait this long since 1976; most began addressing the press within the first 10 days of being elected to provide details on their transitions. Conway said Trump will hold a press conference “soon.”
In the meantime, Trump has been offering updates on his transition via Twitter, one of his primary vehicles for communication, and on YouTube.
“From my perspective, it’s very simple,” Conway told MSNBC. “President Trump and the media have to share joint custody of the nation and its people… It’s highly productive and in everyone’s interest to find a way to do that.” Indeed, at the Times sit-down, Trump told the newspaper that he has been treated unfairly during campaign and he’d like to improve relationship because it would make his job easier. He also said:
That is something both he and the media can agree on.