Reality show star-turned-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump seems to be blowing up his relationship with the press this weekend.
One day after he tricked cable news channels into live coverage of what amounted to an infomercial for his flagging hotel project in the nation’s capital, VICE news reporter Alex Thompson was arrested by Houston police as he waited in a hotel lobby for permission to cover a Trump event.
Thompson had already requested access, and says that he followed up with Trump campaign staff at the Omni Westside Hotel in Houston, TX when he arrived at about 12:30 PM local time. In the everyday campaign-coverage business, that’s absolutely normal for events like this.
But according to VICE, what happened next was completely abnormal — or rather, it’s the ‘new normal’ for reporters covering the abnormal Trump campaign.
A man who identified himself as a hotel manager then asked Thompson to leave and warned that he would be arrested if he did not. Roughly two minutes later, without further warning and while Thompson was waiting for a member of Trump’s staff to clarify his access to the event, he was arrested by Houston Police, handcuffed, and escorted outside. Thompson spoke with his editors while handcuffed and said that he was never given any opportunity to explain himself to police.
Somehow, there’s video taken in the moments after Alex Thompson was handcuffed. Watch, via Vice News:
On a weekend when the opinion media finally began using the word “lie” in their descriptions of Donald Trump’s speech, while headlines and news anchors rejected Trump’s brief acknowledgement of President Obama’s citizenship status — and immediate attempt to deflect the issue — as satisfactory answers to questions about his long career as a ‘birther,’ this is a troubling new development.
But we can’t pretend we didn’t see it coming. Jesse Berney of Rolling Stone:
Do you get it yet? Do you get what it means? Do you get the admiration for Putin yet? Do you see it?
— Jesse Berney (@jesseberney) September 17, 2016
Comparisons to Russian president Vladimir Putin are inevitable here, and that’s entirely Trump’s fault.
A complete amateur at foreign relations who vows to back way from key security relationships and seems to think of the US military chiefly as a mechanism for plunder, Trump is completely smitten by Putin’s flattery and openly admires his reign of terror. Asked about the many murdered investigative reporters in Putin’s Russia, Trump responds: “At least he’s a leader.”
If elected, Trump would be more concerned with promoting his new hotel than countering Russian aggression, meeting American commitments, or upholding alliances. And if the American press doesn’t like the way he manipulates and harasses journalists now, imagine how much further he might imitate Putin as president.
— VICE News (@vicenews) September 17, 2016
Thompson’s arrest and detention are not happening in a vacuum.
By taking advantage of the inherent weaknesses of television news, such as their obsession with ratings, Trump has literally been able to phone in his campaign. Friday’s disastrous “news conference” at his DC hotel was just the latest example of Trump pulling a bait-and-switch with malice aforethought. And in the meantime, his campaign has grown ever-more aggressive with reporters, not even bothering to conceal the candidate’s contempt for their safety.
There was campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbing the arm of a Breitbart.com reporter so hard that he left bruises, but remained with the campaign for almost two months afterward. It was a clear signal that Trump had no interest in a normal relationship with the press.
Instead, Trump has developed a classic abusive relationship with the press — roping them in, then devaluing them, then discarding them in grand displays of personal power to teach them their place in his pecking-order.
Consider AP photographer Chris Morris, who was thrown down and put in a chokehold after he argued with a Secret Service agent that had been assigned to keep the press pool in line and blocked him from recording the removal of a protester from a Virginia rally.
Gaslighting, framing himself as the victim of unfair coverage, Trump has at times whipped his rally crowds into such a frenzy of hate at reporters that the Secret Service has felt it necessary to escort them out of the building for their own safety.
Attacking from both sides is the point. Alternately blacklisting news organizations and then calling them to cover his hotel “press conference,” Trump takes positive delight in both making the press pool arrive late to his rally and then mocking their tardiness.
These are the campaign media tactics of a chimpanzee displaying his dominance.
— E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcS) September 17, 2016
As for Alex Thompson: the Trump campaign’s attempt to pin the blame for his arrest on the hotel is sketchy at best. Yes, according to VICE News, Houston police are also blaming hotel management.
Hotel management initially asked a man to leave the building and he eventually complied and left. Soon after, he entered the hotel a second time. When asked to leave by management, he refused to do so and told hotel employees they would have to have him arrested because he was not leaving. The hotel management then advised police officers they wanted the man arrested for trespassing. Officers did so and transported him to the HPD Central Jail on a charge of criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor. The arrest took place about 12:25 pm. The man’s name is Alexander Scott Thompson.
But I have personally covered consecutive book signings by Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, so I’ve seen a single venue’s staff display two completely different attitudes in just 48 hours. The contrast was night-and-day, and completely candidate-driven. Every single person who covers presidential politics for any length of time has seen how this works. Thompson’s arrest is almost certainly due to the Trump campaign giving the Omni hotel strict security guidelines.
Our reporter is still being held for inquiring if he could cover a Trump campaign event at Houston @OmniHotels
— (((Josh))) (@Tyrangiel) September 17, 2016
If the media remains compliant in this moment, and makes Trump president through their collective failure to abandon ‘Bothsiderist’ frames of reference in journalism and report accurately on events, we can expect Trump’s behavior to get worse. Emboldened, he will likely adopt even more Putinesque behaviors towards a hobbled and hollowed-out Fourth Estate.Click here for reuse options!
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