President-elect Donald Trump's campaign of scorn against the media has not slowed since the results came in on election night. Finally given control of his Twitter account again on Nov. 9, he has returned to attacking the media on the social media platform. This behavior continued Tuesday morning, when he temporarily cancelled a planned meeting with The New York Times via Twitter, accusing the paper of changing the "terms and conditions of the meeting" at the last moment. This is one more scary example of Trump's contempt for the media. He ultimately decided to go through with it, but that doesn't make it OK for him to act this way as president-elect.
The meeting was to be with "editors, reporters, columnists, and the newspapers' publisher." First, a "short off-the-record" session, followed by an "on-the-record meeting," The New York Times reported Tuesday morning after the meeting's cancellation was initially announced by Trump via Twitter. "I cancelled today's meeting with the failing @nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not nice," the president-elect tweeted at 6:15 a.m. ET. It wasn't until about 9:45 a.m. that Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the meeting was back on, and that Trump was headed over to The Times office.
The paper released a statement early in the morning making it clear that they did not know any of this before it was sent out via Twitter, and that no conditions or terms were altered. "We were unaware that the meeting was cancelled until we saw the President Elect’s tweet this morning. We did not change the ground rules at all and made no attempt to," the statement read. The paper also clarified that they would not agree to Trump's initial request, which was for a private meeting only. Eileen Murphy, the paper's head of communications, announced the two-part meeting was back on at 9:50 a.m.
During his 6 a.m. Twitter tirade, Trump went on to send out a few additional aggressive tweets. First he posted, "Perhaps a new meeting will be set up with the @nytimes. In the meantime they continue to cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!" He followed it up with a dig at the paper for having the highest level of complaints in 15 years (many of which are over the paper's failure to cover the election in a realistic way — some faulted it with assuming Clinton would win and pushing forward with an inevitability narrative).
Despite eventually agreeing to the meeting he tried to cancel, these sorts of direct attacks are unprecedented, and come on the heels of another, equally troubling occurrence with some of the nation's top television news reporters and executives. On Monday night, Trump met with a group that included journalists and TV personalities Charlie Rose, George Stephanopoulos, and Wolf Blitzer. Also attending were executives like Jeffrey Zucker. Trump "let them have it" as The Times headline read. He reportedly criticized some in the room by name, and complained about a photo NBC used that showed his multiple chins. The New York Post originally broke the story, and their source put it rather bluntly, calling it a "f**cking firing squad." "The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down."
The media, as imperfect as it may be, is a check on the government, especially when all its branches are about to be controlled by one party. If Trump can't accept their role, it's probably best to prepare for the worst. There's no guarantee he will respect democracy's other institutions, either. His decision to meet with The Times today is in part comforting, but his initial instinct to cancel is quite the opposite.