A Current Battleground: US Media in the Age of Trump
A veteran Washington journalist gives an insider’s look at the challenges and threats facing media under Trump.
Brian Karem is a veteran White House correspondent accustomed to politicians fudging the truth.
But Donald Trump‘s lies are like nothing he has ever seen before, he says.
The US president’s administration has upended press briefings, sidestepped journalists’ questions, shrouded its actions in secrecy, and taken direct aim at the media, with Trump calling it the “enemy of the people”.
“Reporters covering the White House do not have contact with the administration. And we have limited contact with the actual person that we’re covering, the president. He likes to say he is transparent but he shows up and will take questions, pretend he can’t hear some, cut other people off, tell people to sit down, tell people to shut up and then … off he goes,” Karem says.
The press is not after Donald Trump. The press are after the facts.
“This is not how it usually goes, it’s historically very much off the rails.”
Now he and other journalists must not only grill press officers in the hopes of getting answers – but also face personal threats.
“People feel like it’s ok to threaten a reporter,” he says, “because the president has threatened reporters. I had my window of my car bashed in. I’ve had people call me and say ‘I’m going to kill you.’ I’ve had to call the police a few times because of threats. I know other reporters who have bodyguards.”
And sometimes threats turn into tragedy. In 2018, five people were killed after a man opened fire on the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland.
Karem, who is a CNN contributor and Playboy magazine’s chief political correspondent, has long championed press freedom and received an award for refusing to reveal his sources for a story on the killing of a police officer in Texas, an act that landed him in prison.
For him, an administration that undermines the media can have dire consequences.
“Everything is deflection. With this president he doesn’t want you to look at what the left hand’s doing, he wants you to watch this hand. So he’s lying to us and filling us full with smoke so he can hide what’s actually going on,” he says.
But with the media landscape looking grimmer than ever, he pushes on with his job.
“We are not the enemy of the people. We are the people.”