It used to be friendly-adversarial. There would be retaliation for stories they didn’t like, but nothing compared with this. There’s a war going on. For a president to come out with the term “fake news” — he’s putting targets on our heads. He has moved the goal posts when it comes to how politicians and people deal with the press.
Transparency. There is a veil on the White House; people want to look behind the curtain. It’s house. When you open up a press briefing to see the back and forth, you’re getting more in the weeds of what’s going on, beyond just the quote we may put in the story. This is a key piece that I don’t think people really get: When you talk about the press, it’s not about journalists; it’s about the free-flowing information that the American public is supposed to get. When you bash the press, you’re bashing the idea of getting truth out.
It depends on whom you talk to. We’re so tribal now. There used to be a day when you didn’t know the person’s politics. The line has been obscured between facts and opinion. I think it started during the Clinton years, and it just kept getting progressively worse. People don’t want to just hear the news; they want to hear what people have to say about it too.
I’m so sad about that. My boss has always said, “You need to know how to play poker.” I don’t. I’m trying! The last time I was really caught off guard was when Sarah Huckabee Sanders said something about people’s minds being in the gutter after President Trump’s tweet about Kirsten Gillibrand. I really get into those briefings. I really try to listen. I don’t play to the camera. I go in there, and I’m really earnest. So when she said that, I was shocked! I was like, No, God, that was a little bit much.
Yes, I have. But I have to shake that off, because I have to go in and do my job. I cover the White House. I cover all issues, particularly those that affect black and brown Americans. Now, what if they didn’t call on me? A certain segment of America would not get the answers to some of their pressing questions. If I don’t ask, who will?
I recently asked him, “Are you a racist?” It’s a sad day when you have to ask a sitting president that. There has been a series of comments or lack of action, from calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” to how he dealt with Charlottesville to his comments on Norway versus Haiti, Africa, El Salvador, black and brown nations. It’s not been one thing. It’s been a pattern. So I asked. He did not answer, which I thought was a wasted moment. He could have put it to rest right then and there and said, “No, I’m not a racist.” But it took him days to say that.
He’ll clamp down harder on us. Each president has pushed us further away from access. Who knows what will happen or what another president may want? They may not want to be followed. President Obama didn’t like being followed, for example. This president hates us. He’s warring on us. Once we lose ground on something, it’s hard to get it back.