It must not have been easy for messengers when they gave an Emperor, or a King a message which contained bad news. This news risked raising his ire and the bearer of the tidings was in the place to be punished in a fit of displeasure. Seen from the outside this is the image of the rapport that now exists between President #Donald Trump, his staff and the mainstream #press.

When is enough enough?

During his speech at U.S. Central Command at Tampa in Florida the Commander in Chief stated that the news services left many terrorist attacks unreported. Although this was later amended to “under reported” by Press Secretary #Sean Spicer the Press was surprised and requested a list of the attacks to which the President referred.

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The list that was produced baffled the Press because it was ambiguous, there were numerous grammatical and factual errors and, above all, the major attacks had received very wide coverage. The comments on this list by the Press then made their way onto the respective web sites, some of which showed the list, errors and all. This would not have pleased the man sitting in the highest office of the land.

The battle between Donald Trump and the Press has been running since he began his run for the Presidency nearly two years ago. He contested every negative comment and any information he thought was incorrect. In some cases he was right, but undoubtedly the Press was right in others. The failure of the Polls authorized by the newspapers and television networks to predict the result and thus conditioned how campaign news was reported only heightened this tension.

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Image or information?

The subsequent reports of alleged Russian hacking of the Presidential election and the release of a redacted report which led to the ongoing investigations was the backdrop to the very public run in between the President and the CNN journalist when Donald Trump refused to allow him to ask questions as his network dealt in “fake news”, the now standard response to unwelcome and/or negative news.

These clashes also occur during the #White House daily press briefings by Sean Spicer which are now a constant part of American politics. They have also provided a major source of inspiration for Saturday Night Live sketches which have further angered the President. Yet the issues treated by this conflict are fundamental to any modern and free Democracy.

The Press is not and cannot be the guardian of the President’s image. It must report the news as it sees fit and according to the information that it has at hand. The journalists and their chiefs cannot sit on news that they feel is important and of major interest to the public, such as the allegations of Russian hacking, or even of possible conflicts of interest that may affect the President.

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Ultimately the legitimate newspapers, television networks and web sites can be held responsible legally for what they report, but report they must because holding on to any major item would be a failure in their responsibility to the public.

On the other side, the White House is responsible for supplying information to the public via the Press and to either rebut allegations made in news reports, or to explain any contested issues. This exchange of information should be the basis of the rapport between all politicians and the Press.

Unhealthy

In the case of Donald Trump major announcements or complaints are now coming via regular tweets that sometimes come at any and all hours and do not give the journalists or even the public details behind the comments, or the opportunity to question the source on the matters raised in the tweets.

This level of antagonism and mistrust between the Oval Office and the Press, whether real or perceived, is not healthy for debate in American politics. The American public was badly divided during the presidential campaign and this conflict only widens these divisions. It is up to both sides to find the means to work together to provide information to heal the divisions. #Donald Trump