At most of his campaign rallies, Donald Trump usually delivers enough bluster and bravado to keep daily headlines churning and enough mendacity to keep the dwindling supply of fact-checkers busy, but increasingly, the real story of the Trump presidential campaign is happening off-stage, among his throngs of supporters -- and if Trump's campaign gets it way, reporters won't be able to directly cover any of it.
In October, a Trump supporter spit on an immigration activist as a Virginia rally turned violent. Luckily, CNN's Jeremy Diamond was there to record the altercation. Diamond was at another Trump rally this month when Trump supporters punched and kicked a Black Lives Matter protestor. But as Trump's campaign crowds grow more unwieldy, his campaign has begun to clamp down on the access it grants reporters embedded on the trail, warning reporters to stay in the designated press area lest they be "blacklisted." Mediaite's Elizabeth Preza documented the Trump campaign's ongoing, contentious relationship with the national press:
At a rally last Tuesday, a Trump aide threatened to revoke Noah Grays media credentials after the CNN reporter briefly left the designated press area to cover a #BlackLivesMatter protester. The aide told Noah to “get back in the pen” or risk being “f*cking blacklisted.”
At a rally Friday, Trump barred members of the press from covering the event, including reporters from BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and Univision. The Trump campaign has banned publications that have strongly criticized the candidate in the past, thus landing the outlets and reporters in “the doghouse” (a term used by campaign manager Corey Lewandowski).
Trump’s tricky relationship with the press is not a new phenomenon: this past August, the Republican candidate removed Univision reporter Jorge Ramos from a press conference, telling Ramos to “go back to Univision.”
“During the program we require that the credentialed media remains in the designated press area so as not to interfere with the integrity of the event and the voters’ experience listening to and interacting with Mr. Trump," spokesman Hope Hicks has said of how the campaign handles the press, a not uncommon practice. But, on Monday, clearly miffed by their treatment from the Trump campaign, the political news chiefs of ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News attempted to unite against Trump's censorship but failed.
According to the Washington Post's Paul Fahri, "[n]etwork TV representatives decided Monday not to fight restrictions imposed by Donald Trump’s campaign on reporters covering the Republican presidential front-runner." The network executives ended their emergency conference call in disagreement over their demands:
In a conference call, the political-news chiefs of the five leading news networks conferred about the issue but came to no agreement about what to do, several people familiar with the discussion said.
Some network managers had been pushing for a joint statement or letter to the Trump campaign seeking an agreement on reporter access. But others said the issue was overblown and required no formal action. The lack of unanimity doomed any further effort.
In interviews, officials from two networks described the conflicts between Lewandowski and reporters last week as an unpleasant but routine part of campaign coverage. They dismissed the need for a collective response.