Askia MuhammadColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

MUHAMMAD: White House Press a News-Free Zone

Finally, finally, the overpaid guys who wear the suits in the corporate-owned news media front offices have begun to come to the realization that they’ve been “played” for nearly a month by the crafty badger in the White House.

In the form of “coronavirus updates,” Donald J. Trump has managed to get himself free daily prime-time television, radio and cable airtime to dispense useless, often false information intended for one purpose and one purpose only: to make Donald J. Trump look good.

He can’t really have campaign rallies nowadays, with enforced, social distancing, so he does the next best thing, he marches into the White House press briefing room where he commences to read a bunch of boring, exaggerated statistics about what a great job he’s doing. Not only are the outlets repeating Trump’s drivel, they are then obviously unable to air any reporting of their own that might contradict 45’s view.

He even boasted during one of the bizarre, snore-fests, that his ratings were “through the roof,” better even than “The Bachelor” and “Monday Night Football.”

Some broadcasters have begun dropping the drivel when he brings on one of his advisors to say something, or—recognizing the non-urgency of what Dude is saying every day in the first place—have decided to not even bother with the broadcasts. Days ago, a group of non-commercial radio stations announced they would not carry the presidential briefings because of the near impossibility of fact-checking everything he would be saying in real-time as he spoke.

He’s such a liar.

But this Dude didn’t invent the White House Press Office system, he simply turned it to manure. He’s good at that. He dumps on journalists regularly. He has a special penchant for insulting black female correspondents. He bullies the “briefings,” he blocks his “experts” from answering questions he doesn’t like, he cheats to get sympathetic journalists into the socially-distanced, reduced-capacity room.

He has no bounds.

But the White House Press Corps has always been like that. I ought to know. Back in 2006 when George W. Bush pulled my White House “hard pass” after 28 years — for no other reason than my religion — I sneered, “I’ve been kicked out of fancier parties than this.”

I had pleaded with my friend and Bush Press Secretary Tony Snow to personally help me keep my credential. He would be leaving soon on a leave of absence to battle cancer. We stood holding hands in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, I said a Muslim prayer for his recovery. We had forged a friendship over years on the panel on Howard University Television’s “Evening Exchange.” Tony said he’d do what he could.

Truth be told, as a reporter, I really could not invest much time at the White House. These were the days before handheld computers, when having a “landline” or any broadband connection was premium. It was the prestige of having a White House pass.

Under those unforgiving working conditions, the White House was then (and is now) a “news-free zone.” There is one story per day at best, unless, as This Guy has proven, he makes a reporter the story with his insults and denials.

I’ve seen him even deny saying something he just said minutes before. He’s practically insufferable. No, he is insufferable, and he’s an inveterate, lying bucket of spit, who, incidentally, believes he’s God’s gift to all humanity.

Since he’s Decider-in-Chief, the ultimate audience-of-one, to whom truth is immaterial unless it makes him look good, there is no solution that favors the truth, save the evil accident of time.

James Russell Lowell’s words are instructive: “Truth forever on the scaffold/Evil forever on the throne.” Free airtime for campaign sales pitches— why not? After all, he’s got the perfect solution. Right? Right?

No. it’s a news-free zone.

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Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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