Tuesday, January 10, 2023


In The New York Times, Michael Grynbaum asks:
Can Ron DeSantis Avoid Meeting the Press?
As a candidate and president, Donald Trump attacked the media, but he also courted mainstream journalists. Grynbaum notes that Ron DeSantis is different:
... ahead of the next presidential race, potential candidates like Mr. DeSantis are taking a more radical approach: not just attacking nonpartisan news outlets, but ignoring them altogether.

Although he courted right-wing podcasters and conservative Fox News hosts, Mr. DeSantis did not grant an extensive interview to a national nonpartisan news organization during his 2022 re-election bid — and he coasted to victory....

By the summer [of 2022], many news outlets were prohibited from attending a gathering of Florida Republicans, while conservative writers and podcasters were granted access. “We in the state of Florida are not going to allow legacy media outlets to be involved in our primaries,” Mr. DeSantis told a cheering crowd. His communications director, Lindsey Curnutte, later mocked reporters in a Twitter post aimed at “fake news journalists,” asking, “How’s the view from outside security?”

... A top DeSantis communications aide, Christina Pushaw, has articulated the governor’s view of the news media in harsh terms. “They hate you, they hate us, they hate everything that we stand for, and I believe they hate this country,” she said in a speech in September, referring to the media.

... In 2021, Ms. Pushaw’s Twitter account was suspended after she criticized a report by The Associated Press and urged her followers to “drag them.” Ms. Pushaw, then serving as the governor’s press secretary, wrote that she would put the A.P. reporter “on blast” if he did not modify the story; the reporter later received online threats.
Can DeSantis keep this up all the way through a presidential campaign? The very existence of this story suggests that he can. Mainstream reporters will just keep writing awestruck pieces about how DeSantis manages to get away with this.

But this is a change from previous presidential campaigns. We old-timers remember how the media used to praise gregarious Republican glad-handers like George W. Bush and John McCain, while expressing contempt for "aloof," "tightly controlled" Democrats -- Al Gore, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton. Back then, Republicans were the nice guys -- Dubya gave reporters nicknames! McCain threw reporters a barbecue, and eagerly accepted journalists' gift of doughnuts ("with sprinkles!"). Even Trump, for all his attacks on the media, "remained an enthusiastic participant in the 'boys on the bus' tradition of campaign reporting that dates back decades," as Grynbaum notes.

But if DeSantis becomes a leading presidential contender -- which now seems inevitable -- the mainstream media won't say he's "aloof" or "tightly controlled." The rules will simply change, and what was once a failing will now be seen as a virtue.

I realize that this isn't an exact comparison -- DeSantis's rejection of camaraderie with the mainstream media is a matter of ideology, not personality (although he's also said to have a lousy personality). But if he begins to win primaries without doing outreach to the mainstream press, his ability to do so will be described as a superpower.

And Joe Biden's gregariousness will be portrayed as unpresidential. I might be wrong about the media's response to DeSantis, but it's safe to assume that whatever Biden does on the trial will be looked on with contempt, even if it's working, and even if he ultimately wins.

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