President-elect Donald Trump’s often combative relationship with the media was again on display Tuesday when he publicly panned The New York Times on Twitter before then sitting down with the publication that was one of his favorite targets of ire throughout the campaign.
It was just the latest in a string of chaotic episodes Trump has had with the press since his Election Day victory and provides a preview of how that relationship might develop as he gets closer to assuming office. A spokeswoman at The Times said the paper was surprised to learn via Trump’s Tweets Tuesday morning that he had abruptly cancelled a planned meeting after contending that the “terms and conditions” were changed. In subsequent tweets, Trump said the publication — which he has called “failing” and threatened to sue — covered him with “a nasty tone” before announcing the meeting was back on.
The Times denied the ground rules of the meeting were changed and reported the president-elect pulled out after top adviser Reince Priebus urged him to cancel for fear he would not be prepared to answer questions on-the-record.
Trump has skirted the press since the November 8 election and the few interactions he’s had have mostly been combative — carrying forward his approach with a press corps that received much of his vitriol during the campaign.
Trump invited television news executives and TV journalists, including from NBC News, to Trump Tower on Monday for what some read as a potential re-set as he prepares to assume the Oval Office. But the meeting, was combative at times, with Trump accusing the media of biased coverage during the off-the-record discussion.
The public has heard little from Trump directly since his victory earlier this month. His transition team on Monday released a two-and-a-half minute video of Trump, outlining a list of priorities he plans to implement on the first day of his presidency, but other than this his interactions with the press have been limited.
Trump has not held a press conference in the two weeks since Election Day, instead granting only a few interviews — including one with “60 Minutes” — appearing with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, and giving brief answers to questions shouted from the reporters staking out the numerous meetings he’s held throughout the transition process.
No president-elect in modern times has waited so long to speak to the media after being chosen as the commander-in-chief, according to the American Presidency Project at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters Monday that he will hold a press conference “soon.”
“He’s just got action-packed days filled with meetings. I mean, these days are over-scheduled with meetings,” she added. “We have people flying in from all over the country meeting with him to give their advice, their counsel, share their experiences, their vision for the country, some of which will result in appointments to his administration and some who just wish to be helpful, very excited to have new leadership in the company, country, and want to be part of that.”
Trump has instead relied on Twitter to communicate to the public as well as stoke intrigue about his Cabinet picks. Last weekend, he tweeted that the cast of Hamilton should apologize to Vice President-elect Mike Pence for asking him to stop and listen to their post-performance call for the new administration to “work on behalf of all of us.”
“He’s continued to do what has worked for him so well during the campaign in going around the media to get his message out,” said Alex Conant, a partner at the Republican consulting firm Firehouse Strategies and the communications director for Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. “He also provokes fights with the media that are advantageous to him.”
He also drew the ire of reporters covering his incoming administration when he left Trump Tower unannounced to go to dinner at a Manhattan steakhouse. The president-elect’s whereabouts were only learned after a Bloomberg reporter who happened to be dining at 21 Club tweeted a photo of Trump and his family inside the restaurant.
Trump’s adviser’s similarly declined news organizations’ requests to travel with the president-elect when he held his first meeting with Obama in the White House. The absence of a “protective pool,” which ensures journalists are with the president and president-elect when he leaves his home or office, has been a troubling sign for reporters trying to decipher what type of access they will have once Trump is sworn into office.
The press is covering the president-elect as he spends Thanksgiving at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida but they did not travel with him.
His transition team has also declined to give journalists access to his meetings with foreign leaders.
Trump’s rocky relationship with the press certainly is not new. He railed against what he called the “crooked” and “dishonest” media throughout his run, all the while making frequent appearances on cable news and speaking with reporters from major newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post.
But his availability to the press greatly narrowed in the closing months of the campaign while his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, became increasingly accessible. Trump, who frequently knocked Clinton for going months without speaking to media, has not held a press conference since July 27. Clinton, conversely, opened up in the final weeks of her White House run and frequently fielded questions from her traveling press corp.
Still, Trump has at times signaled he respects the media and left the door open to repairing his often adversarial relationship with the press.
“I have great respect for The New York Times,” Trump told the paper while saying he hopes to mend fences between the two.
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