Allahpundit mentioned this earlier but it appears this section of today’s briefing is really getting a lot of attention online. During today’s White House coronavirus briefing NBC News reporter Peter Alexander said, “Nearly 200 dead, 14,000 who are sick, millions, as you witnessed, who are scared right now. What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?”
Trump replied, “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question. And I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.
“The American people are looking for answer and they’re looking for hope and you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and Concast…That’s really bad reporting and you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism.”
Here’s the exchange.
Naturally, many in the media are rallying around their colleague:
The president’s attacks on our colleague are unfounded and the important mission we all have is to provide clear, factual information for the American public. That is the priority.
— Kelly O’Donnell (@KellyO) March 20, 2020
Here’s who @PeterAlexander is: after putting in a long day at the White House or delivering news on @TODAYshow or @NBCNightlyNews, he stops you to ask how you’re doing, how your kids are. The decency you see on TV is just him coming through. It’s why @NBCNews viewers trust him.
— Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) March 20, 2020
CNN’s John King called it “bulls**t” on air:
Wow. Here’s John King describing Trump’s attack on Peter Alexander as “bullshit” pic.twitter.com/7HvcMgwENb
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 20, 2020
And politicians on the left are already using this to bash the president:
A real president would answer:
We will tap into the immense talents of the American people to find effective treatments and a vaccine and produce all the ventilators and gear we need.
We’ll respect and care for each other even at a distance.
That‘s how we’ll get through this. https://t.co/IQM2IG3XQ5
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 20, 2020
Unfortunately, the critics have a point. The question itself is the kind of thing most politicians have to deal with and most of them get pretty good at simply redirecting questions like this, even ones they find obnoxious. Alexander was asked about the exchange on MSNBC and said he thought he was tossing the president a softball, i.e. a chance to reassure people who are scared:
As Alexander pointed out, later in the briefing he asked the same question to VP Pence and Pence gave a very different answer:
I offered both Pres Trump and VP Pence an opportunity to reassure Americans.
Simple question: “What do you say to Americans who are scared?”
Trump, to me: “I say, you’re a terrible reporter.”
Pence, an hour later: “Don’t be afraid. Be vigilant.”
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) March 20, 2020
Objectively, that’s a much better response. It keeps the focus optimistic and doesn’t create a fresh distraction which the president’s critics can use to make the media the story instead of the virus. Was there a bit of Acosta in that question from Alexander? Sure, but Trump should be used to handling that by now.
Recent polls show that Trump is doing well with voters since he has gotten more serious about the threat of the coronavirus. His positive outlook is probably part of that. Arguably, he’s being more positive than the facts warrant in some cases, but I think, generally speaking, Americans prefer optimism to doom and gloom. But you can’t let one question throw you off your game the way Trump did here. He did a much better job yesterday when reporters kept asking why he calls it the “Chinese virus” and he calmly explained that he didn’t like China suggesting US soldiers were to blame. Those were good answers. Lashing out at the reporters would not have been helpful.