U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Trump suggests taking away journalists’ press credentials in response to negative coverage

Incident Details

Trump tweet May 9, 2018
May 9, 2018

In a tweet on May 9, 2018, President Trump suggested that news organizations publishing negative news about him should have their press credentials revoked.

During the presidential campaign, though, the Trump administration routinely denied press credentials to reporters it did not like. But the White House is not supposed to have any role in the process of credentialing media organizations, which has traditionally been the domain of the White House Correspondents Association, an independent group of journalists who cover the White House. Since assuming office, Trump has not moved to revoke any journalist’s White House press credentials, though his former press secretary once excluded certain news organizations from an informal briefing.

The president’s May 9 tweet references a controversial analysis conducted by the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog, which attempts to gauge the sentiment (positive or negative) of news coverage of Trump on major networks’ evening newscasts. According to the MRC's most recent analysis, 90% of the coverage of Trump on ABC, CBS, and NBC evening newscasts between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2018, was negative. That's consistent with MRC analyses from 2017, which found that 91% of coverage of Trump on the evening newscasts was negative. 

Although the methodology of the MRC analysis has been criticized, the Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends” cited its results authoritatively on the morning of May 9, shortly before the president’s tweet.

In his tweet, the president stated that 91% of the news coverage was “negative (Fake).” But the MRC did not try to analyze whether the news coverage was “fake” (i.e. inaccurate), just whether it portrayed Trump in a positive or negative light. The president seems to believe that all negative news coverage of him is “fake,” regardless of whether or not the news coverage is accurate.

Designating negative coverage as “fake news” and threatening to revoke network’s credentials in order to discourage such reporting has become a marked tendency for this administration.

Trump frequently criticizes journalists’ reporting on his administration, denouncing it as “fake news” even when it is true. According to the Trump Twitter Archive, he has tweeted the phrase “fake news” at least 40 times this year.

In a statement, White House Correspondents Association president Margaret Talev denounced Trump’s comments.

“Some may excuse the president’s inflammatory rhetoric about the media, but just because the president does not like news coverage does not make it fake,” she said. “A free press must be able to report on the good, the bad, the momentous and the mundane, without fear or favor. And a president preventing a free and independent press from covering the workings of our republic would be an unconscionable assault on the First Amendment.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].