Someone still cares about unsigned newspaper editorials! More than 300 papers published editorials criticizing Donald Trump’s frequent attacks on the press Thursday and they elicited a series of responses from the president.
Trump appeared to reference the editorials several times Thursday, in tweets and before a Cabinet meetings. On Twitter, he moved from a general attack on the media, to specifically going after the Boston Globe (which spearheaded the editorials) and its finances, to saying that actually he loves the media and wants “true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.”
The president was still thinking of the editorials following his morning tweetstorm. Before a Cabinet meeting, he told the assembled reporters: “If you’d like, you can stay. If you’d like, you can leave. Freedom of the press.”
While Trump fulminating at the press is nothing new, Thusday’s fixation on the famously fusty and dry institution of the unsigned editorial shows just how fascinated he is by older, more traditional forms of the media.
Despite being easily the most influential politician in the short history of digital and social media, Trump is a print newspaper reader and cable newshound; his digital media consumption appears to consist of articles his aides print out for him. Axios reported last year that Trump had the print editions of the New York Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times delivered to Trump Tower, and that he would go over either print papers or the printouts with a Sharpie, marking up stories.
He also has a specific fascination with the New York Times, which published an editorial Thursday calling out Trump’s attacks. Trump has met with Times reporters, editors, and executives at least twice since the 2016 election, including a meeting in July with Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger and editorial page editor James Bennet where Sulzberger criticized Trump’s attacks, especially him calling the media “the enemy of the people,” which he said “is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”
But on Thursday, at least, it appears to mostly be leading to sternly worded op-eds and extravagantly punctuated tweets.