• 63°

Leonard Pitts: What journalists do

“The fact that a man is a newspaper reporter is evidence of some flaw in character.” — Lyndon Johnson

“They are a sort of assassins…” — John Quincy Adams

“I look forward to these confrontations with the press to kind of balance up the nice and pleasant things that come to me as president.” — Jimmy Carter

“The president of the United States will not stand and be questioned like a chicken thief by men whose names he does not even know.” — Herbert Hoover

“I rarely think them worth reading, and almost never worth notice.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Those villainous reporters…” — Abraham Lincoln

“To hell with them.” — Harry S. Truman

Our topic du jour: What Journalists Do.Consider it a public service for the benefit of Failed President Trump. As he reminded us Wednesday in a characteristically bizarre news conference, he has not a clue.

First, CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried — Trump kept interrupting him — to ask about the propriety of designating a caravan of refugees an “invasion.” But the rude president called Acosta rude for the questions he asked. Of course, the questions were tough, but entirely fair.

Then PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor tried — Trump interrupted her, too — to ask whether he emboldened white supremacists by declaring himself a nationalist. But the racist president chided her for “such a racist question.” Her question, too, was fair.

The man doesn’t seem to know — more likely, simply doesn’t care — that this is What Journalists Do. They ask questions, questions that are sometimes tough, pointed and skeptical. That’s how truth is learned. That’s how the people’s right to know is served.

As the quotes at the top attest, Trump is hardly the first chief executive to disdain reporters. But the vast majority of his predecessors nevertheless endured journalistic scrutiny with the understanding, as George W. Bush once put it, that news media are “indispensable to democracy.”

“I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive,” Bush said, “and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

But Trump is different. And perhaps that’s no surprise, given that he’s a con artist who has spent decades shucking, jiving, deflecting and blustering his way past every moment of accountability. The man with no answers naturally fears the man asking questions.

It’s telling that Sean Hannity of Fox “News” is Trump’s idea of a real journalist. We’re talking about the Trump sycophant who, with fellow Fox star Jeanine Pirro, actually campaigned with Trump, speaking at a Missouri rally on Monday and shattering journalistic norms like glass. Some will quibble that Hannity considers himself a talk show host and not a journalist — he’s actually called himself both — but that’s no excuse.

So long as Fox continues to identify — or, misidentify — itself as a news organization, neither its pundits nor its reporters have any business rallying with Trump or any other political figure. That’s a bright red ethical line, yet Hannity and Pirro stomped across it in muddy boots. Both should be on the unemployment line. Yet these two are what Trump thinks journalists should be: his cheering section.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted after the news conference that Trump “believes in a free press.” But that’s a bodacious lie. Trump hates What Journalists Do. Nor is he alone in that.

But you know the only thing worse than a country where journalists ask questions?

A country where they don’t.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

Comments

Business

‘It’s our big time’: Salisbury Farmers Market reopens Saturday

Education

Schools capital funding still frozen as RSS sends local budget to county

Business

Shields, Cheerwine Festival receive N.C. Main Street Awards

Kannapolis

Duke University launches kidney disease study in Kannapolis for people of African descent

Education

Horizons Unlimited will hold in-person summer camps

Education

Education briefs: Catawba planning for more in-person activities, free summer school tuition

Coronavirus

County’s full COVID-19 vaccinations top 22,600

High School

High school golf: With Merrell, Mustangs back on top

Local

Spencer investigating rat problem on South Iredell Street

News

Livingstone, Mission House Church to host national ‘Black Voters Matter’ listening session

Education

Shoutouts

Business

Groundbreaking on Pennant Square signals next phase in downtown Kannapolis revitalization

Nation/World

J&J vaccine to remain in limbo while officials seek evidence

Nation/World

Prosecutors: No charges for officer in Capitol riot shooting

Nation/World

Biden to pull US troops from Afghanistan, end ‘forever war’

Nation/World

Former Minnesota cop charged in shooting of Black motorist

Crime

Blotter: April 14

Elections

Former North Carolina Gov. McCrory enters US Senate race

Crime

Salisbury woman arrested in Myrtle Beach for abducting child

Health

County updates health director job description, will advertise for position

High School

High school tennis: East beats Carson, still hopes to share NPC title

Elections

Board of Elections to purchase upgraded voting equipment using federal grant

Kannapolis

Kyle Seager drives in winning run in first game as Mariners split doubleheader with Orioles

Local

City exhausts this year’s funds for Innes Street Improvements, Municipal Services District grant programs