No honeymoon for Trump and news media

President-elect Donald Trump.
PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - It's back to Twitter barbs at the "nasty" and "unfair" news media.

Two weeks after his election, Donald Trump's relations with the press are as contentious as ever.

There is no honeymoon between the US president-elect and news organisations after a bruising campaign where the candidate dubbed journalists "thieves and crooks" and was himself labelled a "liar" on the news pages.

The Republican billionaire resumed his onslaught Monday during a closed-door session with high-ranking television executives where, despite expectations of fence-mending, he reportedly gave them a dressing-down over their coverage of the 2016 race.

On Tuesday, Trump cancelled then rescheduled a meeting with the New York Times, firing off a fresh broadside over what he called "nasty" coverage by his hometown daily.

The property tycoon, who has not held a news conference since his election, complained that the terms of the interview "were changed at the last minute," an account the Times disputed.

Both Team Trump and the newspaper later confirmed the meeting was back on, after the two sides agreed on an off-the-record session with the paper's publisher followed by an on-record interview.

The Times later reported that Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, had misinformed Trump - telling him the terms had changed - in an apparent bid to prevent the interview, fearing he might face questions he is unprepared to answer.

Donald Trump wins US presidency in stunning upset

  • Donald Trump has stunned America and the world, riding a wave of populist resentment to defeat Hillary Clinton in the race to become the 45th president of the United States.
  • The Republican mogul defeated his Democratic rival, plunging global markets into turmoil and casting the long-standing global political order, which hinges on Washington's leadership, into doubt.
  • "Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division," Trump told a crowd of jubilant supporters in the early hours of Wednesday in New York.
  • "I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans." During a bitter two-year campaign that tugged at America's democratic fabric, the bombastic tycoon pledged to deport illegal immigrants, ban Muslims from the country and tear up free trade deals.
  • His message appears to have been embraced by much of America's white majority, disgruntled by the breath and scope of social change and economic change in the last eight years under their first black president, Barack Obama.
  • Trump openly courted Russian leader Vladimir Putin, called US support for NATO allies in Europe into question and suggested that South Korea and Japan should develop their own nuclear weapons.
  • The businessman turned TV star turned-politico - who has never before held elected office - will become commander-in-chief of the world's sole true superpower on January 20.
  • The results prompted a global market sell-off, with stocks plunging across Asia and Europe and billions being wiped off the value of investments.
  • Although he has no government experience and in recent years has spent as much time running beauty pageants and starring in reality television as he had building his property empire, Trump at 70 will be the oldest man to ever become president.
  • Yet, during his improbable rise, Trump has constantly proved the pundits and received political wisdom wrong.
  • Opposed by the entire senior hierarchy of his own Republican Party, he trounced more than a dozen better-funded and more experienced rivals in the party primary.
  • During the race, he was forced to ride out allegations of sexual assault and was embarrassed but apparently not shamed to have been caught on tape boasting about groping women.
  • And, unique in modern US political history, he refused to release his tax returns.
  • But the biggest upset came on Tuesday, as he swept to victory through a series of hard-fought wins in battleground states from Florida to Ohio.
  • Clinton had been widely assumed to be on course to enter the history books as the first woman to become president in America's 240-year existence.
  • Americans have repudiated her call for unity amid the United States' wide cultural and racial diversity, opting instead for a leader who insisted the country is broken and that "I alone can fix it."
  • If early results hold out, Trump's party will have full control of Congress and he will be able to appoint a ninth Supreme Court justice to a vacant seat on the bench, deciding the balance of the body.
  • So great was the shock that Clinton did not come out to her supporters' poll-watching party to concede defeat, but instead called Trump and sent her campaign chairman to insist in vain the result was too close to call.
  • "I want every person in this hall to know, and I want every person across the country who supported Hillary to know that your voices and your enthusiasm mean so much to her and to him and to all of us. We are so proud of you. And we are so proud of her," chairman John Podesta told shell-shocked supporters.
  • "She's done an amazing job, and she is not done yet," he insisted.
  • Musician Lagy Gaga stages a protest against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on a sanitation truck outside Trump Tower in New York City after midnight on election day November 9, 2016.
  • A street performer dressed as the Statue of Liberty hold photos of U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China November 9, 2016, after Trump won the presidency.
  • A "Naked Cowboy" performer supporting Donald Trump walks through Times Square in New York, November 9, 2016.
  • People react as they watch news on a screen to follow the results of the final day of the US presidential election at an event organised by the American consulate in Shanghai on November 9, 2016.
  • Protesters against president-elect Donald Trump march peacefully through Oakland, California.
  • A separate group earlier in the night set fire to garbage bins and smashed multiple windows.
  • Police officers chase a group of about 50 protesters.
  • University of California, Davis students protest on campus in Davis, California.
  • An invitee places a cookie depicting U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on a table at the US presidential election results watch party at the residence of US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, in Tokyo.

Trump announced he would meet the influential daily after all in an upbeat tweet saying, "Look forward to it!"

But that followed a stream of hostile early morning tweets assailing what he called a "failing" paper for continuing to "cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!" .

The dust-up with the Times came a day after Trump held an off-the-record chat with television executives and news anchors, with comments filtering out indicating Trump's displeasure over coverage.

New Yorker editor David Remnick, citing sources attending the session, said Trump complained that NBC News used unflattering photos showing his double chin, and asked for "nicer" images.

Attendees said they were taken aback at the tone from the president-elect, who repeated claims of insulting and inaccurate coverage.

"I really am offended," one of them was quoted as saying. "This was unprecedented. Outrageous!" Far from sobered by his heavy new responsibilities as head of state, one participant was quoted as saying Trump "is the same kind of blustering, bluffing blowhard as he was during the campaign."

Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway offered a different version, calling the meeting "cordial" and "productive," adding that "there was no need to mend fences."

US news organisations dug into a host of Trump controversies as he campaigned for the world's most powerful office.

These included allegations by women that he had harassed or sexually assaulted them, his past failures as a real estate developer and indications that he avoided paying taxes for years.

The Republican pushed back hard - charging the election was being "rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies" and colluding to hand victory to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump's latest clashes with the media would seem to foreshadow a stormy relationship when he moves into the White House in January.

"I think he wants to scare them," said Lucy Dalglish, dean of journalism at the University of Maryland: "He wants to chill them. He is retaliating. He feels he was not treated fairly and he is trying to get them to cower. But that's the last thing you want to do with some of these people."

Some groups have already complained Trump has not yet guaranteed "pool" media access, as has been customary in recent history, where a small group of journalists accompanies the president-elect on all public events and meetings.

"It's not the media that needs this, it's the pubic, and he doesn't seem to understand the role that an independent, freely functioning media plays in a democracy. And not to recognise that role is troubling," said Dalglish.

Joel Kaplan, associate dean of journalism at Syracuse University, agreed that the media and Trump are in uncharted waters.

"There is no precedent for the relationship between Trump and the press," Kaplan said.

"Even those (presidents) who didn't have the best relationship going in understood the role of the press and tried to court individual members." Kaplan noted that Trump's hand is helped by a deepening distrust of the news media by the US public, but claimed that should not be a reason to change coverage of the White House.

"I don't think the general public can have a much lower opinion of the news media and honestly, the news media shouldn't care," he said.

"The role of the news media is to inform the public. Once that happens, the public is responsible for what it does with that information."

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