The mainstream media was in full-scale freak out mode Tuesday evening after President-elect Donald Trump went to a Manhattan steakhouse without the usual press pool in tow.
President-elect Donald Trump left reporters in the dark about his whereabouts Tuesday night, continuing a pattern of restricting press access and setting up a dangerous precedent for the press covering the Trump administration.
It then added:
The incident continues a pattern of Trump and his team limiting press access and violating basic tenets of press freedom and creates serious concerns about whether he will abide by traditions like holding press briefings and allowing reporters on Air Force One when he is president.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow exclaimed:
It is a matter of tradition, a matter of security, a matter of national interest that you don’t go dark … you don’t get to be a private person anymore. People get to know where you are at all times.
It threatens essential direct media access to the president, foreshadowing future attempts to shut out the unfiltered, independent flow of news Americans depend on in holding their elected leaders accountable.
As per tradition between the White House and the White House Correspondent's Association, a press pool is to travel with the president — and the president-elect — at all times so that any news regarding the president or the White House can be reported in a timely and efficient manner.
Trump has made no mistake about his disdain for the mainstream media and has, at times, made a habit of ditching his press pool. But the full-scale meltdown in the media over Trump's "dangerous precedent" is a completely different reaction from the times when President Barack Obama ditched his media pool.
In fact, in stories reporting the times Obama skipped the press during his eight years as president, the media simply detailed the fact that Obama ditched the press pool, instead of launching into a complete meltdown over his "attempt to shut out the unfiltered, independent flow of news Americans depend on."
When Obama skipped the pool in April 2010 to watch one of his daughters play in a soccer game, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller cleanly noted:
The White House admitted there was a screw-up that kept the press from accompanying the president.
The Associated Press portrayed the incident this way: "President Barack Obama quietly breached years of protocol on Saturday morning by leaving the White House without the press with him."
It made the incident sound like a deliberate effort to dump the press pool, which there's no reason to believe it was. Plus, such incidents have happened before, in fact with every President I've covered dating back to Gerald Ford. Occasionally, the press gets left behind, and there was rarely any ulterior motive involved.
No freak out.
When Obama ditched the press last year to go on a nature hike with his family, the Daily Mail — which does have a full-time White House correspondent — wrote:
The unscheduled trip came after the White House had sent reporters home for the day, sending the presidential press pool into a temporary tumult about where President Barack Obama and the first family had gone.
Reporters initially seemed to fear that the unscheduled departure was some sort of emergency, but officials apparently tipped them off to the president's destination as photos from the outing were soon filed.
Again, no freak out.
And even when Obama was president-elect in late 2008, the press didn't freak out when he failed to inform his press pool that he was traveling.
This Dec. 2008 story from the New York Times calmly detailed the fact that Obama left his vacation home in Hawaii to spend time with his family without informing his protective media pool. In fact, the reporter merely explained why a media pool travels with the president at all times and then began explaining what Obama did with his day.
Yet, for Trump, the media alleges that he's trying to violate the "basic tenets of press freedom" and abandon a century-old precedent. Why weren't those same accusations made of Obama when he left his press pool for a bit of privacy?