Josh Earnest, who served as former President Barack Obama's press secretary from 2014 to 2017, says the media is too sensitive and easily flustered by President Donald Trump.
Speaking during a Harvard University forum titled, "Press & the Presidency," earlier this week, Earnest accused the media of being "remarkably thin-skinned" and said reporters too often make the story about themselves.
"Journalism, for an institution that is focused on critiquing people in power, is remarkably thin-skinned," he said, according to The Boston Globe. "And we’ve seen President Trump cynically use the tendency of the press to defend itself, and to bristle at criticism, to try to distract from the tough questions that the media is asking him."
Since his inauguration, Trump has frequently antagonized the Washington press corps. Last month, Trump tweeted that the "fake news media" is the "enemy of the American people." According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, 39 percent of all voters and 81 percent of Republican voters believe "certain news organizations are the enemy of the American people."
Also, during his February address at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump said many in the mainstream media "have their own agenda" and "do not represent the people." He also attacked the media for using unnamed sources, which he asserted are often fabricated.
"I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources," he told the CPAC audience. "They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out."
According to a recent survey, 44 percent of American voters believe journalists "make up" anonymous sources in their reporting.
Earnest, however, said it would be incorrect to suggest Trump hates the media. Instead, the former White House staffer suggested, the relationship is just complicated.
"I don’t think President Trump has a grand ambition to erase the First Amendment from the copy of the Constitution in the National Archives," Earnest said. "I just think he often finds the First Amendment to be really, really inconvenient."
"He’d rather pretend it doesn’t exist or that it’s not that important or that it’s somehow malleable," he said.
The reality, Earnest argued, is that both the president and the media need one another.
"It’s undeniable that these political conversations are more present in our day-to-day lives, for better or worse," he said. "Sometimes it’s a source of conflict and friction in our lives, but a more engaged citizenry can only be good for the country."