On election night in the United States, many Americans – and Canadians – followed the results as presented by CNN’s John King and his magic wall. On Tuesday, 103 days into Donald Trump’s presidency, King was in Vancouver for a speaking engagement, while in the U.S., Trump’s camp was blasting for CNN for refusing to air an ad about Trump’s first 100 days in office that uses a graphic that declares the mainstream media is “fake news.”
“The mainstream media is not fake news and therefore the ad is false,” CNN tweeted on Tuesday. “Per our policy, it will be accepted only if that graphic is deleted. Those are the facts.”
At the meeting of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, representing B.C.’s construction industry, King, CNN’s chief national correspondent and anchor of Inside Politics described the Trump era at one point this way: “I just view this as being on a roller coaster blindfolded in the dark. And you can be scared by that. Or it can be a lot of fun.”
In an onstage interview, King spoke to Canadian concerns about tariffs on softwood lumber, saying he believes NAFTA will likely be renegotiated, but also that U.S.-Canadian “economic marriage” will continue to thrive. “You can’t break that, you can’t. You can disrupt it, you can change it, you can negotiate it, but why would you?”
The Globe’s Marsha Lederman spoke with King about being a journalist covering the U.S. president for CNN, which Trump – in ads and well beyond – has repeatedly criticized as being “fake news.”
What has surprised you about Trump’s presidency?
That people are surprised. The politicians seem surprised. The media sometimes seems surprised. If you paid attention to the campaign, he is different, he communicates differently, he acts differently. He’s not ideological and he’s now the President of the United States living in a town that has been polarized by ideological fights for 10, 15, 20 years. So he’s incredibly different.
Yes, he’s moved to more of the establishment position on some issues. Sometimes on Mondays he seems very establishment and on Tuesdays he seems very disruptive. That’s Trump. It’s going to be different every day. Because he’s not ideological. And in some ways that’s refreshing. And in other ways, if you’re in the entrenched power structure, you just have your habits, you have your ways. And that includes the media. The Democrats are going to propose this and they’re okay with that. This is where the Republicans are. Trump is, and I don’t mean this disrespectfully, he’s Jell-O. He can kind of move around. He brags about being flexible. That makes it harder because you can’t predict how things are going. It also makes it a lot more fascinating because you can’t predict how things are going. You have to actually work for a living.
CNN has been the target of Trump’s wrath and ridicule. What does that feel like on the inside?
It’s a political strategy. Is your first reflex a little bit of shock when your company brand is attacked? I guess so. But we cannot be oversensitive to these things. We have to recognize it for what it is. Donald Trump is not the first politician to campaign against the media. He just does it at a higher volume and in a sort of reality-TV, social-media age; the explosion of technology and explosion of the fracturing in the media. He’s talking to the Breitbart crowd, he’s talking to the Drudge crowd; he’s talking to his base when he does that.
Republicans are for cutting taxes and for smaller government and if you’re a disruptor like Trump, you’re also against the media. What does it mean for what you do? Nothing – as long as what you’re doing is right. We should triple check everything anyway. Some stories you need two sources, some are so sensitive you want 10 sources. None of that should change. We should hold him to account when there is reason to hold him to account. Follow the facts, follow the information and be a duck. Let it hit and drip off. You just have to do it that way. Like I said, your head snaps back sometimes, like, ‘Whoa.’ But if you’ve covered politics for a long time like I have, it’s not a new strategy. It’s just louder. And it’s effective; it works for him. So he’s not going to stop doing it. He won the presidency doing the things he does – whether it’s tweets, whether it’s funny language, whether it’s attacking the media. And so it’s hard to tell somebody who just did all these things and won the presidency you have to stop doing that. He’s not going to; we just need to deal with that.
What are your thoughts on the term “fake news”?
Again, it’s a marketing ploy. It’s a political slogan. It’s something he uses as a political foil and he thinks it works for him and to a degree you could argue it did work for him. No disrespect to the President of the United States; I trust the common sense of the American people and of people everywhere to figure things out for themselves. Their phone is a super computer. And so if I say A and the president says B and he says I’m fake news for saying A, a citizen of the world or an American voter can use the thing in their pocket and figure out who’s telling the truth. It’s no big deal.Report Typo/Error