THE former boss of The New York Times slammed Donald Trump’s Monday press briefing as “propaganda” and “disinformation”.
Howell Raines, who oversaw the Times from 2001 to 2003, claimed the conference was “one of the astonishing acts of disinformation we’ve seen from a White House since the Vietnam era.”
Trump used the briefing to blast critics who slammed his response to the coronavirus response with a campaign-style video.
Reporters were shown footage featuring governors heaping praise on Trump, as well as touting his early travel restrictions to China.
MSNBC anchor Ari Melber cut off the daily coronavirus task force briefing and told viewers: “We are going to avoid airing any more of this White House briefing until it returns to what it was supposed to be.”
Melber asked Raines what his thoughts were, as a journalist, on the briefing, which he said was meant to be “the coronavirus task force providing medical information.”
“What we are seeing here, I think, is a kind of imploding presidency,” the former editor said. “And with an implosion, you have to have a black hole at the center.”
“I think what we have here is a black hole that consists of two elements: President Trump’s extremely fragile ego, and his distrust of government experts.”
Raines said the medical experts on stage with Trump, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, “remind me of nervous parents trying to cope with a 3-year-old on a sugar high.”
“This is a very grim moment,” he said, comparing the briefing to “the 5:00 follies of the Lyndon Johnson administration.”
The “5:00 follies” were press briefings during the Vietnam War during which military leaders used bad information and false reports to claim they were winning the war when they weren’t.
Richard Pyle, The Associated Press’s Saigon bureau chief at the time, had called the briefings “the longest-playing tragicomedy in Southeast Asia’s theater of the absurd.”
Trump has boasted that his daily coronavirus press briefings have good ratings, and shared a Times article last month that explained his briefing views were “more akin to the viewership for a popular prime-time sitcom.”
On Monday night, Trump played a promotional video that praised his handling of the coronavirus outbreak and slammed his critics and the press.
Trump said the video was produced in-house by his social media director, Dan Scavino, and others, and funded by taxpayers.
MSNBC host Melber cut off the briefing shortly after 6pm.
“What we just saw — I want to be clear with viewers — was a video the White House put out which suggests they are spending their precious time right now making videos that defend the president’s record and tenure, rather than provide the much-needed emergency medical information that was promised at these daily briefings,” he said.
Melber then led into his question to Raines, and described the promotional video Trump aired as “some kind of backward-looking, edited video propaganda.”
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Trump and the Times have had a contentious relationship.
In February, the Trump 2020 campaign sued the Times for defamation, saying the paper knowingly published defamatory statements when they published an opinion piece that claimed the campaign had an “overarching deal” with “Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy” to defeat Hillary Clinton.
After the campaign sued the Times, they filed similar lawsuits against CNN and The Washington Post.
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