According to an email circulated by employees at the FDA, the Trump administration requested that all televisions located on the FDA’s campus in Maryland be switched to the Fox News channel. The televisions had previously displayed CNN.
After the email made headlines, the FDA issued a statement refuting its contents, saying that: “There was no directive or memorandum from the Administration that went out to employees about broadcast news channels displaying on monitors in common areas throughout the FDA’s White Oak campus.”
MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who has the look and charisma of an Arthur cartoon, insinuated that the denial was carefully worded in a manner that suggested the Trump administration actually did tell the FDA to put on Fox News – which is one of the more plausible conspiracies coming from out of MSNBC – a network that thinks the KGB hypnotized a reality television show host (who was very concerned with the relationship of the couple from Twilight) in order to make the reality host president (even though they also thought he had no chance of becoming president).
Robert Pattinson should not take back Kristen Stewart. She cheated on him like a dog & will do it again–just watch. He can do much better!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2012
While Hayes may end up being correct that Trump did order the television edict, his hostility towards Trump demonstrates the possible reasoning for such a decree. Trump has a frosty relationship with most of the media, and even Fox News is at best his frenemy.
Since government buildings somehow has more flatscreen TVs than a sports bar, officials must now figure out what to put on those TVs now that the news considers itself part of the “resistance” to the current administration. Few of us would turn on our televisions if the programming was just Anderson Cooper reading polls about how much everyone hates us. Yet, the administration doesn’t have a lot of other options – it would be weird for federal buildings to just put on reruns of Property Brothers.
When Obama was president, it was easy to tune the government TVs into CNN, especially since CNN was more neutral at the time. But now CNN is so partisan that they try to twist even the most neutral quotes by Jane Goodall into digs at the president’s daughter. You know impartiality is dead when a news network is trying to drag an eighty-year-old woman out from a gorilla habitat in the hopes of scoring a click-bait worthy put-down against the first daughter’s jewelry line.
So what are the current options now that a conservative is in office and news networks are making big money pillorying the president? Is the government just supposed to broadcast the ridiculing of its chief executive on a daily basis? A free media is essential to Democracy, but that doesn’t mean the president has to actively promote negative press about himself, as if he has some weird S&M fetish where he gets off on re-tweeting articles that compare him to Hitler.
None of this is to say that the president should be able to control news outlets. There is definitely something authoritarian about Trump forcing government employees to walk by the sole news channel that is occasionally charitable towards him. It has a definite tinge of Kim Jong-un, whom the North Korean media reports as being able to drive a car at the age of 3 (though being Asian, he probably still can’t parallel park). If we start hearing that Donald Trump invented the hamburger, we’ll know that he’s gotten full control of the news.
But until Trump and the media get on better terms, their relationship will continue to create dilemmas with no easy answers. And if anyone needed any more proof that American politics has descended into a childhood sibling tantrum, government officials are now fighting over who gets to change the channel.