Missouri Senator Roy Blunt seemed unphased as he appeared on Meet The Press Sunday and was immediately pressed by moderator Chuck Todd. Blunt was asked to respond to a tweet from Saturday morning from President Trump that called out the press for reporting fake news and being “enemies of the people.”
Todd defended the media, saying the comments by Trump we’re “over the top” and asked Blunt when such rhetoric should stop.
Blunt said that the press generally asks him good questions, but also suggested there are media sources that are untruthful.
He noted that President Trump’s attacks on the press have been well received by those attending his rallies and said the President communicates in a different way.
An exhaustive poll last week found that the two most trusted news outlets in America do not include NBC or Meet the Press, but rather Fox News and National Public Radio. NBC in fact, ranked towards the bottom of the news trustworthiness poll.
In his questioning Todd seems to have again misconstrued Trump’s comments as being an attack on all media when the president has said repeatedly his “fake news” label is only for the reporting that the media gets wrong. The president has given specific examples of America’s major news outlets like the New York Times, CNN and ABC as having to admit to false reporting on the administration.
In late December ABC News put its top political correspondent, Brian Ross, on leave after he falsely reported information on the Trump/Russia investigation in a breaking news tweet and televised report two weeks prior. The report caused the Dow Jones to plummet in its largest one-day loss that month before the report was disavowed after public scrutiny and finally corrected by the network. Ross disappeared from all television broadcasts for six months and has since left the network.
The New York Times has also been forced to admit its false reporting after news watchdog groups held it accountable for misleading reporting concerning everything from the Trump administration’s immigration policy (in which it published photos of immigrant children in cages and attributed them to the current Trump policy but later admitted those photos were taken during the Obama administration) and false information concerning collusion with Russia.
Todd did not mention the poll or those incidents of media outlets admitting to false reporting. Ramping the debate up, the well-known liberal news anchor alleged the president’s rhetoric was “dangerous” and makes violence against the press easier to rationalize for some people.
Looking a bit amuzed by Todd’s unsupported claim, Senator Blunt offered the observation that the President really believes some news is not accurate. Todd asked him if he also believes the press to be dishonest. Blunt responded by saying that news is no longer being reported in an unbiased manner, which drew quick disapproval from Todd.
“That middle of the road news that people my age grew up with is no longer the news,” said Blunt.
“I would respectfully disagree there, particularly on this show,” Todd argued, though his show has been criticized in the past for embedding opinion into its news.
After receiving pushback from Blunt, Todd quickly switched topics to discuss election security.
The native of southwest Missouri’s Niangua noted that he was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and chairs the Rules Committee that handles legislation for election security.
Blunt said it was helpful that FBI Director Christopher Wray had concluded that the election system is under less threat of foreign interference this year than in 2016. He said federal and local officials need to work together to make sure there’s confidence in elections results.
Blunt told Todd he felt good about cooperation at all levels of government heading in heading off foreign threats as the mid-term election approaches.
As far as legislation to deal with states that don’t have a backup paper ballot system, Blunt said he wanted an audit trail to be established.
There’s also evidence that attempts have already been made. Missouri’s Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill recently alleged that Russian agents had unsuccessfully tried to hack into her Senate computer network. There was no proof that it was Russian ‘agents’ but rather the typical phishing email that millions of Americans get in their emails every day. Hackers from many countries are continually sending out billions of these emails with the most emails not even coming from Russia but rather China, India and Pakistan. McCaskill had released the information to a liberal Washington D.C.-based website on the same day that the Kansas City Star reported her husband had benefitted personally from $130 million in funding from Federal housing programs that she had voted for. The news of the “hacking” quickly overtook the news of the payouts in the media.
At the end of his Meet The Press interview, Blunt said he was encouraged by comments from General Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency and the US Cyber Command, who said that the country could successfully respond to cyber-attacks.
“That is a big step, I think, in the right direction,” said Blunt. “And the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, any of the other seven actors that principally are doing this kind of activity should listen very carefully to what General Nakasone said, as well as what other people said this week on this topic.”
–By Dwight Widaman and wire services