Former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart distilled President Donald Trump's ability to control the political news cycle in an interview on Tuesday evening, explaining that the president has often succeeded in distracting the corporate news media from his damaging policies by launching direct attacks on the press itself.
Speaking with CNN's Christiane Amanpour along with fellow comedian Dave Chappelle, Stewart argued that journalists feel personally "wounded" by Trump's victory in 2016 and the hateful rhetoric he employs at his rallies, particularly his comments attacking the press.
"I think that journalists have taken it personally," Stewart said. "They are personally wounded and offended by this man. He baits them."
President Trump has been able to appeal to journalists’ “own narcissism” by attacking them, says Jon Stewart. “They take it personally, and now he’s changed the conversation to, not that his policies are silly or not working … it’s all about the fight.” pic.twitter.com/2N3V5NqZ6Q
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) October 30, 2018
While not defending Trump's repeated statements that journalists are "the enemy of the people" and that they print "fake news" or arguing that the media should cover the Trump administration without remarking on the inhumanity of many of its policies and actions, Stewart called on reporters to resist engaging with the president on a personal level.
Stewart's comments came a day after CNN reporter Jim Acosta, a frequent target of the White House, challenged Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to name the journalists who the president sees as "enemies of the people."
"What he's done well, I thought, is appeal to their own narcissism," Stewart added. "They take it personally and now he has changed the conversation to not that his policies are silly or not working or any of those other things, it's all about the fight. He is able to tune out everything else and just get people focused on the fight. And he's going to win that fight."
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Amanpour resisted briefly, saying, "It's hard for us to be dispassionate when the words from the White House are aggressive against us."
But on social media, journalists and media critics agreed with Stewart's assessment that some in the press have focused on the president's attacks on their industry to the detriment of other newsworthy issues.
Jon Stewart is absolutely right here. US journalists are obsessed with the circus Trump creates around himself, in large part because they feel personally implicated by it, and it not only helps Trump (as Stewart says) but comes at the expense of focusing on actual policies: https://t.co/KUBQVahdJo
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 31, 2018
— Michael Hirsh (@michaelphirsh) October 31, 2018
In re: Trump, the media has a duty to defend itself and protect its prerogatives.
That doesn't mean you swing at every pitch.https://t.co/Gz8GpdhtG3
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) October 31, 2018
"There are many valid and important examples of when the media needs to cover itself and raise objections—like last week, when a Trump supporter allegedly sent a bomb to CNN—but it's also true that this can go too far," wrote Aaron Blake at the Washington Post. "There is a difference between asking whether it's appropriate to call the media the 'enemy of the American people' and grandstanding about it. There is a difference between making this a story and making it a constant story at the expense of other very important ones."
"And just because the president invites you to write about yourself a lot doesn't mean that you need to or even that it helps your cause," he concluded.