As much as President Donald Trump is harsh, at times, complimentary at others, with the media, his actions are just more important and less damaging to the media as past presidents, according to ABC News chief White House correspondent Jon Karl on Newsmax TV.
"When you look at Donald Trump – and a good rule of thumb of anybody reporting on him – is the actions are more important than the words," Karl, president of the White House Correspondents Association, said Friday on "Greg Kelly Reports." "Now, the words when it comes to the press have been horrific with Trump. He uses that phrase 'enemy of the people,' which is straight out the reign of terror. It's a word that the Nazis used; it's a phrase that Stalinists used.
"It's terrible the stuff he says, but you're right, there's a difference in the actions," Karl added to host Greg Kelly, a former colleague from covering the war in Iraq. "In the Obama administration there's a case where the FBI takes actions against AP on particular story."
Karl, who has had a long and varied past in covering Trump, is author of The New York Times bestseller "Front Row at the Trump Show," where he details far more damaging actions against the press that were actually taken, not merely spoken, by former President Barack Obama against the media.
"Obama set up his press operation to get around the White House press corps, like a lot of presidents do, but more so than we've seen with Donald Trump," Karl said. "So, the words have been much, much harsher with Trump, but when you talk actions against reporters, you actually saw that with Obama."
Trump is a lot of tough talk against the media, but he still does not get in their way outside of combatting their potential biases, Karl said.
"It's the way he is," he added. "Sometimes he gets really angry at you and then he's very complimentary and very nice. He courts the media; he complains about the media. It's an interesting, to say the least, dynamic."
Reporters covering the president have just allowed their personal politics play a role in how they approach Trump and cover the stories.
"That's the human condition: Reporters are human beings," Karl added. "What we have to do is be aware of our own biases, our own limitations on what we're seeing."
Take for instance, the coverage of the Russia investigation. It was much to do about nothing, because the Trump campaign was so inexperienced in the 2016 election cycle, it did not have the bandwith to actually conduct a conspiracy with a foreign power.
"They had a hard time sometimes colluding with themselves," Karl said with a laugh. "I went on our Sunday show with George Stephanopoulos once before the Mueller report came out and made a remark that every indication I had, reading the tea leaves, talking to people that had gone before the special counsel that the Mueller report was going to be anti-climatic.
"Those that were expecting that this was going to be a thing that was going to bring the president down, show definitively that the Russians colluded with his campaign, that was the word I used: That it was going to be anti-climatic.
"And it got a lot of attention. At the time, by the way, there were others that were predicting there were going to be, basically, mass arrests coming out of the report. Obviously, that didn't happen."
Karl also recounted a story about the hurricane devastation in which he allowed some "attitude" to draw the picture of Trump's approach to helping out Puerto Rico, suggesting Trump was minimizing deaths – as some have also claimed during the global coronavirus pandemic.
"I do take your point, listening to it again, there's a little attitude in those first few lines," Karl admitted to Kelly.
Karl's book, which is equally critical of the media coverage of Trump and the president himself, has been a Times bestseller for three weeks running.
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