Veteran journalist Sharyl Attkisson is the author of the new book The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What you See, What you Think and How You Vote. She recently sat down for an interview with the Daily Caller to discuss the book and what she saw happening in Washington, D.C. today.
Attkisson explains how it is that President Trump can so nimbly avoid the smears that the left attempt to paint him with, and why it is that his base is so loyal to him.
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The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF): You talk pretty clinically about Transactional Journalism, as you call it. But from another point of view, with a lens that I might wear, you can also see it as political warfare. An effort to undermine, delegitimize, and remove a duly elected president, using some pretty threatening tactics. What do you say to that?
Sharyl Attkisson: I think part of this was rooted in an ideological motive to unseat candidate Trump, and now to harm President Trump. And news agencies have admitted as much. We see news organizations, at least like I’ve never seen before, come forward and say this man is so dangerous, so [antithetical] to their beliefs that he is dangerous and we must suspend our normal rules of journalism, and our normal systems and processes.
Think about that! Journalists exempting themselves from their own ethical systems and standards because they say this man is such a problem, and as a result, I think that is why we have seen formerly respectable news organizations — CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times– make horrible mistakes that wouldn’t have been tolerated in journalism school. Reporting mistakes with errors. That is my response to that.
DCNF:Explain in your book, why you say Trump can be Kryptonite to the Smear.
Sharyl Attkisson: I call him the anti-smear candidate, because every traditional smear tactic used against him — very effective tactics against other people — just kind of bounced off of him. In fact, he was able to grab it and pull it and co-opt it and turn it around in almost every case.
I argue that if he had apologized in the summer of 2015 when the first attack I noticed was after John McCain called some of his followers crazies, and Trump counterattacked by saying he wasn’t a war hero in Vietnam. People were calling for him to get out of the race, they aired more of him thinking that the public would hate him if they saw more of him, but the public liked him. I think if he had apologized then, he would never have made it. But he did the opposite thing that you would intuit for politicians, but it turned out to be the right thing for him to do for his followers…
I’m not a student of Donald Trump, but maybe his business dealings, which are probably as nasty as politics can be if not nastier, prepped him for this. And him not coming up through the political system where he is surrounded by advisors saying, ‘You have to apologize! You have to apologize! You have to apologize! Here’s what you have to do.’ Instead he was surrounded by people who were a little bit different, maybe that was responsible for him reacting differently…
DCNF: So the Tweets are [President Trump’s] fireside chats?
Sharyl Attkisson: I think so. I don’t think a president Obama or Bush would have tweeted out the same provocative things that Trump has, but if either of them had used social media in a similar way — President Obama did, and it didn’t even exist under Bush. But if they had each used it in a creative way, I think in Obama’s case he would have been heralded. ‘Look at the modern president using modern tools!’ Because it is Trump, they are not going to say that about him. And also because of the nature of some of his tweets.
You do get news. You get the leading edge of information — mixed in with some weird stuff. So, that’s how he uses it.