Questioning Loyalties to the President
On March 14 NBC’s evening news showed both parties’ lack of support for the healthcare bill. It also showed House Speaker Paul Ryan saying he is not going to defend President Donald Trump.
NBC correspondent Peter Alexander said, “The fight over health care is also raising new questions about the relationship between House Speaker Paul Ryan and the president, punctuated by this recording just released by Breitbart.”
The day before, Breitbart had released a recording of an October 2016 private conference call in which Ryan says, “I am not going to defend Donald Trump, not now, not in the future.”
According to Breitbart, the recording was made during the campaign after Trump’s Access Hollywood tape was leaked.
Alexander said this recording questions relations between Trump and Ryan and “the timing of the release could deepen any divide.”
He points out that the Breitbart site called the new bill “Ryancare” and that it was formerly run by the White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.
This was 30 seconds in a two-minute story.
Media Correspondent for NPR News David Folkenflik said using Breitbart as a source can be a problem and that the networks have to be wary about billing it as a news story.
He added there is a value to hearing the recording because playing the recording for viewers brings the focus on Ryan and helps jog the viewers memory about what was said.
Notably, ABC and CBS did not mention the Breitbart tape or question Ryan’s support of the president.
ABC’s Cecilia Vega reported that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was referring questions about the bill back to the House Speaker. She called Ryan “is the architect of this plan”.
CBS Evening News correspondent Nancy Cordes said, “the White House said it is working with the House Speaker on some changes [to the healthcare bill].”
Is what Ryan said in the recording in 2016 newsworthy now?
Ken Auletta, author and The New Yorker Annals of Communication writer, says no.
“What is newsworthy, as Breitbart, NBC and ABC (not CBS) noted, is that there is some tension between some in the Trump White House and the Speaker over the way the Republican Obamacare repeal went down,” Auletta said.
Auletta’s views resembled Folkenflik’s, saying: “Breitbart’s use of the recording is a near perfect example of ‘fake news.’ Speaker Ryan said this in October and it was widely quoted in the press … because they had the actual recording of Ryan, Breitbart screamed that it was an exclusive. It wasn’t. The same Ryan quote appeared in all the news accounts back in October.”
More from David Folkenflik
- The networks shouldn’t be carbon copies of each other.
- The evening news is stepping up and doing more research. They are showing that they are journalists.
More from Ken Auletta
- “It was not worthy of being mentioned as news. It was worthy of being mentioned as illustrative of how some Trump supporters in the alt right, perhaps including Steve Bannon, still carry sharp knives to carve up Speaker Ryan.”
- “As the inevitable aftermath of a big political defeat, when all sides scramble to avoid blame by pointing fingers at others. The ongoing drama of the “love” affair between Ryan and Trump — real or fake?”