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Aug. 26, 2019, 3:07 p.m. EDT

Gathering ‘scalps’? Trump allies dig up dirt against perceived enemies in media

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By Shawn Langlois, MarketWatch


Getty
Donald Trump speaks to the media outside the White House.

‘I’m sure there will be more scalps. Two can play at this game.’

That’s what Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide, told the New York Times when he was asked about a campaign being run by Trump allies to uncover dirt on journalists who have been perceived as hammering the Trump administration with negative coverage.

“The media has long targeted Republicans with deep dives into their social media, looking to caricature all conservatives and Trump voters as racists,” Nunberg said.

Several sources familiar with the operation say that the group has gathered embarrassing and damaging information against hundreds of journalists whose reporting has been viewed as critical of Trump. CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times /zigman2/quotes/202090840/composite NYT -0.07% have already been targeted.

The Times pointed to Arthur Schwartz, a conservative consultant and friend of Donald Trump Jr., as a key figure in the operation, referring to this tweet:

Schwartz has since said, in a Sunday tweet , that his “role in these efforts was profoundly overexaggerated in that NYT story.”

The Trump campaign denied any involvement in the operation, but a spokesman said “it’s clear that the media has a lot of work to do to clean up its own house.”

Of course, Trump isn’t afraid to tangle with the media, and he didn’t let the G-7 itinerary in Biarritz, France, stand in the way of his firing off more volleys in the ongoing battle:

Joel Kaplan, Syracuse University professor of magazine, news and digital journalism, says while many journalists are upset by this, they shouldn’t be.

“The truth is that journalists SHOULD be above reproach,” he told MarketWatch. “If the Trump-affiliated investigators find through their sleuthing that some journalists have committed crimes or acts of journalism malpractice, they should point that out. And journalists should not be so thin-skinned as to complain about it.”

Kaplan said it would be “refreshing” for reputable news organizations to own up to their mistakes and apologize to their readers and viewers.

“So yes journalists should be held to a higher standard,” he said. “Too bad those working in the White House are not.”

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Shawn Langlois is an editor and writer for MarketWatch in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @slangwise.

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