It appears the next President of the United States will have a war on his hands that doesn’t involve a foreign country. President-elect Donald Trump has already declared his first war as commander-in-chief against CNN. The billionaire businessman and the news network have become entangled in a high-stakes stand-off that could have lasting effects over the next four years of a Trump presidency.
This war has been long in coming. Trump has called CNN the “Clinton News Network” for its perceived bias against conservative viewpoints. The president-elect called them out frequently during the presidential campaign calling them “dishonest as hell” and “disgusting.”
The feud, now just short of all-out war, escalated with CNN’s decision to run a controversial report highlighting Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. That in turn provoked an explosive public exchange between Trump and CNN’s chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, at a press conference at Trump Tower.
The president-elect and his team have lashed out at the media outlet terming their reporting as “fake news” and threatening to ban Acosta from future events if he’s disrespectful to Trump again. It is bad news for CNN in a financial aspect.
Should this war of words escalate when Trump takes office next week, it could impact AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner, which is CNN’s parent company. With half the country already in Trump’s base of supporters, such a situation could damage CNN’s overall ratings and put the corporate dealings in peril.
How could that be?
It is no revelation that Trump has previously said he opposes the deal and met with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in New York City last Thursday. The president-elect had made public his willingness to intervene personally in public and private markets to drive outcomes in his favor.
Trump has a reputation for having a long memory. Many feel he decided to run for president the night of the 2011 Correspondents Dinner in Washington when President Obama publicly belittled Trump incessantly during his time at the podium. An enraged Trump never forgot that moment and the rest is history.
CNN broke a story that intelligence officials briefed President Obama and Trump on the existence of an opposition research document put together by a former British spy that alleges deep ties and conflicts of interest between Trump and Russia. Although Buzzfeed News was the originator of the story, CNN chose to go public with it on air.
When CNN Chief White House Correspondent Acosta yelled out his question concerning the report, an enraged Trump refused to call on him. To many it was a violation of protocol and egregious rudeness. But it is Acosta that represents the media’s obvious disrespect for a candidate they thought would lose.
The mistakes Acosta and his fellow press corps members make are key to the Trump movement. In the eyes of many Americans since the election, the behavior and outright bias they represent has made them massively unpopular to an ever-growing sector of the population. They are being attracted right into the real estate mogul’s net.
David Shuster, the former Fox News and MSBNC anchor who once worked for CNN president Jeff Zucker, may have said it best. On Friday he remarked, “Maybe CNN gets a short term bump from the attention. But the long term damage to CNN, and the boost to Trump, could be significant.”
Ironically, the network itself came under criticism for showing too many Trump speeches unedited. Some of Trump’s rivals in the GOP primary argue the network helped elect him. CNN should take comfort that the president-elect is known for smoothing ruffled feathers and mending fences with even his harshest critics.
It remains to be seen if this incident will linger more than a week or so. CNN President Jeff Zucker has a relationship with Trump which may indicate smoother waters ahead. It should be noted that Zucker hired Trump for the highly-rated reality program “The Apprentice” back in 2004.
Media analyst Brian Flood said tongue-in cheek, “If there is one thing we know for sure about Donald Trump, it’s that he can hold a grudge. Just ask Rosie O’Donnell or Graydon Carter. It would probably take Jeff Zucker heading to Trump Tower to kiss the ring to squash the whole thing. Citizen Trump would hold a grudge for life, but President-elect Trump has shown he’s willing to meet with anyone under the right circumstances.”