About 25 executives and anchors from major news networks met with President-elect Donald Trump and others on Monday.
The meeting, which lasted about an hour, was off the record, meaning the press agreed to not discuss the content of the conversation. But that didn’t stop the meat of the meeting from making its way through the press itself.
According to several publications, Trump used time at the beginning of the meeting to criticize the networks and certain news anchors. Among his jabs, Trump allegedly called NBC “the worst” and complained they would broadcast photos of him with “multiple chins.”
Trump also criticized CNN, as well as a reporter in the room who moderated a debate but was heard to have cried when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost the election—either ABC‘s Martha Raddatz or NBC’s Lester Holt.
Trump also said he wanted the meeting to re-frame his relationship with the press, and he took questions about his plans.
Meeting participants were photographed as they entered the Trump Tower lobby.
Here are the TV execs and anchors who have entered the elevators at Trump Tower to go to an off-the-record meeting with the president-elect pic.twitter.com/hzjWi8ByOr— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) November 21, 2016
Some accounts of the meeting seemed more heated than others. The New York Post reported the meeting was like a “fucking firing squad,” and reporters couldn’t get a word in edgewise, according to one source and confirmed by a second.
“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars…” the second source told the Post.
Conway later denied the sentiment to Politico, saying, “He did not explode in anger.”
According to Politico’s source who attended the meeting, the meeting was “less intense” than the New York Post made it seem, and the first few moments of contention were followed with substantive conversation. The source said Trump expressed a possible “reset” with the media and wanted fairness as defined by “the truth.”
NPR, however, reported the word “reset” was not Trump’s favorite—it allegedly reminded him of Clinton’s outreach to the Russians after becoming secretary of state.
According to NPR’s source—someone who took “detailed notes” in the meeting—Trump invited questions after about 10 to 15 minutes into the meeting. However, a second source, a network official debriefed by colleagues who attended the meeting, said the meeting didn’t feel like a genuine reset.
The New York Times reported that many of the meeting’s attendees declined to comment because of the off-the-record agreement. Some Twitter users criticized the networks and anchors for agreeing to meet Trump on such terms, asserting that access to the president-elect is less valuable than honest reporting.
Memo to the press: If Trump invites you to an off-the-record meeting, say no. Your job is to watch him, not gain access to him.— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) November 22, 2016
Wonder how much time Trump spent in his press meeting thanking them for all the free, unchallenged air time.— Lizz "Hollywood Death Cult" Winstead (@lizzwinstead) November 22, 2016
The sooner the press learns they are a prop in Trump's reality show, the better.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) November 22, 2016
It's been a week and Trump has already attacked freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of press.— Calvin (@calvinstowell) November 21, 2016
What the networks' accession to OTR terms tells us: They learned *nothing* over past 18 months of covering Trump.— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) November 21, 2016
These five networks that agreed to OTR meeting with Trump need to explain who, precisely, agreed to terms, Plus: WHY????— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) November 21, 2016
On Tuesday morning, Trump cancelled a meeting with the New York Times at the last minute, claiming that “terms and conditions of the meeting were changed,” though his tweets didn’t specify which party changed the terms.
I cancelled today's meeting with the failing @nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not nice— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2016
Perhaps a new meeting will be set up with the @nytimes. In the meantime they continue to cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2016
According to the paper, a Times spokeswoman said they were unaware the meeting was cancelled until reading Trump’s tweets.