White House adviser Stephen Miller briefed the media on Wednesday about Donald Trump’s plans to limit legal immigration. In answering questions, Miller deployed a white supremacist talking point against the poem on the Statue of Liberty and referred to one reporter in a way that sounded suspiciously close to an anti-Semitic epithet. In response to this, Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi asks the important questions:
Reporters are supposed to push their sources for answers. But how far can they push before “aggressive reporting” starts to look like badgering, grandstanding or just plain rude?
At issue: Glenn Thrush and Jim Acosta’s aggressive questioning of White House adviser Stephen Miller:
Thrush first challenged Miller about a White House-backed legislative proposal that would slash the number of legal immigrants. He repeatedly asked Miller for statistics to support Miller’s contention that low-skilled immigrant workers displace American workers and depress wages.
interrupted each other repeatedly, until Miller finally snapped and snipped. “Glenn, maybe we’ll make a carve-out in the bill that says the New York Times can hire all the low-skilled, less-paid workers they want from other countries and see how you feel then about low-wage substitution,” he said.
If Farhi is concerned this is a problem for civility because Thrush might have looked “badgering, grandstanding, or just plain rude,” then the Farhi rules would give the White House quite the free pass. Reporter’s asking you a difficult question? Just evade or answer in irrelevant talking points or lie, confident that they can’t press you on it because that might look rude. Come to think of it, those are pretty much the strategies the Trump White House already uses, it’s just that because we’re not operating under Farhi rules, reporters get to push back.