Former talk show host Phil Donahue appeared on MSNBC Wednesday morning to analyze the relationship between the media and President Trump. Donahue told the press to be "big boys and big girls" and not get in "the punching game" with Trump.
Donahue said this all began in 2011 when the media made a joke out of Trump and now he is the one who is laughing "and giving them a middle finger."
"The people who are beating up Trump are the people that are getting beat up by Trump will fall of their own weight," Donahue said.
MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle took exception, likening Trump's treatment of the media to the KGB.
"How do you do that when the president is taking a page from the KGB playbook, fake news media, let me deligtimate the media. And even this idea the news media elite, the liberal elite, most journalists work really hard for not a lot of money. So this idea, these elitists, that's hard to take," she said.
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"We have a rah-rah media," he said. "We worship the White House, the president and his power. And they missed the guy in the midwest whose working long hours without a pay raise whose kids can't pay back their college loans and they read in the paper where a hedge fund guy made a million dollars on Thursday. You know, you can't do this to people."
DONAHUE: Well, I think people are welcoming finally a pushpack. This is a two-way street. I don't think the press should get in the mosh pit. I think they have to all be big boys, big girls and take the hits, take the hits and hope that we have a -- an audience that understands this and the people who are beating up Trump are the people that are getting beat up by Trump will fall of their own weight.
I just think it's a bad thing for the press to get in to the punching game. And by the way, in my experience, I don't -- there are a lot of people in the press who can't take a punch. Maybe I couldn't either. I don't remember, but, you know, I think it's important for you to be above this and keep doing what you're doing. You're not supposed to be popular. You're supposed to tell people often what they don't want to hear. That's your job and of course the problem is, if you're not popular, you don't get promoted in the news game and somebody else will have to feed your kids. It's a tough dilemma for news.
MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle was concerned that the media can't take punches, and accused the president of "taking a page from the KGB playbook" when he labels the press elitists and "fake news."
"I think that the best way to handle this is to just keep working. Don't be so sensitive. Don't look like you have a glass jaw," Donahue said.
"What does that mean?" a stumped Ruhle, unfamiliar with the phrase, asked Donahue to explain what it meant.
"That means you go down -- it's a boxing phrase, a boxer with a glass jaw is one who can't take a punch, goes down with a left jab instead of a right cross," Donahue explained. "And I think the press has to be above that. All you can do is pray that the people you serve will understand this and appreciate the job that you've got."
"How did we get here, though? How did we get to this fake news vortex at a time when there's more media than ever, there's pressure for clicks and even institutions like The Washington Post and The New York Times are called by the President of the United States the fake news media?"
Donahue said this all began at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner when comedian Seth Meyers called Trump a joke. He said now Trump is now laughing at the media and giving the press the "middle finger."
DONAHUE: I think this hostility to media began in the White House Correspondents' Dinner... in 2011, it was Seth Meyers was the host and the joke was -- Donald Trump was in the audience -- and the joke was what is Donald Trump going to run as, and the joke was, oh, I thought he was going to run as a joke. 'Ha-ha-ha-ha.' You took a picture of Donald Trump sitting there not laughing in the audience and all the press surrounding him 'ha-ha-ha-ha,' laughing and laughing. I mean it made me wince because I thought it was a humiliation -- one of the worst.
"And I think now he's the man. He's refusing to go to the White House Correspondents' [Dinner]. It's like he's peeking through the window and giving them a middle finger," he said.
"For those who voted for him he's their bad boy. It's like he's an antidote to what they see as the pompous self-righteous elite media. They know stuff you don't know and that's one of their angers. And so they're -- they welcome him. They turn out to his rallies. I mean he can fill any large venue in this country," Donahue said.
"For now," the MSNBC chimed in.
Donahue admonished the media, who "can't find enough adjectives to express their disgust for this president," that they "missed the story."
Donahue labeled them the "rah-rah" media.
DONAHUE: Let's just remember this. A lot of very nice people voted for Donald Trump.
RUHLE: Without a doubt.
DONAHUE: if you forget that and I hear -- I see and hear the op-ed in the papers today,The Washington Post and The New York Times, these people can't find enough adjectives to express their disgust for this president and yet they missed the story, they missed the story.
These are the same people, by the way, who voted -- every major metropolitan newspaper in this country, Stephanie, voted -- or supported the invasion of iraq. Put your arm around that for a moment. Every major metropolitan newspaper supported the invasion of iraq.
We have a rah-rah media. We worship the White House, the president and his power. And they missed the guy in the midwest whose working long hours without a pay raise whose kids can't pay back their college loans and they read in the paper where a hedge fund guy made a million dollars on Thursday. You know, you can't do this to people.
RUHLE: Well, we can't do this to people.
DONAHUE: And those are the ones that went ka-boom and voted for Trump and we missed that story.