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Mr. Rogers Slams Trump, & for Good Reason

Alan Breznick

ATLANTA -- SCTE Cable-Tec Expo -- Former NBC Cable Chief Tom Rogers is sick and tired of President Trump's frequent attacks on journalists and the entire news media.

In short but blistering remarks at the Cable TV Pioneers dinner here early last week, Rogers denounced Trump for labelling various news organizations and journalists "the enemy of the American people." In frequent angry speeches and tweets, Trump has especially attacked CNN, NBC News and the New York Times after they published articles about him or his administration that he didn't like.

Rogers, who founded and ran both CNBC and MSNBC from 1987 to 1999, didn't stop at Trump, though. He also criticized the news organizations and their corporate masters for not challenging and countering the president's tirades against the media nearly enough. He called upon them to speak up and openly defend their First Amendment rights.

As if on cue, CNN President Jeff Zucker did exactly that one day later, criticizing both Trump and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for their "continued attacks on the media" after a pipe bomb was sent to the news network's Manhattan headquarters. Cesar Sayoc Jr., the pipe bomb suspect now in federal custody, also allegedly sent similar bombs to former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and various senators, members of Congress, former government officials and Democratic benefactors.

"There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media," Zucker said in a statement issued last Wednesday. "The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that."

Zucker has also criticized most Republican members of Congress for not condemning Trump's repeated verbal attacks on the news media, as well as the president's open embrace of physical violence against reporters. In earlier remarks on the subject, Zucker noted that only two prominent Republicans -- the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) -- have ever criticized Trump for his constant attacks on the press. Plus, FCC Chairman Agit Pai, who was appointed by Trump, has only made vague promises to respect freedom of the press and has refused to condemn the president's attacks on the media.

But Zucker hasn't had much company from his colleagues in the electronic media. Senior executives from AT&T (CNN's new corporate master), NBC and Comcast (NBC's corporate master) have all had little, if anything, to say about Trump's "fake news" tirades. Nor have senior executives from CBS News, ABC News and their parent companies spoken up.

So kudos to Rogers for sounding the First Amendment alarm. The big question is whether enough folks are hearing it and will respond.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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