Over the weekend Trump stormed off from a press conference when a female reporter kept pressing him about why he keeps claiming credit for an action that Barack Obama did when he was president back in 2014. Jack Shafer writes that there is a pattern here.
It starts with a reporter, usually a female reporter, asking President Donald Trump hard, tenacious questions at a news conference. Trump’s jaw seizes up, rattled and dumbfounded by the questions that he can’t or won’t answer, he abruptly ends the presser by saying, “Thank you, very much” and stalking out of the room.
Trump threw such a fit on Saturday when CBS News reporter Paula Reid launched a volley of questions about why he once again took credit for passing a veterans program that the Obama administration pushed through in 2014. In late July, the same fight-or-flight response turned to flight again when CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins chased Trump with pointed, persistent questions about his retweets of a fringe doctor’s theories that masks were useless and hydroxychloroquine cured Covid-19. “OK, thank you very much everybody,” Trump said as he backed off, truncating the news conference. In May, it was CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang and Collins again whose questions prompted Trump to crumble and skedaddle. And in April, when Playboy White House correspondent Brian Karem barraged the president with Covid-19 questions, a flustered Trump threatened a walk-off. “If you keep talking, I’m going to leave and you can have it out with them”—meaning the other reporters—Trump said.
Of course, Trump has given male reporters similar thumpings. CNN’s Jim Acosta has made his career by burrowing under Trump’s skin like a chigger, and Trump has set the tone for his pressers by lashing back at Acosta. In 2018, you recall, Trump ordered Acosta to surrender the mic at a news conference, and when Acosta didn’t, Trump made a brief move to leave the podium. But he stayed and then opened fire on NBC’s Peter Alexander. The moral of the story is clear. Male reporters who contest his views make him mad. But female reporters who do the same make him melt down.
Shafer speculates that Trump is concerned about his plummeting popularity with suburban white women and that is why he does not want to badger and demean female reporters, like he does with men, but instead runs away. Whether that will be sufficient to ameliorate his problem with female voters is unclear.