Harvard Political Review: Fake news played an important role in this election, how will journalists address this issue?
Jake Tapper: We have to stop calling it fake news, we have to start calling it what it is – lies and disinformation. I think the first thing that the media needs to do is to gain a little self-awareness about the phenomenon. For instance, Rolling Stone which did the most notorious, false story of the last couple of years [A Rape on Campus] which set back that issue for years, with Rolling Stone handling it the way they did. They then turn around and start interviewing President Obama about what a problem fake news is, that to me shows a lack of self-awareness that is part of the problem. That story was fake news more than any other story in the last couple of years and it was a true scandal. That said, this disinformation is shocking and very upsetting. There was a totally crazy one about the NYDP finding all this evidence about insane child sex-rings on Anthony Weiner’s computer – not a true story, completely false. But General Michael Flynn, who will be the next Security Advisor, tweeting it out – that’s a problem. And if people in power are not willing to stand against this kind of fraud then I really worry about where we’re going. The media needs to call it out and the media also needs to make sure that our standards are so rigorous and when we mess up, we acknowledge and explain how it happened and that we’re transparent so that we can regain some credibility. The loss of credibility in mainstream media is one of the reasons why people are turning to this fake news stories. We are culpable to a degree.
HPR: The relationship between the media and the new president-elect, what will be the biggest challenge that will come in the future years?
JT: I don’t know what type of relationship we’re going to have. Is it going to have press conferences? Are his people going to share information? Is he going to going to continue to attack individual reporters by name when they factually report information like Jeff Zeleny when he pointed out, like a number of us have been that there is no evidence of fraudulent votes? Jeff Zeleny reported that and the president-elect, soon to be the most powerful man on the planet, starts attacking him by name [and] that’s a problem. I don’t know what it’s going to be but it’s going to take a lot of fortitude and it’s going to take a lot of people standing up for what’s right – facts, truth, honesty even when Donald Trump is, as a pitcher, delivering balls as close to the batter as possible.
HPR: What is it like to interview the president-elect and do you expect to interview him again?
JT: I don’t know if I’ll ever get to interview him again. The last one I did with him was the one in June when I pressed him on Judge Curiel and whether or not it was fair to say that someone could not do their job because of their heritage. That was the last time I got to interview him and I suspect that it will be the last time ever but I don’t know. He is a very forceful presence…him and Hillary Clinton are both very challenging in their own way. They’re both larger than life, charismatic, forceful and suspicious. But the truth of the matter is Donald Trump has a side to him that is much more, both of them really, can be very personable and very charming. In fact, Donald Trump after the Judge Curiel interview, he didn’t storm out, he was totally welcoming and nice. But I have no idea what it’s going to be like. My hope is that he will, as an American, be successful and I hope that he unites the country and I hope he respects the role that people in the press have. But we’ll see on all of those accounts.
Image source: CNN