I missed it, but the Washington Post of April 28 revealed who it was that invited Donald Trump, fresh from a month of trying to make the President’s citizenship a campaign issue while denigrating Obama’s integrity, legitimacy, and honesty, to the annual light-hearted White House Correspondents Association dinner, where the President is always a featured “performer.” It was buried in the gossipy Style section, but there was the culprit. Who invited him?
The Washington Post invited him, that who.
Inviting Trump to that event is in approximately the same good taste as inviting blogger Pamela Geller to a Park51 (a.k.a. “the Ground Zero Mosque”) controversy, or allowing a group of “Truthers” to crash a testimonial to Dick Cheney.
What could the Post have been thinking? “He’s a fascinating figure to Washington right now!” the Post’s representative breathlessly explained on the 28th. We are to assume, then, that if the dinner was being held this week and Osama bin Laden hadn’t been dispatched (most respectfully, of course) to Davy Jones’ Locker, the Post might have invited Osama’s bullet-riddled corpse to slump at its table.
The Post was stirring the pot, is what it was doing, and that is not the media’s proper of ethical role. If the intention was to set up Trump, who had been called everything from a joke to a fool to a thug to a racist by various Post writers only days before, to be insulted to his face by host Seth Myers and the President, that is taking sides in the news rather than reporting it. If it the intent was to position volatile elements together in the hopes of sparking a story, that is unethical journalism too.
The paper got both results that it presumably desired: Trump was a sitting duck at the dinner, and then he embarrassed himself by later complaining about the skewering he so richly deserved. It also, not for the first time, showed how rusty those old ethics alarms are at the offices of Washington, D.C.’s most prestigious newspaper.
[Thanks to sharp-eyed Post reader Robert Sher.]