Long before President Donald Trump’s tirades against “fake news” littered his Twitter feed, populists like Democratic Govs. Huey Long, of Louisiana, and George C. Wallace, of Alabama, proved deft at turning crowd fury against reporters and photographers who were present to cover their speeches.
So it was no surprise to see Republican speakers, including Donald Trump Jr., lambaste local journalists assembled to cover a GOP political rally in Lafayette this week. That’s red meat, and mobs love it. Never mind that party officials routinely seek press coverage from those same news outlets and complain if reporters don’t show up.
Their disdain seemed more calculated than heartfelt. It was like that with Wallace, too.
Long was a master at fomenting hatred against the press — especially those who questioned his ruthless breaches of authority.
The press corps at the Lafayette rally — there were perhaps a dozen news people in the back of the room, isolated in an area the party itself had designated — were booed by many of some 600 people in attendance.
Politicians of both parties over the years have often found that it’s easier the blame the messenger than offer a compelling message of your own. It makes for cheap theater, but leadership, it is not.