The front of Friday’s New York Times featured reporter Michael Shear's interview with Chuck Jones, the now-famous president of Indiana United Steelworkers Local 1999, who came under withering attack by president-elect Donald Trump on Twitter on Wednesday night, after claiming that “Trump lied his ass off” about how many U.S. jobs Trump’s Carrier move would actually save.
The headline: “Trump as Cyberbully in Chief? New Twitter Attack Draws Fire.” The jump-page headline: “Cyberbully in Chief? Twitter Attack Raises Concerns on How Trump Will Act in Office.”
The Times reprinted Trump’s tweets (and the aggrieved responses of liberal historians and liberal journalists) up front, but held the instigating quote from Jones for paragraph 10, on the jump page. Shear strived to portray Jones as non-political, “just a regular working guy,” in his words -- who then went on CNN primetime to discuss his comment before talking to the Times.
Thirty years as a union boss in Indiana have given Chuck Jones a thick skin. But even threats to shoot him or burn his house down did not quite prepare him for becoming the target of a verbal takedown by the next president of the United States.
In what one Republican strategist described as “cyberbullying,” President-elect Donald J. Trump derided Mr. Jones on Twitter, accusing him of doing “a terrible job representing workers” and blaming him for the decisions by companies that ship American jobs overseas.
The Twitter message from the president-elect at 7:41 Wednesday night, and a second one urging Mr. Jones to “spend more time working -- less time talking,” continued Mr. Trump’s pattern of digital assaults, most of them aimed at his political rivals, reporters, Hollywood celebrities or female accusers. On Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump used Twitter to assail Boeing for escalating costs on the development of a new Air Force One.
But rarely has Mr. Trump used Twitter to express his ire at people like Mr. Jones, the president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, who described himself on Thursday as “just a regular working guy.” With the full power of the presidency just weeks away, Mr. Trump’s decision to single out Mr. Jones for ridicule has drawn condemnation from historians and White House veterans.
“When you attack a man for living an ordinary life in an ordinary job, it is bullying,” said Nicolle Wallace, who was communications director for President George W. Bush and a top strategist to other Republicans. “It is cyberbullying. This is a strategy to bully somebody who dissents. That’s what is dark and disturbing.”
Robert Dallek, a presidential historian, called the verbal attack unprecedented and added: “It’s beneath the dignity of the office. He doesn’t seem to understand that.”
Frank Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief and now the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, said Mr. Trump’s willingness to weaponize his Twitter feed, especially against people who are not political rivals, could produce a chilling effect on people willing to publicly criticize the president.
Wednesday night’s Twitter message from Mr. Trump came after Mr. Jones, on the CNN program “Erin Burnett OutFront,” challenged the president-elect’s claims. Mr. Jones challenged Mr. Trump’s claim to have saved 1,100 jobs in Indiana at Carrier Corporation from being shipped overseas and said that 350 of those jobs were already staying in the United States.
As Mr. Jones spoke, a graphic flashed across CNN’s screens at 7:20 p.m., referring to something Mr. Jones said earlier in the week: “Carrier Union Boss: Trump Lied His A** Off.” Less than 20 minutes after Mr. Jones’s interview ended, Mr. Trump’s Twitter message appeared.
Threats and harassing calls to Jones followed, which are obviously vile and to be condemned. But its rather hypocritical by the Times (and unions) to condemn Trump’s tweet on the front page, setting it up as a powerful person’s bullying of an innocent private citizen, while letting intimidation by Obama, while serving as actual sitting president, go unremarked.
Ask Frank VanderSloot. During the 2012 campaign, the Obama campaign accused the chief executive of being “litigious, combative and a bitter foe of the gay rights movement,” one of eight Romney donors smeared by the president. Obama taped a fat public target on his back, and his businesses were the subject of angry phone calls, and Obama’s liberal media lapdogs hunted him down.
As journalist Kim Strassel explained at the time: “.... one of his campaign websites posted an item entitled ‘Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney's donors.’ In the post, the Obama campaign named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent. Describing the givers as all having 'less-than-reputable records,' the post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that 'quite a few' have also been 'on the wrong side of the law' and profiting at 'the expense of so many Americans.'... .These are wealthy individuals, to be sure, but private citizens nonetheless. Not one holds elected office. Not one is a criminal. Not one has the barest fraction of the position or the power of the U.S. leader who is publicly assaulting them.”
Not to mention Obama administration siccing the IRS on Tea Party groups.
Unions are no slouch at personal intimidation either, as journalist Nina Easton showed in this personal account in Forbes from May 2010:
Last Sunday, on a peaceful, sun-crisp afternoon, our toddler finally napping upstairs, my front yard exploded with 500 screaming, placard-waving strangers on a mission to intimidate my neighbor, Greg Baer. Baer is deputy general counsel for corporate law at Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), a senior executive based in Washington, D.C. And that -- in the minds of the organizers at the politically influential Service Employees International Union and a Chicago outfit called National Political Action -- makes his family fair game.
Baer wasn’t home, but his teenage son was alone in the house and locked himself in the bathroom out of fear.
A nytimes.com search shows no stories by the NYT on the Baer home mob, and sparse, second-hand, unsympathetic coverage of VanderSloot’s ordeal in the summer of 2012.
Ignoring all that history, Shear let an Obama adviser wax hypocritical about the danger of targeting private citizens:
David Axelrod, who was a senior adviser to President Obama, said he always advised the current occupant of the Oval Office to be mindful of the extra power that his words carried once they were amplified by the most powerful megaphone in the world.
“What you may think is a light tap is a howitzer,” Mr. Axelrod said. “When you have the man in the most powerful office, for whom there is no target too small, that is a chilling prospect. He has the ability to destroy people in 140 characters.”
He should know.