Sheriffs Criticized for Applauding Trump's Attacks on the Press
Forty-four sheriffs from across the country joined President Donald Trump in the White House Wednesday to discuss a set of pressing issues, including immigration and border control. But the agenda took a sharp turn in the midst of a photo op thanks to the publication of an anonymous op-ed by a senior administration official which paints a portrait of an erratic and unstable executive at the helm.
With the more than three dozen lawmen standing behind him, President Trump decided to bring them into the fray.
“Hey, I’ll ask the sheriffs: Can you imagine?” the president asked after being confronted by a reporter about the article. He then launched into a tirade against “the failing New York Times” which published the piece and the “fake news media” as a whole, calling them a disgrace, the author gutless, and calling for the New York Times to be put out of business.
Rather than maintain any air of neutrality, the sheriffs erupted with cheers and applause, showing obvious approval for Trump’s attacks on the media. That didn’t set well with a number of commentators on cable TV and Twitter, with some calling it an inappropriate and disturbing scene.
An undercovered piece of this: POTUS’s fierce denunciation of the NYT and the op-ed was loudly applauded by the 40+ sheriffs visiting the WH this afternoon. They are supposed to be leaders, not puppets who cheer attacks on the media. A shameful scene. https://t.co/ds6jUL83Lc— Michael R. Bromwich (@mrbromwich) September 6, 2018
I wrote after the live Pena-Nieto call about Trump's need to conscript everyone around him in service of the reality-show spectacle of his presidency https://t.co/L8YG0yMzFf These sheriffs seem more willing to play the straight man but surely had no idea they'd be used like this. https://t.co/UtSdaLDCD7— David Nakamura (@DavidNakamura) September 5, 2018
The Washington Post’s David Nakamura had a chance to interview some of the sheriffs about the criticism.
“Sheriffs are about fairness,” Sheriff Thomas Hodgson of Bristol County, Massachusetts told him. “We work with the press all the time, but when we see something like that, which is wholly unfair, sheriffs bridle at that. We had just honored this man for what he’s done.”
Sheriff Frederick Brown of Hunterdon County, New Jersey said he knew nothing about the op-ed when he decided to clap, but “the president knew we were supporting him, and that’s why he kept looking back at us. We did support him. It was almost perfect for him.”
Rockingham, North Carolina Sheriff Sam Page didn’t mince words.
“My president is a very strong-willed person. He speaks from the heart, and he put the gentleman in his place. You poke the bear, the bear pokes back. And if you’re in the media, you should understand.”
President Trump’s tough talk on drugs, crime, and immigration has endeared him to a number of sheriffs across the country. But after Wednesday’s scene, critics warned the officials risk undermining their credibility at home.