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CBS' Major Garrett on the Media's Credibility Problem: 'That's Our Problem of Our Creation and We've Got to Own Up to That'

11-21-2018
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WASHINGTON – CBS White House Reporter Major Garrett tells CBN News the mainstream media has a credibility problem and needs to fix it.

Garrett, who has worked at CNN, Fox News and now CBS, has a front-row seat during President Donald Trump's first two years in office. He's surveyed the media landscape and much more. His new book pretty much sums it all up with the title, Mr. Trump's Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency.

A major driver of this ride has been the love-hate relationship between the White House and mainstream media or as President Trump calls the press, "fake news."  

Garrett says it's not just the president who has a problem with the media.

"When the public is asking those of us who are front-line reporters, 'Who can they believe?' they are essentially saying, 'We're not sure we can believe you,'" Garrett tells CBN News. "That's our problem of our creation and we've got to own up to that and we've got to reverse that trend line."

That's one reason the battle between CNN's Jim Acosta and the Trump administration over press passes and decorum has Garrett's attention. "I am what they say in the legal community 'an interested party' because I work there. I'm on the same front row that Jim Acosta is, that CNN is."

Garrett says it's a fight that Trump and CNN President Jeff Zucker want.

"The First Amendment is important and due process is important and the court is struggling with things that are not clearly defined in this clash," says Garrett. "But I do think that Jeff Zucker and Donald Trump want to have this fight on behalf of not just these serious underlying legal questions but on their own reputational relationship to one another."

This week, the White House laid out certain ground rules for reporters during press conferences. While Garrett sees himself as a neutral observer, he does believe the Trump administration has a good point.

"The CNN position is also, to a certain degree, absolute that there are no limits on decorum in the White House. Well, I don't believe that as a reporter," he says.

When asked if there are limits, Garrett says bluntly: "I've exercised them."

Garrett recalled an encounter during a Rose Garden event. He had the microphone in his hand ready to ask a question, but Trump said no and called on the reporter behind him.

"Was I giving up my First Amendment rights? No. The president said, 'No, not you.' It's his press conference. I'm either asked to ask a question, given that privilege and that responsibility, or I'm not. But guess who runs that? He does," Garrett says.

That example is just one of many that keep Garrett covering this wild ride.  As a passenger, whether as correspondent or author, he felt it was also his job to cover the ups and downs responsibly.

"I'd covered three presidents before and it felt to me like the country was getting the impression that because this was so different and comes at us so differently, maybe the typical powers of the presidency don't still exist," Garrett tells CBN News. "Well, they do. And maybe things aren't getting done? They are."

Garrett's reporting style follows the 'just the facts' trademark and his book also follows that example: recounting the issues with no dreaded anonymous sources.

"Everyone is quoted by name. Everyone is quoted by their title and what they saw and what they saw happening… no one has complained. No one has said, 'That's inaccurate, that's out of context.' No, because they know I'm a faithful chronicler of what they said and what they observed and what has happened," he explains.

In a literary market filled with pro and anti-Trump books, Garrett hopes his strikes the right balance as the voice of reason, though it has its drawbacks.

"If you want to ask me my deepest, darkest fear about this book, you've just described it," Garrett says. "That it will fall into this uncomfortable and unknown commercial space…I know it's valuable, but that is my greatest fear. I told my best friends as I was writing the book that my greatest fear is that it will not love the president enough and it will not hate the president enough."

As President Trump runs the country, Garrett will continue to report on one of the most important times in political history.

"We had 113 million Americans participate in the midterms: 49.2 percent participation rate, higher than any year since 1966," Garrett says. "This country cares about this time politically and we're sorting it out."

Garrett hopes voters will look to his book that tries to do just that: sort it all out in a fair and honest way.

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