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Trump kicks NBC reporter off of plane

By Sarah May
|
May 3, 2023

Though known for his willingness to readily engage with reporters – even some known to be from unfriendly outlets – former President Donald Trump reached his limit during a flight back in March in which he reportedly grabbed a journalist's phones, tossed them aside and told aides, “Get him out of here,” according to Vanity Fair.

The reporter at issue was Vaughn Hillyard of NBC News, who peppered Trump with questions about Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's deliberations about whether to pursue charges in the Stormy Daniels hush money matter.

Flight Takes a Turn

The incident is said to have occurred on Trump's plane following a late March rally in Waco, Texas, while the former president was chatting with a group of reporters who were on board the aircraft.

Trump was reportedly in jocular spirits at the start of his exchange with the journalists, but his mood rapidly soured as a result of Hillyard's persistent questioning about what he deemed Trump's frustration with Bragg. “I'm not frustrated by anything. What am I, frustrated? I just did a speech for two hours. I'm not frustrated by it. It's a fake investigation,” Trump said, according to the Washington Post.

Once the reporter for NBC News made the observation that Trump seemed “frustrated” by Bragg's probe, things grew tense, with the former commander in chief flatly instructing, “Don't ask me any more questions.”

Dissatisfied with that reaction, Hillyard soon interjected again with questions about the prospect of an indictment in New York, and that is when Trump's irritation was made abundantly clear.

“Get Him Out of Here”

Having apparently had his fill of questions about Bragg's potential next moves, Trump is said to have grabbed two phones belonging to Hillyard, tossed them off to the side, and told nearby aides, “Get him out of here.”

As Vanity Fair notes, while some of Trump's comments on the plane had already been reported, including his assertion that with regard to the Daniels payments, “We did nothing wrong” and his assertion that “This is fake news, and NBC is one of the worst,” the claim that he had physically thrown Hillyard's devices came to light only recently.

New details of the encounter included reporting that Trump snapped at Hillyard by saying, “I don't want to talk to you,” adding, “Do you hear me? You're not a nice guy.”

Once things reached a breaking point for Trump, he reportedly said simply, “Alright, let's go, get him out of here. Outta here. Outta here,” after which a Trump aide told the reporter, “Vaughn, we're done.”

Into the Lion's Den

Despite his reportedly tense interaction with the NBC News reporter, Trump is already planning another foray into the realm of mainstream media scrutiny, this time in the form of a CNN town hall event set to take place next week in New Hampshire, as Politico reports.

Though he has notoriously referred to the network as “fake” in the past, Trump's decision to engage with CNN in such a high-profile way marks what many see as dramatic change in strategy as the 2024 campaign continues to heat up.

Close advisers to Trump believe, according to Politico, that a more open stance toward mainstream outlets will stand in favorable contrast to the approach being taken by potential GOP primary rival Gov. Ron DeSantis, someone who has historically engaged primarily with conservative vehicles.

Other observers have suggested that Trump's impending event with CNN is also intended as an affront to Fox News, a network the former president says has turned away from him and his support base in favor of DeSantis.

Liberals React

While Trump's upcoming collaboration with CNN may ultimately prove a stroke of campaign genius, the endeavor has been greeted by a chorus of scorn from a number of critics on the left, as the U.K. Guardian reports.

Among those condemning CNN for engaging with Trump was Angelo Carusone of progressive organization Media Matters for America, who said of the network, “The transparent attempt to goose their ratings does feel at least a little odious.”

Outspoken Trump foe Keith Olbermann was similarly outraged, leveling his ire at the network's relatively new CEO by saying, “I think we can say Chris Licht's conversion of CNN into a political and journalistic whorehouse is complete.”

Trump is all but certain to court criticism regardless of his media strategy, but whether President Joe Biden – or any other hopefuls for the Democratic nomination – might be willing to conduct similar outreach to a wider swath of voters by broadening the left's usual roster of sanctioned outlets, only time will tell.