ST. CHARLES • There appears to be some daylight between Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley and President Donald Trump on at least one topic: the media.
After a small rally in St. Charles on Wednesday, Hawley, the GOP’s newly minted nominee to take on U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., in November, said he did not consider the media the enemy of the American public.
“The media say a lot of things that people disagree with, but I don’t think they’re the enemy of the people, no,” Hawley told a Post-Dispatch reporter. “But, I understand, certainly, what folks say. They get frustrated with the media.”
Trump has long maintained an icy relationship with the press, and has gone so far as to call the “FAKE NEWS media” the “enemy of the American People” in a February 2017 tweet. At the time, he singled out The New York Times, NBC, ABC and CNN as the “FAKE NEWS media.”
The tension between the president and the press has surfaced in various ways since Trump took office.
CNN’s Jim Acosta walked out of a White House press briefing this month after White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say the media were not the enemy of the people.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump told an interviewer this month that she did “not feel like the media is the enemy of the people” though a “fair share” of reporting on her had not been “fully accurate,” she said.
Trump sent out a tweet after the interview saying that Ivanka Trump was correct. But, he said, “the FAKE NEWS, which is a large percentage of the media, that is the enemy of the people!”
Since taking office last January, Hawley has held several news conferences. He has answered off-topic questions without fussing, and addresses reporters by their first names. His media handlers are responsive, most days.
This past legislative session, he backed a measure to strengthen Missouri’s Sunshine Law. The legislation, which did not pass, would have granted the attorney general’s office subpoena power in open records cases, something the office does not possess.
Hawley held a joint news conference with Jean Maneke, attorney for the Missouri Press Association, to tout the legislation.
She said in an interview that she is satisfied with the way Hawley has worked with the media during his tenure.
“Our attorney general’s office is one that many members of the media deal with on a fairly regular basis,” Maneke said. “Of course, it’s the main point of contact for Sunshine Law issues. Attorney General Hawley has from the beginning taken the position that he wanted to be strong on the Sunshine Law activities that go through his office.”
She pointed to the attorney general’s filing of a lawsuit in January against St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s administration, which alleges Stenger’s office routinely violates the open records law.
“He has seemed responsive to complaints that are filed on the attorney general’s website, and has actually filed some litigation to enforce the Sunshine Law,” Maneke said.
McCaskill barbed Hawley this winter for what she called a halfhearted investigation into then-Gov. Eric Greitens’ use of the text-message destroying smartphone application Confide.
Greitens, a former Navy Seal, founded The Mission Continues in 2007. His alleged use of a fundraising list from the charity is under investigation.
Open-records advocates worry Greitens and his administration broke the law by using the app. Hawley’s office discovered no wrongdoing, but did not attempt to interview Greitens himself.
During Greitens’ time in office, Hawley also launched investigations into whether Greitens’ staff violated a state law barring public employees from working on political projects. He launched another investigation into Greitens’ cozy ties with his former charity, The Mission Continues.
Hawley said those investigations were ongoing.
“We want to make sure that we get the facts, and that we are very thorough,” Hawley said on Wednesday. “And we are going to continue to do that. But they (the investigations) are open.”
Despite the apparent disagreement with Trump over the media, Hawley has attempted to tie himself to the president in other ways. Hawley said Wednesday he had spoken to Trump following his Tuesday night primary win, and hopes the president campaigns with him this fall.
He challenged McCaskill to support Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s pending nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I think we need judges whose philosophy is: You believe and enforce the Constitution the people wrote,” Hawley said, “not the way that the liberal judges, or the liberal media or the liberal bureaucracy want it to be.”