Washington Blade White House correspondent Chris Johnson is in a different position than the rest of his colleagues. Like other members of the White House press corps, he’s tasked with covering the Trump Administration and attempting to find the truth amidst a mountain of lies and misdirection. But as the only member of an LGBT publication covering the White House on a daily basis, Johnson is determined to get answers for his specific audience, or as he calls them, “all letters of the LGBT acronym,” including the “leather daddies.”
On this week’s edition of “The Sports Kiki,” I spoke with Johnson about his experiences covering the Trump White House, and how he attempts to deliver political news through an LGBT lens. An objective reporter above all else, Johnson says he’s committed to presenting both sides of the story, and representing them fairly.
“I think there’s a trend in the media now to tell people what they want to hear in order to get more clicks and more shares,” he said. “I really think upholding the objectivity in journalism is an important value, and something I always hope to do.”
Of course, pure objectivity is an aspiration, and sometimes especially difficult to exude while covering the Trump Administration, which floods the news cycle with conspiracy theories and vitriol. The latest example came this week, when President Donald Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military on protesters, and then strolled to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op after National Guard troops had deployed tear gas to disperse peaceful objectors.
Johnson, per his modus operandi, has covered the nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality with an LGBT perspective, highlighting the groups within our community calling for an end to white supremacy.
“I can’t say I ignore mainstream audiences, but I feel like my role is to address LGBT audiences,” he said.
With that goal in mind, Johnson asked new White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany last month about her previous public opposition to same-sex marriage, which stands in contrast to Trump’s stated position (though his administration has aggressively rolled back LGBT protections, and last week, ruled against Connecticut’s inclusive transgender student-athlete policy).
Unrelenting, Johnson asked McEnany multiple questions about the topic, and she deflected them all.
.@chrisjohnson82 asks @PressSec about her past comments on same-sex marriage while she was a student at Harvard: "What I'd say is that I'm very proud of this administration, which has been fair and equitable and just to all Americans and open to all Americans as he should be." pic.twitter.com/8GDO0tUFwg— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) May 15, 2020
Overall, Johnson says he finds McEnany, who restarted the regular White House briefings, to be combative and adversarial.
“Kayleigh McEnany has almost an entirely antagonistic approach to the press,” he said. “There’s a briefing going on imminently right now, and I’m sure she will just be mocking the reporters for what they’re asking, diverting them to something else, a ‘whataboutism’ when they ask a question about one thing, and she goes, ‘Well, what about X, Y and Z?’ Then she reads headlines from CNN she didn’t like from the other day in response to a question. You have to wonder how professional that is, and if she’s going to be that unprofessional, then why are we even entertaining this?”
Members of the White House press corps have come under criticism for covering Trump’s most outlandish claims, such as tweeting about a debunked murder conspiracy involving MSNBC host and former Republican representative Joe Scarborough, rather than ignoring them outright. While Johnson says he understands the concerns about amplifying Trump’s reckless rhetoric, ultimately, his Twitter feed is news — no matter the absurdity of its content.
“Trump is the President of the United States. He has the bully pulpit. Whatever he says is news,” Johnson said. “There are people who say, ‘By actually giving this more attention, what you’re doing, as supposed to sunlight being the best disinfectant, sunlight is actually making these weeds grow, so to speak. People who have these views are finding they have friends in high places. That is a good argument to make, but to say you can just ignore the President whenever he says something, I think is not really paying attention to his role as President of the United States.”
Click here to check out this week’s edition of “The Sports Kiki Podcast”. You can also subscribe to the show on Apple’s Podcast page as well as on Google Podcasts, and wherever you’ll find Outsports podcasts.