Like every president before him, Donald Trump has had to endure the slings and arrows directed at him by the press. And while he has responded in a vituperative, dog-whistling manner unlike any of his 44 predecessors, consistently employing such pejorative adjectives as “dishonest,” “lying” and “fake” when describing the Fourth Estate – he has never called for a journalist to lose their job.

Sure, he’s put reporters in a holding pen at his rallies. He’s berated them at press conferences. He’s even had their credentials taken away. But he never used his bully pulpit to threaten a reporter’s livelihood.

Welp. Consider that box on his “abuse of powers” bingo card filled. After ESPN anchor Jemele Hill launched a tweetstorm on Monday calling the president a white supremacist and “unqualified and unfit to be president” – among other choice characters – her spineless employer apologized for her decision to express her opinion while trying to pull off her 6 p.m. SportsCenter newscast. That ploy – by the same network that yanked sportscaster Robert Lee from its Aug. 23 broadcast of a University of Virginia football game because he has the same name as the Confederate general from, you know, the Civil War – failed because none of her colleagues would sub for her.

Evidently, corporate groveling wasn’t enough for the White House. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, not content with her overstepping this week by suggesting a DOJ investigation of former FBI Director James Comey, took time out of her busy schedule of dissembling to label Hill’s tweets “a fireable offense” on Wednesday.

When that failed to produce the desired effect, Trump himself waded into the ginned-up debate to demand that ESPN “apologize for untruth!” – this, despite the clearly acknowledged kowtowing already performed by the network.

If something seems a little … off about the administration’s fixation on Hill’s tweets, you’re not alone. It’s hard to pinpoint what the difference is. After all, the president has been taken to task for his well-documented racist predilections by members of the media for years, including on an almost daily basis by late-night television hosts – with nary a peep of termination talk.

It’s almost like there is something different about Hill that makes her stand out from others in her profession. Certainly, someone so committed to due process that he has already nominated 41 men to become US Attorneys could be singling Hill out for castigation.  In the end, figuring out why the president feels so compelled to direct energy and efforts against Hill is probably destined to remain a mystery.

 

WINNERS

Bob Casey and Pat Toomey: The commonwealth’s pair of US senators were the very picture of bipartisan comity this week, co-sponsoring legislation that would provide financial help to pay for college for the children of fallen first responders and a bill that would determine how many people have been affected by contaminated water near military bases that used the chemicals PFOS and PFOA

Larry Farnese: The state senator from Philadelphia continued his push to protect community groups from the insidiously chilling effect of SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuits designed to intimidate them.

Matthew J. Brouilette: Doing what no one else had yet to, the former Commonwealth Foundation head filed a lawsuit against Gov. Tom Wolf, the General Assembly, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and Treasurer Joe Torsella for breaking the law by failing to balance the state budget.

 

LOSERS

Medicaid program dividers: No one can say we weren’t warned. As Gov. Wolf promised, today marked the first in what could be a negative cascade of cuts and missed payments by the commonwealth. Managed care organizations were told that the administration would be unable to make $1.16 billion in payments this week. Odds are, this won’t be the last time you’ll be reading about a casualty of Harrisburg’s continued inability to resolve the budget crisis here.

Philadelphia: In yet more economic bad news, the city was crowned once again by the US Census as the poorest big city in the country.

Philly’s GOP leadership: In a textbook example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the Republican City Committee has become embroiled in an increasingly public civil war over a difference of opinion on how best to respond to Democratic Congressman Bob Brady’s $90,000 payment to get his 2012 primary opponent to drop out of the race.