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Trump cartoon

As Donald Trump was once again bashing the news media, this time at a VFW convention in Kansas City, Missouri, goading the veterans into booing and belittling the reporters covering the gathering, I started to wonder if at long last we've completely lost all sense of reality.

"Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news," one of the few presidents elected by a minority of the American people proclaimed. "What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."

That so many of the vets joined the president to heckle the press was, to put in mildly, perplexing.

It's been thanks to a vigilant news media that problems with VA hospitals, the Veterans Administration itself and health issues facing vets have been exposed and in many cases corrected.

I thought about our own reporter Katelyn Ferral, who only a couple of years ago investigated and wrote an extraordinary expose of the unsavory conditions at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, an investigation that resulted in numerous reforms. Katelyn won several national and state awards for her work and plaudits from families of veterans who had been helped.

No one contended that it was fake news and shouldn't be believed — except, of course, those few who were responsible for the home's problems.

Martha Raddatz, chief correspondent for ABC News and a veteran of covering the military in combat, was particularly hurt by the Kansas City scene.

"Like so many of my colleagues, I have covered this nation's war for decades, working side by side with our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen," she wrote in a column for The Washington Post. "I have shared foxholes and flight decks with these brave Americans, and I have felt our mutual respect for the responsibility that each of us holds in our chosen professions."

She recalled the summer of 2004 in Iraq when she heard about a battle in which eight of our soldiers were killed in just a few hours, most trying to rescue a platoon that had been ambushed.

"If the Army hadn't helped me tell that story, if those soldiers and their families hadn't trusted me with some of the most painful memories they will ever have, the heroics of that battle would never have come to light," she wrote.

She added that, sadly, the press is getting used to listening to some Americans booing, threatening and belittling the media at the behest of Trump, and she worries about the next generation of reporters.

As for those at the VFW convention, she wonders if they have forgotten that some members of the press corps are combat vets themselves. How many of them have given their own lives covering wars, most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq? What about the reporting that has exposed mistreatment of vets at Walter Reed and elsewhere?

To their credit, VFW leaders tweeted that they were disappointed that some of the audience booed the press in response to Trump's comments.

"We rely on the media to spread the VFW message," they said, adding that the press that was there had been invited by the organization. "We were happy to have them there."

Too bad the man who's supposed to protect America's free press is out to destroy it.

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Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Cap Times: dzweifel@madison.com and @DaveZweifel.

Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.