The Fight for Free Press Under Trump's Reign
By Sam Stroozas
“The press was to serve the governed, not the governors,” said Hugo Black, former U.S Supreme Court Justice. The freedom of the press has been a statement of a driven society since the beginning of our political construction. In the midst of the Trump administration’s hostile take on journalism, the right to free press is being threatened as a strategic political motive to the American public.
Recently, CNN chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, faced major backlash from the Trump administration after Trump refused to answer Acosta’s follow up question about the Russia investigation.
Trump’s objections to the press are nothing new, but the banning of Acosta in a 14-day restraining order is. The restraining order was later overturned and Acosta's press pass was ‘restored,’ but the aftermath of Trump’s hostile behavior towards journalists has been permanently inscribed into the nation.
Trump’s demeanor towards the press does not go unseen to the average American, and this influence has deterred many Americans from listening to objective press outlets. Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post said “The president has said he is at war with the press. I can say this: We are not at war. We are at work - just doing our jobs.”
Trump has often quoted that the press are “the enemy of the people” and should not be referenced for ethically-sourced news, but this anger did not stem from just anywhere. The Trump administration sees the press as the newest attack on the administration's agenda, as well as their success.
Acosta challenged Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, the White House Press Secretary in early August about this very issue, saying, “It would be a good thing if you were to state right here, at this briefing, that the press — the people who are gathered in this room right now, doing their jobs every day, asking questions of officials like the ones you brought forward earlier — are not the enemy of the people, I think we deserve that.”
Huckabee-Sanders replied, “It’s ironic, Jim, that not only you and the media attack the president for his rhetoric, when they frequently lower the level of conversation in this country.”
The conversation in the country is not being lowered, as much as it is being encouraged to reject the outlets that source political conversations, and instead look towards the Trump administration as the bearer of all fair and ethical news.
Acosta retorted, “This democracy, this country, all the people around the world watching what you are saying, Sarah, and the White House for the United States of America — the president of the United States should not refer to us as ‘the enemy of the people,’” he said. “His own daughter acknowledges that, and all I’m asking you to do, Sarah, is to acknowledge that right now and right here.”
That same day, President Trump gave a rally in Pennsylvania preaching that meda is the “fake, fake disgusting news.” He explained how the press are his biggest political opponent as well as the only reason why his reelection campaign would not be certain.
“Whatever happened to the free press? Whatever happened to honest reporting? They don’t report it. They only make up stories,” Trump exclaimed while pointing in accusation to the reporters at the rally.
Trump uses his words carefully to enrage Americans so they do not forget who they should be ambushing. This enragement lends itself to acts of terrorism, such as the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper. The shooter killed 5 people, and injured two.
Trump spoke out after the shooting, “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job. My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life.”
When The Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, went missing and was later presumed to be brutally murdered by Saudi Arabian officials, Trump stood with Saudi Arabia. He argued that, “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t! We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” Trump noted. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Trump claims that journalists should not have to fear being murdered while doing what can be credited as one of the most important jobs, but when they are murdered, he dismisses the accusations if it is not important to his administration's goals.
Commonly found in countries that are ruled by dictatorships is that news outlets can be shut down, such as in places like Russia, North Korea, and China. In an Ipsos study, 23 percent of Americans believe the news media are the enemy of the people, and 43 percent of Republicans, 12 percent of Democrats, and 21 percent of Independents believe Trump should be able to shut down news outlets.
John McCain, deceased Arizona senator who often critiqued the Trump administration spoke out against Trump’s comments of the press at the 53rd Munich Security Conference; “I hate the press. I hate you especially,” he told interviewer Chuck Todd, “But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital.”
McCain goes on to explain, “If you want to preserve - I’m very serious now - if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started,” he added,“They get started by suppressing free press. In other words, a consolidation of power. When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”
When we evaluate history, there has always been an ultimate moral about the freedom of the press. America is all about freedom, and equal access, but how can we expand on ideas if we do not have outlets that are alerting us to the problems in and outside of America that the Trump administration would rather us ignore. You must ask yourself, why, more than any other President before him, does Trump argue about the validity of the press, and why is he threatened by its presence?
It is simple rhetoric; when Trump runs a campaign based in the ridicule of our free press, he resurrects a divide between the American people. He wants to pit Americans against one another so they are too distracted to pay attention to the truest enemy of the American people and freedom of speech - President Trump himself.