Trump's Alarming Attack on the Press

You’ve seen Donald Trump’s tweets: “Don’t believe the main stream (fake news) media”, “the FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people”. In fact, you might be so familiar with Trump crying bloody murder over fake news that you probably read those tweets in his voice, maybe even making the same frantic hand gestures as him. 

Trump’s ongoing conquest to delegitimize the media has been a straining one. At some points, it has been humorous, like when his Inauguration Day crowd size was so obviously small, yet he claimed that “up to 1.5 million people had attended” and that “news organizations had deliberately misstated the size of the crowd” (New York Times). But there is nothing humorous about Trump’s White House restricting the New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, BBC, the Hill, Politico, and more major news organizations from attending an off-camera White House press briefing on February 24th. This is troubling. 

According to Trump himself, the press is “the enemy of the people because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none” (Vox). He specifically said this in response to the nine anonymous sources that the Washington Post used in their report on Michael Flynn having ties with Russia. Let’s push aside the fact that this story was confirmed and led to Flynn’s resignation, and the fact that anonymous sources are nothing new and are usually used for security reasons. Let’s even push aside Trump’s 2012 tweet claiming that a “credible source” told him Barack Obama’s birth certificate was forged (so he likes anonymous sources, but only when they suit his interests). 

Trump harasses the media even when there are sources — take CNN’s poll showing that Trump had the lowest early approval rating of any president. Trump, per usual, retaliated on Twitter: “Any negative polls are fake news”.  Two points here: 1) a poll isn’t an op-ed piece, it contains factual data, and 2) this generalization that any negative press must be fake press is blatantly inaccurate and especially immature for the President of the United States to declare. Trump is essentially looking at photos of the Earth and insisting that it’s flat. Anyone who says otherwise is promoting fake news.  

Image source: Pixabay

Fake news is not publishing a poll with unfavorable data. Fake news is not a major media organization using anonymous sources in a report. If Trump wants to call the New York Times and CNN — who pride themselves in unbiased journalism and have proved to be factually accurate  — “fake news”, he should really take a look at some of the news organizations that were allowed to attend the White House press briefing. Breibart, an openly right-wing media organization that was at the briefing, fabricated a story that a Muslim mob torched Germany’s oldest church. In a special turn of events, even Fox News — where an anchor once falsely claimed that Obama offered to use his own money to fund a Muslim museum — defended CNN, with anchor Shepard Smith saying: “For the record, 'fake news' refers to stories that are created, often by entities pretending to be news organizations, solely to draw clicks and views and are based on nothing of substance. CNN’s reporting was not fake news. Its journalists followed the same standards to which other news organizations, including Fox News.”

The founding fathers included freedom of press in the Constitution so that journalists could provide important information to citizens without having to fear prosecution or censorship. The White House’s ban on media organizations is a glaring red flag, and another factor of Trump’s attempt at creating distrust between the media and the people — something that hurts Americans of all political preferences, races, genders, religions, and sexualities. The ability of the press to provide news is crucial for a true and well-informed democracy. The press isn’t the enemy. Ignorance is.