“The lowest form of life.”
That’s what Donald Trump thinks about journalists.
David Duke and the KKK?
“I don’t know… I have to look at the group”
Trump fans sending anti-Semitic death threats?
“I don’t have a message to the fans”
“You gotta give him credit”
At least Trump is consistent. He’s not shy about handing out abuse (to people who aren’t racists or dictators), but the media has been his favorite target by far. Since the very beginning of his campaign, Trump has called the media corrupt and biased over and over and over again; yelling at reporters covering campaign events is basically part of his stump speech.
Trump’s never-ending attack on the media continued at a rally on Friday, where he pointed at the journalists covering the event and said, “These people are the lowest form of life, I’m telling you. They are the lowest form of humanity.”
He quickly followed up Friday’s attack on the press with a brand new one on Saturday, threatening to revoke the New York Times’ press credentials after the newspaper published an article depicting his campaign as “sputtering.” Banning a newspaper from covering a presidential campaign just for unflattering reporting would be an unprecedented move… if Trump hadn’t done it six times already.
The Trump media “blacklist” includes Univision, the largest Spanish-language broadcast network in the US, Buzzfeed, the Des Moines Register, the Daily Beast, Politico, the Huffington Post, and the Washington Post. These are not small media outlets. It would be one thing to refuse to give press credentials to tiny organizations that consistently push conspiracy theories (Trump prefers to retweet them), refusing to give access to some of the largest news outlets in the country - with millions of readers - is a much more dangerous move.
The free press serves a vital role in American society protected by the First Amendment. A democracy only functions when citizens can hold government officials accountable for their actions. Without a free press alerting the public to the words and actions of their leaders, citizens would never be able to accurately decide who best represents their interests. It’s the press’ job to ask questions, and when a politician lies, to call them out. The press has been instrumental in uncovering government scandals and corruption throughout American history, and Trump has given us a clear message on how much he respects that role.
The highest office in the United States is an incredible responsibility, and whoever holds that office should be put under intense scrutiny. Trump’s inability to handle that scrutiny is not just childish, it is dangerous to American democracy. Without the examination and criticism of the press, there’s no way for voters to make informed decisions. Trump the candidate can be hostile to the press and look irresponsible, if Trump the president is openly hostile to the press he is damaging a crucial part of our democratic system.
Trump’s refusal to give credentials to news outlets that criticize him will almost certainly continue if he becomes president. It seems entirely possible that by the end of Trump’s time in office the White House Press Briefing Room ends up almost completely empty, with only a few token Fox News reporters there to ask President Trump how he manages to be so brilliant and look so attractive at the same time. He’s already said that one of his priorities in office would be to loosen libel laws so that it’s easier to sue media outlets, how much further might he go?
Trump thinks the role of the media is to agree with what he says and make sure his message is spread as widely as possible with no critical analysis. There are lots of countries where the media does actually act like this - they’re called authoritarian regimes. Based on Trump’s admiring comments about Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin, and Saddam Hussein, maybe that’s what he has in mind.
Trump’s inability to see the value of the First Amendment only highlights the fact that he cannot become president. It’s no surprise that an anti-fact campaign is against fact-checkers, but a presidency without a free press is a presidency without any accountability. The American people need journalists to be able to do their jobs without fear of punishment.
The United States is not a country where reporters should be scared to ask tough questions to powerful people. This is a country where the powerful should be scared of reporters asking tough questions.