Press freedom: Trump’s threat against NBC
We’re used to “spittle-flecked criticism of the media” from our thin-skinned president, said Jay Caruso in DallasNews.com. But last week Donald Trump “crossed the line.” Stung by an NBC report that he once suggested a tenfold increase in the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal, prompting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s now infamous “f---ing moron” comment, the president last week tweeted, “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?” Later, Trump doubled down, telling reporters that “it is, frankly, disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.” TV networks don’t have licenses, said Chris Cillizza in CNN.com, and the press’s freedom to “write whatever it wants” is granted under a license known as the First Amendment. The Constitution, let’s hope, will keep Trump from ever acting on his threat. But even the suggestion that a president would shutter news outlets for unfavorable coverage is, “simply put, the stuff of authoritarian governments.”
Has the liberal media lost its “sense of humor” as well as its credibility? asked David Krayden in DailyCaller.com. Trump is obviously frustrated with the press and its wild, anonymously sourced tales of Russian espionage and White House dysfunction. But his threat to pull the plug on NBC was clearly just a “moment of gleeful hyperbole.” The liberal “overreaction” to Trump’s quips rests on a misunderstanding of the First Amendment, said Jenna Ellis in FoxNews.com. Courts long ago established that press freedom does not include the right to libel or defame. All Trump is saying, as he later clarified, is that “the press should speak more honestly” and be held accountable for false reporting.
I can’t believe some fellow Republicans are excusing Trump’s attack on free speech, said David French in NationalReview.com. A commitment to our constitutional freedoms is “supposed to define the party.” Yet “for the sake of protecting a single American president,” millions of conservatives are trying to justify Trump’s attacks on the press, even cheering him on, “knowing full well that they would be howling in anger” if President Obama had ever threatened to shut down Fox News. What “grotesque” hypocrisy. “This isn’t a game,” said Rick Wilson in TheDailyBeast.com. Any Republican supporting Trump’s assault on free speech will surely come to regret it when, inevitably, “the jackboot is on the other foot.” ■