Freedom of the Press … Going, Going …

Donald Trump said Monday that he is “revoking” the Washington Post’s press access at his campaign events, calling the newspaper “phony and dishonest.”  In a Facebook post, the presumptive GOP nominee attributed the decision to the newspaper’s “incredibly inaccurate coverage” of him.

What started his vendetta against the Post?  The catalyst was a headline in the Post on Monday:  “Donald Trump seems to connect President Obama to Orlando shooting.”  There is nothing dishonest about this headline, as Trump made thinly-veiled accusations against President Obama saying that Mr. Obama’s response to the shooting meant “he doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands.”

The Post’s executive editor Marty Baron responded: “Donald Trump’s decision to revoke The Washington Post’s press credentials is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press. When coverage doesn’t correspond to what the candidate wants it to be, then a news organization is banished. The Post will continue to cover Donald Trump as it has all along — honorably, honestly, accurately, energetically, and unflinchingly. We’re proud of our coverage, and we’re going to keep at it.”

BuzzFeed, Politico, The Daily Beast, Univision, and The Huffington Post are among other outlets that have been blocked in recent months. Some journalists have described this as an emerging Trump “blacklist.”  Some of these publications, such as Huffington Post, have a biased slant, but Politico, founded in 2007, has a reputation for fair and honest reporting of all sides, and in fact at one time was considered to be slightly right-leaning.  And now the Washington Post which is among the most-respected publications in the U.S.  Donald Trump may well have just “cut off his nose to spite his face.”

At the start of his campaign a year ago, Trump had the press practically eating out of his hand and licking his boots.  His was the name that sold newspapers and drew viewers, and he was getting so much airtime that we barely heard from Clinton or Sanders.  Trump was lapping up all the free advertising, and while the press, like the rest of us, realized he was a buffoon, it was still attention, and any attention was better than none.  Now, apparently, he has decided to narrow the scope of his campaign coverage in an attempt to control what the public sees, to control his still-free advertising.

Journalists without credentials can attend Trump events by obtaining tickets available to the general public. But a Politico reporter, Ben Schreckinger, said he was ejected from a Trump rally in California earlier this month by a campaign staff member and a private security guard.  “Trump in his campaign has repeatedly tried to control the coverage of news organizations by denying their journalists access to his campaign events. We believe that is a violation of the basic right of a free press to report — and if the goal is to squelch independent journalism about Trump it certainly won’t work,” said POLITICO editor Susan Glasser in a statement.

Earlier this year, Trump vowed to make libel laws more punitive against the media if he becomes president. “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump said during a campaign event in Texas. Hostile rhetoric toward the press is a staple of his events. “I would never kill them, but I do hate them,” he said of the press in December. “And some of them are such lying, disgusting people.”  Good to know he doesn’t plan to kill them, merely remove their voice boxes.

What Trump fails to understand is that his words, his exact words, are what the press reports.  One might think he would tone down his rhetoric if he does not want to see his own words staring at him over the breakfast table, but no, instead he expects the press to take his words and try to make them sound innocent and nice?  Or intelligent?  That is impossible to do when he spews nothing but stupidity and hate each time he opens his mouth!  To quote an old saying, “you reap what you sow.”  When you sow hurled epithets and fear-mongering rhetoric, hate-speech and lies, they come back to haunt you.  Surely in all his years in business, he has learned this lesson?

One cannot help but see the parallels between Trump’s rhetoric and the actions of Erdogan, Putin and other thin-skinned leaders who believe that the way to control their nations is to control and muzzle the press.  Though Trump’s power is limited at this time to restricting who, among the press, can attend his campaign events, imagine if the man were to be elected president.  Those who are leaning toward a vote for Trump in November are many of the same people who so actively and vociferously defend their 2nd Amendment rights.  I think you would do well to apply that same level of fervor to defending our 1st Amendment rights, for without a press that has the freedom to keep us all informed, we become a dictatorship no different than Turkey, China, North Korea or Russia.  If Trump has his way, the only news outlets allowed to cover his campaign by November may be Breitbart and Fox.  I look for more media outlets to be shut out in the coming weeks.  Never fear, as Politico is still managing to report everything Trump says and does,  I am reasonably certain that the Washington Post will do the same.  But nonetheless, this is a frightening sign of what would be to come under a Trump presidency.  For Pete’s Sake, Americans … WAKE UP AND SMELL THE DAMN COFFEE!

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