When I wrote yesterday about Trump forcibly stifling Jewish reporter Jake Turx, who was not even allowed to ask his question, I thought it was going to be a solitary post. That was my intention. I never know, however, what will pop onto my radar, and apparently fate, kismet, karma or whatever had other ideas for me. Thus, today I have written Part II of the story, and there may be many more parts to come. Thank you all for taking the time to read … I greatly appreciate it!
On January 24th, Lamar Seeligson Smith, U.S. Representative for Texas’ 21st Congressional District for the past 40 years, gave a short speech on the House floor (see 30 second video). It was a very short speech, but what he said in that short speech is a very big deal. First he railed against the “unfair” way the press is treating Trump, but then … wait for it … “Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”
Upon reading these words, my jaw dropped and my heart took off like a bowling ball bouncing downhill. He is telling us to get the “unvarnished truth” from the biggest liar that has ever resided in the White House, bar none??? This joker has been a Representative since 1987. He is obviously unfit and is the epitome of the argument for term limits!
Enter Rick Casey, who hosts a weekly public affairs program “Texas Week” on KLRN, a San Antonio public broadcast television station. Casey’s jaw apparently dropped also when he heard of Smith’s remarks, and he decided to end that week’s program with a commentary about it. Imagine Mr. Casey’s surprise when, watching the taped broadcast, his commentary had been replaced with one from an older program! Why? Because KLRN’s president and chief executive, Arthur Rojas Emerson, decided it was too risky to air it. His concern was, “that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was under attack and that this would add to it.” The Corporation for Public Broadcasting provides financing for public stations, including KLRN, and Mr. Trump’s election has heightened fears that its financing will be cut.
Nonetheless, the original commentary ran in the San Antonio Express-News, and astute readers noticed the difference. The story started making the rounds in journalistic circles, and eventually reached the ears of Evan Smith, co-founder of the Texas Tribune. “Holding people accountable in public life is so fundamentally important that this idea that somehow we’re going to stop doing that because we’re worried about what the government’s going to do to us, I so unbelievably reject that,” said Smith.
As luck would have it, Evan Smith was in Washington D.C. for a meeting of the PBS national board, of which he is a member. He talked to fellow board members, then called Mr. Emerson, who had made the decision to pull the commentary, and told him he might consider severing ties with KLRN over the censorship. Emerson explained the reasons behind his decision, “clearly we always worry about funding for public television. We have to protect the neutrality of the station — somebody could have looked at it as slander.” But he acknowledged that it was a mistake and said he would be willing to let the commentary run as long as they designated it as “commentary”.
For this time, freedom of the press was rescued, thanks to men like Evan Smith and even Arthur Emerson, who realize the value of open communication and providing unbiased information to the public. Next time we may not be so lucky.
What follows is Mr. Casey’s commentary. I am taking liberties printing it in its entirety, but I am providing proper attribution, and I will take my chances, as I think this is too important not to share.
Many viewers may be aware of a controversy over a recent commentary I prepared that didn’t run. I’m pleased to say the issue has been resolved very much to my satisfaction and that of KLRN’s leadership.
KLRN President Arthur Emerson has publicly confirmed that the Last Word will continue to be a free-speech zone and will clearly be labeled as “commentary” to signify that. I want to thank Arthur, and I also want to thank all of you strong supporters of KLRN who let him know how much you care about the station, this program and the value of free speech.
And with that, here is the commentary that did not air two weeks ago.
San Antonio Congressman Lamar Smith surprised me last week when he indicated a disrespect for Fox News.
True, his brief speech on the House floor was mainly a complaint about how the “national liberal media” are covering President Donald Trump, but it’s conclusion was more sweeping.
Smith listed a number of early accomplishments by the president, including a spike in the consumer confidence index. and said the liberal media “won’t print that, or air it, or post it.”
Actually, I Googled “spike in consumer confidence index” and the very first entry was a Dec. 27 report from that pillar of the liberal media, the New York Times.
It read: “A measure of consumer confidence shot to its highest level in more than 15 years in December as Americans saw more strength ahead in business conditions, stock prices and the job market following the election of Donald J. Trump as president.”
But don’t sweat the details. Smith is right that the media have been tough on Trump. It’s Smith’s solution that intrigues.
“Better to get your news directly from the president,” he said. “In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”
That’s where he disrespected the “fair-and-balanced” cable channel. But Fox can fend for itself.
Smith’s proposal is quite innovative for America. We’ve never really tried getting all our news from our top elected official. It has been tried elsewhere, however.
North Korea comes to mind.
If Americans were to adopt this approach, here are some of the unvarnished truths we would have learned.
That Trump’s inauguration crowd was “the biggest ever.”
That he gets far bigger crowds than Beyonce and Jay Z.
That Trump would have “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
That Americans aren’t interested in his tax returns.
These are just some of the things we would have learned since his inauguration. During his campaign we would learn that thousands and thousands of Arabs in New Jersey publicly celebrated as the World Trade Center towers collapsed on 9/11.
We would learn Congressman Smith is right in thinking climate change is a hoax, but that Trump was only kidding when he tweeted that it was created by the Chinese to hurt America’s competitiveness.
And, of course, we would learn, as Trump recently taught, that members of the media are “the most dishonest human beings on Earth.”
That, as Lamar Smith understands, is why media outlets have debunked every one of the above “alternative facts.”
Smith also appears to be getting all his news from the White House regarding President Trump’s temporary bans of immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim nations.
“I appreciate President Trump’s effort to protect innocent Americans from those who enter the United States to do us harm,” he said in a press release that mirrored several White House talking points.
Smith’s young colleague Will Hurd, the other Republican congressman from San Antonio, hasn’t got the message. Hurd, a former CIA agent, told USA Today Trump’s order has caused a rift with U.S. allies in the fight against terrorism.
“Let’s look at a place like Iraq and the men and women of the U.S. armed services,” he said. “Who protects the perimeter of the base? Iraqis.”
He added that Iraqis are also fighting ISIS, and he has friends in Yemen fighting Al-Qaida alongside Yemenis.
Pulling no punches, he said Trump’s order has “put a target on the back of the almost 10,000 U.S. service members and diplomats and intelligence officers who are in those regions.”
Hurd also noted that some terrorist groups are touting Trump’s order as proving that the United States is at war with Islam.
“When terrorist groups are excited about this executive order, that’s not a good sign,” Hurd said. “It’s a tool that terrorist groups get to use to recruit more followers.”
Would we ever have learned that from President Trump?
Commentary by Rick Casey, Posted by Patrick Driscoll on Feb 16, 2017 at 7:54 pm
Note: After I had finished and scheduled this post, a New York Times headline caught my eye: “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AmeriCorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities could all be eliminated.” Sigh. More to come, folks.