It is the job of the free press to keep the people of this nation informed. In order to do so, they must be given access to our government, they must be allowed to ask questions and expect to receive honest answers. Yesterday, that freedom was cut short by Donald Trump, the bully-in-chief. It would be a mistake to let this slide, for it is not the first time, nor is it likely to be the last, that Trump has curtailed the freedom of the press.
It all began with a photo op with Trump and Kim Jong-un when a reporter for The Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire, asked Trump to comment on the congressional testimony of Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen. Another reporter, Jeff Mason of Reuters, had asked Trump a question about his commitment to de-nuclearization. Note that this is common practice and every president in modern history has submitted to such questions. But Donald Trump took umbrage.
As a result, mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that reporters from Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg News and the Los Angeles Times would not be allowed to attend the dinner with Trump and Kim. Sanders said that only photographers and television-camera operators would be allowed in … in other words, the American public would be allowed to see, but not hear. Lauren Easton, spokeswoman for the Associated Press objected …
“The Associated Press decries such efforts by the White House to restrict access to the president. It is critically important that any president uphold American press freedom standards, not only at home but especially while abroad.”
Trump eventually allowed one reporter in … a reporter from The Wall Street Journal, owned by Trump’s good buddy Rupert Murdoch. Whoopee. Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, called foul …
“This summit provides an opportunity for the American presidency to display its strength by facing vigorous questioning from a free and independent news media, not telegraph weakness by retreating behind arbitrary last-minute restrictions on coverage.”
Methinks the American presidency has no strength to display, as became obvious when the summit became a bust and Trump flew home with his tail tucked between his legs, for he refused to compromise. But that is a story for another time, as today the more important story is this one, the curtailment of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment by Donald Trump.
In recent months, the White House has sharply reduced the number of press briefings it gives and has cracked down on reporters who call out questions during the president’s public appearances. Reporters have publicly and privately been warned by White House aides that it is inappropriate to ask Trump questions in that context. No, Sarah … No, Donald … it is NOT inappropriate! There has been so much secrecy, so many blatant lies told to We the People, that reporters must work twice as hard to dig a rare gem of truth from this administration.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads …
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Denying access to an important … nay, crucial … summit meeting is an abridgement of the right to freedom of the press. Hand-picking reporters who will be allowed to attend that aforementioned meeting is an abridgement of the right to freedom of the press. Donald Trump and his mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders have stomped on our right to know what our government is doing. We cannot … we simply cannot ignore this!
This is a clear-cut case of retribution and revenge taken on reporters for asking legitimate questions of the ‘man’ who is tasked with leading the nation. Asking those questions was not harassment, but rather an attempt to get answers that We the People need, want and deserve. Throughout history, the only presidents who have attempted to curtail the right of a free press have been those who had something to hide, such as Richard Nixon who, in 1971 attempted to prevent the New York Times and Washington Post from publishing materials belonging to a classified Defense Department study regarding the history of United States activities in Vietnam. The Supreme Court, by the way, ruled against the government and in favour of the free press in that case of New York Times v. United States.
To wrap it up, I direct your attention to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index. A brief excerpt …
“More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion. The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters “enemies of the people,” the term once used by Joseph Stalin.”
Need I say more?