No president in modern times has escaped the criticism of the press. It is a fact of life that if the press are doing their jobs, they will inevitably frustrate and even anger the president from time to time. Most presidents, however, respect the Fourth Estate, realize that what they are doing is precisely what they are supposed to do, and try to work with them. Such is not the case with Donald Trump.
He has denigrated the legitimate press since long before he won the election, and has taken his press-bashing to new highs since taking office nearly a year ago. But last week, he crossed yet another line of propriety. His plan is to have a “Fake News Awards” presentation.
“I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!” – 8:05 PM – Jan 2, 2018
Apparently something came up that delayed his plans, possibly his feud on Sunday with the Wall Street Journal …
“The Fake News Awards, those going to the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media, will be presented to the losers on Wednesday, January 17th, rather than this coming Monday. The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!” – 3:35 PM – 7 Jan 2018
Can you imagine President Obama, or even President Bush speaking in this manner? Now, obviously this is not only poor form and poor taste, but is so beneath the dignity of the Oval Office, the office of the president, that we must ask ourselves if his advisors were even consulted. Surely John Kelly could not have condoned this idiocy?
Even as far back as Thomas Jefferson, presidents have had complaints about the press. In fact, according to a February 17, 2017 Washington Post article …
“Thomas Jefferson was as irritated with newspaper coverage as any public figure of his era. For all the talk of media bias today, it can’t compare to the overt partisanship and personal attacks appearing in papers in our nation’s early years. But Jefferson also knew that our democracy could only flourish with a free press that would keep an eye on people in power and help protect our freedoms. He understood that press coverage comes and goes, but freedom of the press must endure.” – Ken Paulson, president of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center
Trump, on the other hand, has criticized the legitimate media since the day he threw his hat in the ring in June 2015, and I don’t think a single day has passed that we have not had to hear his cries of “fake news”, “lying press”, and worse. He even went so far as to label the press “the enemy of the American people”. He has threatened on more than one occasion to ‘strengthen’ libel laws to keep the press from insulting him. And this would all be a big joke, except …
Some people actually believe him. He cavorts freely with Fox News and Breitbart, both homes of the conspiracy theorists, while shouting loudly about the ‘failing’ New York Times, and the ‘Amazon/Washington Post’. In October, he called for the revocation of NBC’s broadcast license. He has trod that fine line of trampling the constitutional right to a free press. His minions have, more than once, criticized the press, not for getting facts wrong, for that is extremely rare, but for failing to agree with their boss.
The purpose of the press is to keep the public informed and hold those who serve in public office accountable for their actions, accountable to We The People. Their job is not to be ‘yes-men’, always agreeing with the president. In my opinion, they have treated him more kindly than I would have, or than I have, for that matter.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), is a non-profit organization that promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists around the globe. They have responded to Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’ with their own special awards …
From a January 8th Press Release:
CPJ recognizes global Press Oppressors amid Trump’s fake news awards
Acknowledging world leaders who attack and restrict press
New York, January 8, 2018–As U.S. President Donald Trump announces his “Fake Media” awards, the Committee to Protect Journalists names its global Press Oppressors–world leaders who use rhetoric, legal action, and censorship to try to silence their critics. The list features leaders from China, Egypt, Myanmar, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and the United States who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media at a time when a record number of journalists are being jailed for their work.
“It’s staggering to see the extent to which some world leaders are so fearful of their critics and the truth,” said CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch, from Washington, D.C. “At a time when the number of journalists in prison globally is at a record high the failure of President Donald Trump and other leaders to stand up for press freedom risks weakening democracy and human rights.”
The Global Press Oppressors list includes four categories as well as an award for the Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom:
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey
Runner-Up: President Donald Trump, United States
Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey
Runner-Up: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt
Tightest Grip on Media*
President Xi Jinping, China
Runner-Up: President Vladimir Putin, Russia
*This category excludes countries with no independent media, such as North Korea and Eritrea.
Biggest Backslider in Press Freedom
State Counselor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar
Runner-Up: President Andrzej Duda, Poland
Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom
President Donald Trump, United States
Note to Editors: Copies of the Global Press Oppressors can be viewed at https://cpj.org/blog/2018/01/press-oppressor-awards-trump-fake-news-fakies.php
Are Trump’s “Fake News Awards” legal? For him, sure, because he has immunity from executive branch ethical standards. His staff, however, are a different matter. According to a number of experts, including former Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub, and Norm Eisen, former special counsel for ethics for President Barack Obama, if White House staff members were involved, they would be in violation of the executive branch’s Standards of Ethical Conduct.
I do not imagine that there will be any charges levelled at staff members, and I expect Trump’s little ceremony will be a fiasco that will be applauded by his 37% followers. What I would liketo see happen, what I think absolutely should happen, but won’t, is for the press to boycott Trump’s little ceremony. Let Fox and Breitbard cover it, and the legitimate media put up a wall of silence. That would deprive Trump and his little game of any sense of legitimacy, and perhaps he would get the message that We The People are sick and damned tired of him playing elementary school-type games and would like to have an adult in the White House.
I know it won’t happen, for all the news outlets depend on revenue, and “if it bleeds, it leads”, so we will no doubt see this silliness ad nauseam on Wednesday and for the rest of the week. And yes, I will likely succumb and write another post about it also. But beware, my friends, for this is just one more step in Trump’s attempt to oppress our free press by convincing his followers that the mainstream media are ‘dishonest’ and ‘lying’, as he has been telling them all along. Remember … Democracy Dies in Darkness.