In August 1971, attorney for President Richard Nixon, John Dean, released an internal memorandum about Nixon’s enemies list and how it would be used to take down “opponents” to his presidency heading into the 1972 election.
The list, which was part of a campaign officially known as the “Opponents List and Political Enemies Project” and became public knowledge during hearings with the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973, had a very specific purpose according to Dean’s memorandum:
“This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in the opposition to our administration. Stated a bit more bluntly — how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”
Nixon’s enemies list included members of the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, along with state-level and other politicians. It also included various political organizations, labor union and business leaders, and celebrities. However, the largest group on Nixon’s hit list was members of the news media.
Nixon was notorious for his hatred of the press. In fact, it was Nixon who first labeled members of the press as “the media” because he felt it made the Fourth Estate sound more ominous, and because he wanted to remove the word “press” from the conversation because it is specifically mentioned in the Constitution.
Using his enemies list, Nixon launched a war against the press. And even though there have been many presidents since who have had their issues with the news media, there has been perhaps no one as filled with hatred and vitriol toward them than Donald Trump.
Unlike Nixon, however, Trump has has made no secret of his abhorrence concerning the First Amendment and freedom of the press, nor his reasons for wanting to shut them down.
Early in his 2016 campaign, Trump promised to “open our libel laws” so when the press writes “purposely negative and horrible and false articles” about him, he can “sue them and win lots of money.”
“One of the things I’m going to do, and this is going to make it tougher for me…but one of the things I’m going to do if I win…is 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.
“We’re going to open up those libel laws. So that when the New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”
In June 2016, Trump revoked the press credentials of the Washington Post for their “incredibly inaccurate coverage” of his campaign, and he added them to a media enemies list that also included at the time: Univision, Buzz Feed, Politico, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and The Des Moines Register. Trump’s list became known as “the blacklist” by members of the press.
In a CNN interview held shortly after these events, Trump assured America that he wouldn’t deny media credentials after becoming president, saying:
“In my (current) case, I’m a person running for office. I rent these large arenas … so I have an option” [to deny press access for journalists covering the campaign.]
“When I’m representing the United States, I wouldn’t do that. But I would let people know if somebody’s untruthful.”
Of course, Trump lied, as CNN can attest. In fact, Trump argued in court after CNN filed a lawsuit against him that he was able to pick and choose which news media outlets could have access to the White House.
Immediately after becoming president, Trump took his war against the press to Nixonian levels with his “Fake News” spiel, declaring the news media as “the enemy of the American people.”
Here's the tweet Trump deleted—he's seriously calling the media "the enemy of the American people" pic.twitter.com/TxhnjuNL7q
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 17, 2017
Lately, Trump’s enemies list has been in the news again, and in a report by TheHill.com, we see how he has taken his war against the press to levels Nixon never dreamed of achieving.
The White House said Thursday it is compiling a “dossier” detailing what allies to the president say are inaccurate claims made by Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold and others in their coverage of the Trump Organization and its business relationships with various GOP-aligned organizations.
White House spokesman Judd Deere revealed the dossier’s apparent development in a statement to Farenthold and other Washington Post reporters who requested comment from the Trump administration for a story published Thursday in the Post detailing the lucrative business arrangements between the federal government and Trump Organization since the president took office.
“The Washington Post is blatantly interfering with the business relationships of the Trump Organization, and it must stop,” Deere wrote a statement to the Post. “Please be advised that we are building up a very large ‘dossier’ on the many false David Fahrenthold and others stories as they are a disgrace to journalism and the American people.”
For the record, Farenthold has covered the Trump Organization for years and in 2017 won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2016 coverage of Trump’s fraudulent charity organization which was later shut down in 2018.
Trump’s enemies list for the media proves what we’ve know about him from the beginning: he is a threat to liberty and the Constitution. And despite this fact, he’s running as the “law and order” candidate. Kind of like Nixon when he said, “I’m not a crook.”
I’m not sure, but I think that if he was still alive, Nixon would be giving Trump his endorsement.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.