As he does on every day ending in “y,” Trump attacked the First Amendment and freedom of the press by declaring the New York Times “a true enemy of the people” one day after the paper published an extensive report detailing how he tried to influence investigations into his former lawyer Michael Cohen.
The New York Times reporting is false. They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2019
Whether Trump tried to influence the investigation or not remains to be seen, but his attack on the Times proves two things we’ve always known about the Narcissist-in-Chief: the news is only fake when it’s unfavorable, and Trump’s use of Joseph Goebbels-styled propaganda against the media is threatening our Constitutional rights.
Trump’s long record of hostility toward the press was evident even as a candidate; ironic considering the media was responsible for his 2016 victory after giving him an estimated $5 billion in free advertising. Still, it was as a candidate that he laid out his plan to expand libel laws to silence the media and “win lots of money.”
After being in office for one year, Trump renewed his threat in a staff meeting where he promised to silence the media by “fixing” libel laws, which had become a “sham and a disgrace.”
While so-called conservatives in Washington and the media support Trump’s war on the free press because it was launched by someone with an “R” after his name, those of us who don’t look at the world through Trump-colored glasses know that Trump will destroy the free press if his attacks gain momentum.
Based on a recent news story, momentum is gaining following a suggestion by Justice Clarence Thomas that the Supreme Court reconsider the New York Times v. Sullivan decision that established a higher barrier for public figures to claim libel.
According to Thomas, the landmark 1964 case was wrongly decided, even though the Court ruled unanimously that public officials had to prove the media acted “with actual malice” and had published information “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard” for the truth.
In addition, Justice Hugo Black wrote a concurring opinion joined by Justice William O. Douglas stating that “an unconditional right to say what one pleases about public affairs is what I consider to be the minimum guarantee of the First Amendment.”
The timing of Justice Thomas’s suggestion is suspect. It was only a few weeks ago that Trump met with a delegation led by Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Thomas, to discuss a variety of so-called conservative issues. Coincidence? It could be, but Mrs. Thomas is a known passenger on the Trump train. Even putting that aside, it’s troubling to see a “conservative” Justice entertaining the idea of suppressing the free press.
Trumpservatives will dismiss the Thomas situation and the threat Trump’s “Fake News” rhetoric poses to the First Amendment, but they do so at their own risk. While they may cheer about how the media deserves to be sued out of business, they should remember that’s a knife that cuts both ways.
Today, it’s the NY Times or some other outlet Trump hates, but tomorrow, it will be whatever outlet is hated by the new Democrat president who replaces him.
David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His politically incorrect and always “right” columns are also featured on NOQReport.com.
His daily radio commentary is distributed by the Salem Radio Network and is heard on stations across America.