Donald Trump’s disdain, mockery, and antagonism of the press, whose freedoms are enshrined in the Bill of Rights and whose presence has provided ballast to our democracy since its inception, raises very serious questions about his fitness for the presidency of the United States.
For a long while, these thoughts have been coursing through my veins with concern and disbelief, and yet my abiding loyalty to the notion of fair, accurate and unbiased journalism held me in check from saying it out loud – much as I suspect it has muzzled the true feelings of many of my colleagues. But we must remember that Donald Trump knows this and cynically plays the press corps’ deep desire for fairness to his undeserved benefit. The latest, barring the traveling press from covering an event and using them as ridicule in a speech, are but the most recent chapters in a novel full of outrageous acts. And this sentiment apparently extends to members of his own family as witnessed by his daughter Ivanka’s actions in an interview with Cosmo.
I am well aware that I will be met with bile and venom for saying this, called a communist, a liberal in bed with Hillary Clinton, a washed-up joke. To quote Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Let others attack my motives. My conscience is clean. This is not about partisan politics, about who is right on immigration or gun control. This is about the very machinery that has allowed our American experiment to persist and thrive, a machinery which is far more fragile than we would like to believe.
Trump’s relationship with the press is at the heart of so much that is troubling about his candidacy - the secrecy, the lack of transparency on something as normal as tax returns, the flaunting of the very rules by which we elect our leaders, the appeasement of hate groups. And his embrace of Roger Ailes and Breitbart, institutions who have polluted press freedoms, is a further dangerous sign of decay.
And yet when presented with this challenge, too much of the press has been cowed into inaction. This is a man who can be fact-checked into obscurity by any second grader with an Internet connection.
And yet when he issues a mealy-mouth non-apology about President Obama’s obvious pedigree as an American, here we are with too many in the press not acknowledging his years of lies (check your Twitter feeds about how the New York Times initially covered this event). All of this of course sets the stage for Trump to lie again about somehow birtherism being Clinton’s fault.
I fear that this mindset will infect the debates. Trump is already setting the stage for that. If you are moderating and are not going to fact check him, you might as well just roll campaign speeches live - far too many of which have been shown on television without being subjected to journalistic context. If these debates will be debates in name only, another opportunity for Trump to flout fairness by spewing his venom and bullshine, I say cancel them.
Enough is enough. It is a reality that every reporter must come to grips with. Trump is not a normal candidate. This is not a normal election. He will set a precedent that other demagogues will study and follow. Fear, combined with the lure of ratings, views, clicks and profits, have hypnotized too much of the press into inaction and false equivalency for far too long. I am optimistic the trance is being broken. Fear not the Internet trolls. Fear instead the judgement of history.
Very, very well put.
By the way if you are one of those who wants to dismiss Rather as a former journalist with a damaged reputation, you should take the time to watch the movie "Truth" and learn a little about the terrible injustice done to this man.
He is in fact a brave man and a national treasure and he should be treated as such.