By Bob Shanahan
America’s mainstream media continues to blow President Trump’s words and threats out of proportion while giving the Obama administration a pass for its actions against press freedom and forgetting Bush’s jailing of a New York Times reporter. Trump’s tweets putting an untrustworthy media in its place are far from “unprecedented.”
I’m not pretending Trump is a saint at all. He is far from perfect. Though he has certainly said some alarming things, he has not taken any significant action against the media or attacked the First Amendment in any way.
Sure, Trump suggested journalists be sent to jail, as we learned from Thursday’s release of the Comey memos from February 2017. But he has not mired a reporter in a seven year-long lawsuit or jailed a reporter for failing to disclose a source, as both the Obama and Bush administrations have done.
Suggesting reporters be jailed and possibly raped is far from a laughing matter, but let’s be honest, there’s no way Trump would do anything remotely close to this. He hasn’t yet, despite rampant misinformation, fake news, and hit pieces on him from publications such as Politico, CNN, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.
Jon Queally of Anti-Media recognizes Trump’s position against the combative mainstream media. But he points out we should not “forget the ‘authoritarian’ tendencies and troubling legacy that were part of Comey’s career at the bureau.” The former FBI director is far from a moral man “above it all.” In fact, Trump’s internal Justice Department watchdog is today probing Comey over his memos revealing classified information.
“Comey may be a demonstration of how Trump obstructed justice, and his testimony deserves close consideration,” wrote columnist Ryan Cooper recently in The Week. “But he is no martyr for democracy, and neither is he a moral exemplar in general.” In fact, Comey pretends to be apolitical but referenced the polls and the feeling that Hillary Clinton would likely be president multiple times in recent revelations.
Cooper goes on to mention Comey’s many misdeeds, “He spent years trying to force Apple to undermine its security by putting in an backdoor for authorities, and worked hard to outlaw end-to-end encryption altogether. He defended the arrest and due process-free detention of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil for well over three years. He signed off on the illegal Bush torture program, despite his own doubts.” Nevertheless, Comey is hailed as an arbiter of truth during his recent book tour by the Left who will highlight anything remotely damaging to the president, regardless of what Comey has done in the past. Mr. Comey is far from an ethical leader and has proven himself quite the politically-motivated individual hell-bent on keeping himself in the spotlight.
But let’s not get sidetracked here. Trump’s “war on the press” is nothing compared to what President Obama or President Bush actually did. In fact, Trump gives far more access to the media than Obama ever did!
David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun, far from a Trump fan, pleads for some sanity from the media because of its overwrought coverage of the current president. Though this enlightening article will likely fall on deaf ears, it is worth highlighting here.
Zurawik is concerned over the media’s coverage of Trump, maintaining its position that he is the most dangerous president ever and nothing good can ever come of it. Trump is being treated unfairly throughout the mainstream media as they continue to fall ill to Trump Derangement Syndrome. The media has lost massive amounts of credibility in recent years, falling even further during the time of Trump. An April 2018 Monmouth University poll revealed that 3 in 4 Americans believe that mainstream news outlets report “fake news.”
Finally, the rest of the country is catching on!
The media is butthurt because Trump has bypassed such relics as ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, WaPo, NYT, and others since his monumental announcement in June 2015 that he was running for president. He has continuously reached American voters through Twitter and Facebook on his path to the presidency and throughout his time in the White House, discarding the formerly respected media outlets and kicking them in the teeth as he does it.
Sure, Trump excluded the New York Times, CNN, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, and Buzzfeed early on his presidency from one press conference during the spicy Sean Spicer days. But this was nothing compared to what President Obama’s administration perpetrated during his onslaught of Fox News and a free press.
“In fairness to Trump,” Zurawik writes, “his administration has not escalated the conflict with the press to a new level. It has not yet come close to doing what President Obama’s administration did in making the act of reporting itself criminal behavior in a case that started in 2009 under the Espionage Act of 1917.” This much is clear to anyone who pays attention to the facts rather than Trump’s recent rhetoric.
James Rosen, Washington correspondent for Fox News, published information he received from a State Department source on North Korea to the dismay of the “hope and change” president. Obama’s Justice Department, headed by the crookedly political Eric Holder at the time, obtained a subpoena to get into Rosen’s phone and computer. Justice portrayed Rosen as “an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator,” going even one step further to describe him as a “flight risk,” something the government had never done before with a reporter. This, my friends, was unprecedented.
But did you hear the media meltdown over any of this (besides Fox)? Sure didn’t. That’s because the lefty mainstream media view Fox News as an arm of the Republican Party and not a real news site and of course, the charismatically charming Obama can do no harm.
Obama’s all-out assault on Fox News would not stop there though.
The 44th president pressed on and excluded Fox News from a round of interviews in 2009 with then Treasury Department official Kenneth Feinberg, who was responsible for deciding compensation for executives of companies bailed out during the start of the recession. Emails obtained by Judicial Watch displayed emails from Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest who wrote to a Treasury Department spokesperson: “We’ve demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews…”
Earnest was not alone in doing Obama’s bidding on delegitimizing Fox News, the number one cable news channel for 16 straight years. In October 2009, Stephanie Cutter went on CNN to call Fox a “wing of the Republican Party,” saying the White House was going to not treat them as a legitimate “news network.” Administration heavyweights David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel reinforced this message on other cable and network talk shows in subsequent days, Zurawik mentions.
Zurawik stood alone at the time as “the only mainstream media critic to initially stand with Fox on the principle that the Executive Branch does not get to unilaterally decide what constitutes a real news network.” He pleads for more objectivity from the relentlessly anti-Trump mainstream media, writing, “So, please, don’t tell me about how unprecedented Trump’s actions against the press are.”
Obama’s Justice Department spent an incredible seven years in court trying to force Rosen to hand over his sources during its criminal investigation, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court. “Seven years with the threat of jail hanging over your head seems a lot worse than being excluded from an informal briefing with the press secretary on a Friday afternoon,” Zurawik writes.”
Pulitzer Prize winning-Rosen makes the case himself in his December 2016 opinion piece in the New York Times, titled, “If Donald Trump targets journalists, thank Obama.” A riveting read from a reporter who felt the full brunt of the federal government bearing down on him while he simply did his job.
George W. Bush also took action against the free press.
Let’s not forget that Bush’s Justice Department decided to put Judith Miller, then a New York Times reporter, in jail for three months after refusing to testify about her sources in a leak on the outing of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent.
Zurawik begs for more honest and even-handed reporting on the Trump presidency: “In the face of all the big-scare columns being written about how Trump is Hitler, this column is a modest one asking only for balance, accuracy and honesty in covering this highly unconventional and controversial president.”
Let’s remember our history! Trump’s words and actions are far from unprecedented. In fact, he is quite tame in his handling of the press compared to our last two presidents or Nixon or Johnson for that matter.
“But let’s be careful when invoking the historical record in trying to try to make a ‘worst ever’ case against Trump. Let’s cover him the old fashioned way. Let’s try to get the facts right and then stick to them,” Zurawik concludes.
Things that are *not* press freedom attacks:
— Trump tweeting juvenile insults about TV stars.
Things that *are* press freedom attacks:
— Obama & Trump DOJ prosecuting sources under Espionage Act
— DNC suing WikiLeaks for *publishing* docs:t.co/t5HonFNJ0j
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 21, 2018
The Democratic Party, for all its claimed moral superiority and dedication to a free press, actually poses the biggest threat to press freedom, according to Glenn Greenwald’s Intercept.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) filed a lawsuit Friday afternoon against the Russian Government, the Trump campaign, and other individuals claiming they initiated a plot to hack the DNC’s email servers and disseminate the contents as part of the 2016 election. The DNC also sued WikiLeaks for its role in publishing hacked materials revealing Clinton’s collusion with the DNC to destroy a man of the people, Bernie Sanders.
This suit poses a great threat to press freedom. The claim that WikiLeaks is liable for damages it caused by releasing communications it obtained would set a dangerous precedent for the media moving forward. Media outlets regularly report on content from stolen materials. In October 2016, someone sent a copy of Trump’s 1995 tax returns to the New York Times, “which published parts of it even though it is illegal to disclose someone’s tax returns without the taxpayer’s permission; in March, 2017, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow did the same thing with Trump’s 2005 tax returns,” Greenwald points out.
Throughout our history, game-changing journalism from the mainstream media have held our elected officials accountable when no one else would. For example, both the New York Times and Washington Post put out thousands of pages from the top secret Pentagon Papers without permission from the Pentagon.
Donald Trump’s combative tweets against a slanted mainstream media are not a true threat to press freedom as has been constantly claimed by his critics. The DNC’s lawsuit, however, “is an actual, grave threat to those press freedoms,” Greenwald submits.
It is not up to our government to decide who the “real journalists” are as the Obama administration attempted with with Fox News. Freedom of the press protects anyone wanting to publish information that is pertinent to the public’s knowledge of matters of national interest.
“No media outlet can function, indeed journalism cannot function, if it becomes illegal to publish secret materials taken by a source without authorization or even illegally. The Obama DOJ – which was not exactly a bastion of press freedom protection … wisely recognized this fact, when it decided that it could not prosecute WikiLeaks for publishing stolen materials without severely endangering press freedoms,” Greenwald concludes.
Today, the DNC is attempting to shatter press freedom in the U.S. Its decision to attack WikiLeaks for publishing hacked documents is far more alarming than any of Trump’s tweets insulting “sleepy-eyes” Chuck Todd or other fake news media talking heads. And its attempt to give the laughable Russian collusion narrative reveals a party still in denial about its 2016 defeat that is just plain sad.
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