The abhorrent tyrannical tendencies of Donald Trump continue to be revealed with each passing day. His admiration for brutal dictators like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong Un, has long been established in his own words. They are the models of unchecked power to which he aspires. And they are the political figures he most often refers to as his friends, even while he’s bitterly lambasting fellow Americans like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.
On Thursday morning it was reported that Trump has taken another step toward the authoritarian government he craves. And, not surprisingly, it comes in the form of an attack on the media that he despises and routinely refers to in Stalinist terms as “the enemy of the people.” CNN is reporting that Vice-President Mike Pence, who Trump appointed to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force, is prohibiting the health experts on the team from appearing on CNN:
“Vice President Mike Pence’s office has declined to allow the nation’s top health officials to appear on CNN in recent days and discuss the coronavirus pandemic killing thousands of Americans, in an attempt to pressure the network into carrying the White House’s lengthy daily briefings in full.”
This could not be a more blatant assault on the free press, as well as a flagrant breach of the free speech rights of the doctors and other task force members who have critical knowledge and advice about the deadly pandemic that is spreading throughout the nation and the world. Trump is deliberately depriving the American people of potentially life-saving information in order to extort CNN into complying with his self-serving demands.
UPDATE: While these health experts are forbidden to appear on CNN, they are all over Fox News.
What’s more, Trump is imposing the very same sort of quid pro quo that he used to attempt to strong-arm Ukraine into digging up dirt on Joe Biden. Trump is floating access to these health experts, but with a caveat: “I’d like you to do us a favor though.”
The “favor” that Trump is seeking this time is for CNN to submit to his demands to air all of his task force briefings live. That is a wholly improper ultimatum for a president to impose on news organization. But it’s even more ludicrous considering that Trump has transformed those briefings into thinly veiled campaign events to advance his 2020 reelection prospects. Since he can no longer hold the cult rallies that feed his voracious ego, he is hijacking these briefings and expecting the media to roll over and give him all the free ad time he wants.
The press has been struggling with the question of whether to carry the briefings live, or to delay them for a few minutes so that Trump’s avalanche of lies can be fact-checked. There is no reason to air Trump’s ego-fest when it is so devoid of newsworthy content. Both CNN and MSNBC have exercised some limited editorial discretion to avoid airing Trump’s dangerous disinformation and allowing him to engage in politics in the guise of virus updates. That’s something Fox News would never imagine doing. But Trump is singling out CNN, which he regards a his media nemesis, for this fascistic censorship. CNN reports that…
“Fauci, Birx, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Surgeon General Jerome Adams have all appeared on NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox during the last week, despite the fact that the broadcast networks have generally not covered the briefings that have included the vice president and health officials.”
The media must not give in to this presidential blackmail. They must continue to report honestly about Trump’s tragic failures in addressing this crisis. They must fearlessly expose his negligence, incompetence, and brazen self-interest. They must independently seek the judgment of experts like Dr. Fauci, in defiance of Trump’s orders. They should ask those experts if they agree with Trump’s gag order when they see them at the briefings.
Finally, the media must stick together. If Trump tries to silence any media organization, the others need to show their support by boycotting his briefings and other public events. That’s the only thing that will get through to the Narcissist-in-Chief. Any acquiescence to Trump’s bullying is a severe blow to the principles enshrined in the Constitution. And it’s as deadly to American democracy and freedom as the coronavirus is to it’s citizens.
UPDATE: After significant bad PR, the prohibition on CNN has been lifted.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.