Top Journalists Warn That Trump Is A ‘Clear And Present Danger’ To The First Amendment

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been rife with insults and attacks. His targets have included women, minorities, veterans, and anyone who dared to criticize him. However, no object of his scorn has been been more aggressively attacked than the media. Trump calls them dummies, losers, scum, and sleazy, and “jokes” about killing them. He revokes the press credentials of people or organizations he doesn’t like, including the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Fusion, Univision, and more. For a couple of hours he even boycotted Fox News.

Donald Trump

The overt hostility that Trump displays for the Fourth Estate is unprecedented for someone seeking the presidency. And his tendencies toward authoritarian suppression of free speech hasn’t escaped the press he so fervently despises. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now recently interviewed two Pulitzer Prize winning journalists on this subject (video below). Their anxieties at the thought of a President Trump are worthy of the attention of all Americans.

David Barstow of The New York Times, and David Cay Johnston of The Daily Beast, and author of the book “The Making of Donald Trump,” had much to say about Trump’s aversion to freedom of the press. Here are a few excerpts:

Barstow: The letter that [Trump’s lawyers] sent to us before we published took the position that unless we had the specific blessing and permission of Donald Trump to write a story about his tax returns, we would be in violation of the law.

That, of course, is false. A journalist doesn’t require the permission (much less the blessing) of a public figure to publish a story.

Johnston: [Trump] called me at home on April 27th to threaten to sue me. Some of the freelance articles that I have written were lawyered way beyond all reason, out of fear. And I’ve had two news organizations say, “We can’t report that, because we’re afraid that Donald Trump will sue us.”

This is an example of the sort of intimidation that often causes editors to self-censor their reporting.

Johnston: If he gets elected, he will have the power of federal law enforcement. I’m not worried if he threatens to sue me, as he has, if he loses. But if he wins, he could put you and I and [New York Times editor] Dean Baquet on no-fly lists. And the courts have been very reluctant to let people off those, if the government claims national security. He can do all sorts of things to mess up your life. And he’s made it clear he will do this. He talks as if the president is a dictator with unlimited power, who doesn’t need to pay attention to Congress or to the courts. […] That’s what these threats of litigation should really concern the voters about.

Trump and his legal henchmen have already made the sort of threats described above. In one particularly chilling incident his lawyer, Michael Cohen, warned a reporter not to publish a story on Trump or he was “going to mess your life up.” Continuing the tirade he ranted “I’m warning you. Tread very f*cking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f*cking disgusting. You understand me?”

Barstow: I think that anyone who cares about an independent free press should be paying closer attention to these kinds of threats, simply because they’re not normal.

Ya think? And these final two statements summarize the gravity of the threat that Trump poses, as envisioned by two esteemed and courageous reporters:

Barstow: I think that Mr. Trump, especially given the positions he’s staked out over the course of this campaign and his whole lifetime, would represent a really significant threat to the tradition of an independent free press in the United States.

Johnston: I think Donald Trump represents a clear and present danger to the liberties of the people, to the idea of the First Amendment. By his own words, he’s made it very clear, if he were president, he would do everything he could to suppress any speech that he doesn’t agree with or he sees as damaging to what he’s doing.

Trump has already had a noticeable effect on the public’s opinion of the media. A recent poll by Gallup shows that trust in the media has sunk to historic lows. According to Gallup this was largely driven by “Trump’s sharp criticisms of the press.” This despite the fact that Trump has had uncommonly positive coverage throughout the campaign. A study from Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media provided the confirming data.

Nevertheless, Trump responds to coverage that is less than adoring by reverting to the tactics of a wannabe dictator. He even promised that, as president, he would “open up our libel laws” governing the media so that he “can sue them and win lots of money.”

Now that may not be the sort of project on which a president ought to be spending his precious time. However, it’s precisely what one would expect from Donald Trump. It combines his compulsion for vengeance against his perceived enemies with an opportunity to further enrich himself. It’s a win/win for Trump, but a lose/lose for America.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

UPDATE: The Committee to Protect Journalists issued an “unprecedented” statement declaring Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history.”

Emmy News: Nominations – PBS 41 / Fox News 0

The Emmy nominations for News and Documentaries were released today by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. PBS scored the lion’s share with 41 nominations, including two more for Bill Moyers, who has won more than 30 Emmys already. CBS was a distant second with 23. One notable name missing from the list of honorees is the #1 cable news network in the country, Fox News. There are two principle reasons for the absence of Fox News.

First, Fox claims to have declined to participate because they believe that the Emmys are biased against them. That’s a rather piddling complaint that, more than anything, exposes their self-centered pettiness with an attitude that recalls a school child taking the ball and going home.

The more likely reason for their Emmy snub is that Fox is not actually a news network and, knowing this, they are acknowledging that nominations will not be forthcoming. I suspect that they are preparing to submit their programming for Emmys in the drama and, perhaps, comedy categories, where they have a better chance of being recognized. Of course then their other fictional fare, like “24” and “The Simpsons” will have to compete against the far more flagrant fiction produced by Fox News. Whatever will they do?

Well, we can expect Bill O’Reilly to issue a blistering condemnation of the Academy shortly. He did the same thing when the Peabodys snubbed him (again), despite honoring Moyers and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on multiple occasions. What does it say when a comedy network’s fake news programs receive more plaudits from their journalism “peers” than a network that pretends to be a bona fide news enterprise? And furthermore, what does it say about the viewers of a so-called news network that is held in such ill repute by other news professionals?

Amongst the Emmy hopefuls is David Barstow, the New York Times reporter who wrote Message Machine. This article, which has already won a Pulitzer Prize and the New York Press Club’s Golden Keyboard, described how the Pentagon in the Bush administration conspired to train and deploy former military personnel to spread propaganda in support of the war in Iraq. And if that weren’t bad enough, the program also permitted them to use their high profile media platform to enrich themselves and the defense contractors to whom they were attached.

Despite the acclaim the article has received, Barstow has still yet to be invited to tell this important story in any conventional media venue. The only in-depth broadcast interview was conducted by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. This may be the most egregious example of a heralded, Pulitzer caliber investigation being so brazenly suppressed. The obvious explanation is that the media organizations that have actively blackballed the story are also the subjects of it. They are the news enterprises employing the compromised Pentagon Pundits, and they have a vested interest in preventing the truth from getting out.

Now that the report has been awarded another honor, will Barstow’s phone start to ring? Will the media pay attention to what may be the worst instance of propaganda executed by the U.S. government against its own people? At the very least, MSNBC has a special obligation to pursue this story. They have a contractual relationship with the New York Times, and their own John Harwood is a frequent guest on both MSNBC and CNBC. Why on earth wouldn’t the Times be lobbying to promote a story by their own Pulitzer award winning reporter who has now been nominated for an Emmy?

Contact MSNBC and tell them to book David Barstow:
MSNBC General
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
Ed Schultz
David Shuster
Chris Matthews

Why We Need A Blogosphere

Television news was a great idea. Just think of it: A box that sits in your living room and brings you important information from around the block or around the world. Sounds too good to be true. And apparently it is.

Whatever value television adds to the distribution of news must be weighed against the harm it produces through its incorporation of bias, selective editing, and the pursuit of its own self interest.

SpinComFor example, last year David Barstow of the New York Times wrote a meticulously well researched and documented story that should have sparked a national uproar. The story described how the Pentagon in the Bush administration conspired to train and deploy former military personnel to spread propaganda in support of the war in Iraq. And if that weren’t bad enough, the program also permitted them to use their high profile media platform to enrich themselves and the defense contractors to whom they were attached.

Barstow’s story was received with what some call a “deafening silence,” particularly from the TV news community. Then, last week, Barstow won a Pulitzer Prize for the story. The silence built into a crushing whisper. Even progressive media icons like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow only glanced over this story. Obviously there are strong arm tactics being employed to prevent the public from learning that our government purposefully and unlawfully engaged in propaganda directed squarely at us. The TV news networks are simply covering their own asses since it was primarily their facilities that hosted the phony military analysts.

Yesterday, Barstow was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now to discuss the announcement that the Pentagon inspector general’s office had withdrawn its own report that had previously exoneraed the program. In the interview Goodman asked Barstow to comment on the lack of reporting on his story. Barstow said…

“You know, to be honest with you, I haven’t received many invitations-in fact, any invitations-to appear on any of the main network or cable programs. I can’t say I’m hugely shocked by that.”

“On the other hand, while there’s been kind of deafening silence, as you put it, on the network side of this, the stories have had-sparked an enormous debate in the blogosphere. And to this day, I continue to get regular phone calls from not just in this country but around the world, where other democracies are confronting similar kinds of issues about the control of their media and the influence of their media by the government.”

“So it’s been an interesting experience to see the sort of two reactions, one being silence from the networks and the cable programs, and the other being this really lively debate in the blogosphere. “

When an important and newsworthy story that exposes government wrongdoing at the highest levels – a story that appears on the front page of the New York Times and wins a Pulitzer Prize – cannot get the attention of television news outlets, there is something seriously wrong with that medium. When a respected journalist has to console himself with having his story get traction only on the Internet, it tells us a great deal about how corrupt the corporate-run news divisions of America have become.

Barstow should not have to be satisfied with generating lively debate in the blogosphere. The revelations in his article illustrate a betrayal of trust on the part of our government. The public deserves and needs to know the facts about this affair. But the failure of the television news enterprises to responsibly carry out their duties is also a betrayal of trust. How are we supposed to rely on their journalistic integrity if they refuse to exhibit any?

I don’t expect Sean Hannity to be issuing an invitation to Barstow anytime soon. Fox News has always been as deeply integrated into the Bush administration’s propaganda machine as any of these Pentagon Pundits. But if Olbermann, Maddow, Ed Schultz, or even Chris Matthews don’t extend an invitation to Barstow, then we need to let them know that they are failing to serve the public and they are buckling under to a media conspiracy to keep the people ignorant.

If it embarrasses NBC/MSNBC to admit that they participated in this charade, they need to suck it up, take responsibility, and ask for forgiveness. Permitting these phony analysts on their air was bad enough. They should not compound the offense by attempting to cover it up.

Barstow is right about the blogosphere. But we need to shape it into something more than a forum for debate. We need to use it to make the old media behave responsibly; to hold their feet to the fire. And this is as good an issue as any with which to assert that principle.

Contact MSNBC
MSNBC General
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
Ed Schultz
David Shuster
Chris Matthews