The legacy that Donald Trump has said he wants to follow him when his presidency is over is that he exposed the “massive dishonesty in the Fake News.” He’s as likely to be remembered for that farcical delusion as for being the first man to walk on the moon. But history will undoubtedly record him as one of the most antagonistic presidents toward the Constitution’s protection of a free press.
As if to secure that title for posterity, Trump tweeted on Saturday morning what amounts to threat aimed at a news enterprise that he has long despised – The Washington Post. Trump’s festering hatred for the Post stems from his paranoid aversion to any media that has the audacity to tell the truth about him because he knows what that will lead to. He said that…
The Washington Post’s @PhilipRucker (Mr. Off the Record) & @AshleyRParker, two nasty lightweight reporters, shouldn’t even be allowed on the grounds of the White House because their reporting is so DISGUSTING & FAKE. Also, add the appointment of MANY Federal Judges this Summer! https://t.co/7d33tzKxXq
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2019
In that missive Trump achieved an impressively manic Level Four Fury by packing the adjectives “nasty, lightweight, disgusting,” and “fake,” all into one tweet. But worst of all, he proposed that the Post reporters be banned from White House grounds simply for doing their job. That’s typical of Trump’s raging authoritarian tendencies, wherein he believes that he has the right to pick and choose who is allowed to be a journalist.
He’s tried this twice before in recent weeks when he attempted to revoke the White House credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta and Playboy columnist Brian Karem. In both cases, Trump lost in court and the journalists’ credentials were restored. This obviously gnaws at Trump who has openly yearned for the sort of tyrannical control of the press that his pal Vladimir Putin enjoys.
What Trump was reacting to was a Washington Post article by Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker that accurately described Trump’s wasted summer of embarrassment and failure. The headline read “Trump’s lost summer: Aides claim victory, but others see incompetence and intolerance.” The article was well-sourced throughout and painted a clear picture of…
“…what some Trump advisers and allies characterize as a lost summer defined by self-inflicted controversies and squandered opportunities. […] The two months between Independence Day and Labor Day offered a fresh and vivid portrait of the president as seen by Trump’s critics — incompetent, indecisive, intolerant and ineffective.”
Trump included in his tweet a link to an op-ed by his press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, in the wingnut Washington Examiner. She tried to counter the Post’s article with examples of positive news stories about Trump that she said the Post ignored. The only problem with that was that the Post actually did cover those stories at the time. It’s astonishing that an alleged “press secretary” could write such a poorly researched op-ed, or that anyone would publish it. As for the Post, their executive editor, Marty Baron, defended his reporters and blasted Trump saying that:
“The president’s statement fits into a pattern of seeking to denigrate and intimidate the press. It’s unwarranted and dangerous, and it represents a threat to a free press in this country.”
That’s the Trump Media Doctrine in a nutshell. His paranoia and fragile ego drive him to attack the press with unsubstantiated charges of fakery and the infamous Stalinist rhetoric that “the media is the enemy of the people.” His hostility toward unfettered journalism even extends to friendly media like Fox News who Trump recently lambasted as “not working for us anymore,” and ordered his cult followers to “start looking for a new news outlet.” And on Friday he summoned Fox’s White House correspondent, John Roberts, to the Oval Office for an official spanking because he wasn’t worshipful enough.
So there is no one in the media who is safe. Trump will viciously assault his critics. And he will callously abandon his friends. He demands unwavering loyalty and the pure exaltation of Dear Leader. In order to avoid his wrath you must hate those whom he hates. And you must defend him at all times, no matter how foolish or contrary to American principles. And unfortunately, there are those in both the right-wing media and the Republican Nationalist Party who are all too willing to comply with those political terms of enslavement.