The New York Times has been around for 167 years and reported on 33 presidential administrations. In that time, they’ve dealt with presidents who were less than thrilled about their coverage, for reasons that were usually plain, but the Times was never accused of committing treason — until a few days ago, when Trump did that very thing on Twitter.
…..ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019
A.G. Sulzberger is the publisher of the New York Times. He responded to Trump’s childish prattling with an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, explaining to a clueless Trump the damage he’s doing:
There is no more serious charge [than treason] a commander in chief can make against an independent news organization. Which presents a troubling question: What would it look like for Mr. Trump to escalate his attacks on the press further? Having already reached for the most incendiary language available, what is left but putting his threats into action?
There’s evidence that’s already happening. The administration has waged an aggressive legal campaign against journalists. Leak investigations, which were already on the rise under President Obama, have surged. Government regulatory powers have been misused to retaliate against news organizations, such as the attempt to block AT&T from acquiring CNN’s parent company, Time Warner. Most recently, the precedent-shattering use of the Espionage Act against Julian Assange for publishing classified information has raised fears that the Justice Department seeks not merely to punish illegal hacking but effectively to criminalize standard reporting practices.
Meanwhile, the president’s rhetorical attacks continue to foster a climate in which trust in journalists is eroding and violence against them is growing. More than a quarter of Americans—and a plurality of Republicans—now agree that “the news media is the enemy of the American people” and “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” A world-wide surge of attacks has made this the most dangerous year for journalists on record. This is particularly true in parts of the world where pursuing the truth already carries great risks, as news reporters and editors experience rising levels of censorship, harassment, imprisonment and murder. […]
America’s Founders believed that a free press was essential to democracy, and the American experience has proved them right. Journalism guards freedoms, binds together communities, ferrets out corruption and injustice, and ensures the flow of information that powers everything from elections to the economy. Freedom of the press has been fiercely defended by nearly all American presidents regardless of politics or party affiliation, and regardless of their own complaints about coverage.
The irony here is that if anybody in this country has committed “virtual treason” it is Donald Trump, with his Russian pals infiltrating social media during the 2016 campaign — and the tweet above can be construed as Trump waging cyber war on the New York Times.
Good for Sulzberger for calling Trump out — for all the good that it will do. All Trump knows is that “good” media confirm his biases all the time and all the others are bad. That is as complex as the analysis gets in Trump world. The presidency passed from a constitutional scholar to a Twitter fan boy in just one election. I wonder if we’ll ever find out way back?