Hundreds of newspaper editorials respond to the American president's aggression toward the news media.
Last Thursday, Aug. 16, hundreds of American newspapers stood up to Trump's attacks. Once again, via tweets, the U.S. president targeted the news media and other communication outlets. Each organization, in response to The Boston Globe’s call, published editorials labeling the president’s attacks as an attempt to silence the press. Among several publications, there were names like The New York Times and The Washington Post.*
Indeed, Trump reacts with insults and unprecedented aggression to every scathing criticism journalists have about his administration. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Russian spies and the president’s inner circle during the 2016 election provides us with the most common example of such attacks. The vicious tone of the criticism becomes more intense as Mueller’s inquiry unfolds.
Trump, on the other hand, almost never bases his attacks on the media on the facts. The president resorts to false figures of speech, sophistry and half-truths to attack his critics and, in general, portrays himself as the victim of a conspiracy which not only leaves him at the whim of “hidden forces,” but is also broadcast by news outlets, mere pawns used to spread “fake news.”
The situation is so severe that his own advisers are afraid when the president acts in such an untimely manner and, in his own words, fires at will. The biggest concern is that, during these outbursts, Trump might commit perjury — a very serious offense in the U.S. — or reveal new contradictions between what he says and what his defense lawyers are saying in advance of Mueller’s inquiry.
As expected, the White House responded to the editorials with a fresh wave of the president’s attacks. On that same day, Trump tweeted that the “fake news media” are the “opposition party.” The president also labeled the news outlets as “the enemy of the American people” and reaffirmed that most of the press coverage is “fake news.”
The New York Times called attention to the pressure and intimidation that has been pouring out of the Oval Office. This action plan ranges from Trump revoking former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance following Brennan’s blunt criticism of the president, to the increase in taxes and tariffs for companies deemed “harmful” to the White House. These attacks on the news media are definitely part of the plan, but if we take into consideration the fact that the media play a relevant role as a democratic institution, the effects could be catastrophic.
*Editor’s note: More than 300 U.S. newspapers published editorials in response to Trump’s attacks on the press.