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Commentary & Opinion

Fred Kowal: President Trump And The Press

It’s one thing when a candidate attacks the media on the campaign trail, or a politician isn’t pleased by—or is critical of—a news story or report.

But it’s quite another thing when a sitting president constantly bashes the free press, calling reporters “the enemy of the people” and “fake media,” and branding news reports he doesn’t like “fake news.”

That’s Donald Trump. He’s declared war on the free press.

Six months into his tumultuous term, Trump continues to batter the mainstream media, almost always in response to a TV report or newspaper article that he views as unfavorable.

From July 1 through July 24, Trump attacked the free press 30 times on Twitter, using terms like “fake media,” “fraud media,” “fake news,” “and dishonest media.”  In late June, Trump ripped into MSNBC “Morning Joe” hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough via Twitter after Brzezinski commented that Trump’s Twitter habits “were not normal behavior.”

And Trump still refuses to admit there was Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, despite irrefutable U.S. intelligence to the contrary. Several times he’s likened it to a media witch hunt and a hoax, and he’s lashed out at the media time and time again.

Since Trump can’t control the media, I believe he’s doing everything he can to undermine the credibility of the free press to ensure that his version of the facts become fact. By demonizing the media, Trump is also able to attack his true opponent—the unfettered, unfiltered truth.

That’s why news reports—and the media outlets reporting them—that question and fact-check Trump’s motives, or advance stories viewed negatively by the president are quickly cast as fake news.

The New York Times, which Trump has slammed numerous times as “failing” and fake media, did what news outlets are supposed to do. It printed the truth.

On June 23, the paper used a full page to print nearly every “outright lie” Trump told from Inauguration Day through June 21. Trump said or tweeted something untrue every day in his first 40 days as president. Between then and June 21, the president uttered or tweeted an untruth on 74 of 113 days.

Enough is enough.

The fact is, a free press is essential to democracy. The media must be able to question the actions and motives of those elected to serve. As President Barack Obama said, “We have to uphold a free press and freedom of speech because, in the end, lies and misinformation are no match for the truth.”

A responsible society must be an informed society.  The role of the free press should always be that of a watchdog, questioning leaders and protecting the rights of citizens against the abuses by government and others.  

I’ve lived in Schoharie County for over 30 years. As a New Yorker—indeed, as an American—I don’t need someone to tell me what to believe, who to trust, or how to interpret the information I receive.

To President Trump I say this: I will decide what I read and what information I pay attention to. And to those in Congress who support Trump and his tactics, shame on you.

It was Thomas Jefferson who said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

At this volatile time, we in New York and in America must stand and defend all our freedoms, especially freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Our democracy depends on it. 

Dr. Fred Kowal is President of the 35,000 member United University Professions, which represents faculty on 29 New York State Campuses. UUP is an affiliate of NYSUT, The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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