CNN’s Brian Stelter took to the written word on a rare occasion to defend mainstream media against President Trump’s attacks this morning and, let’s face it, for the entirety of his public life. He’s always had a love/hate relationship with the press, but as President the love-component has rarely been seen. Stelter did his best to make lucid points about his network and others who have met the President’s scorn over the last three years, but he missed an extremely important point.
As a defender of the 1st Amendment and a proponent of a free press, I have always been torn about the President’s remarks. When he seems to be calling for restrictions against the press, I balk. Any form of suppression of a free press is an attack on the Constitution, in which our founding fathers rightly reserved protections so truth can prevail over any forms of government corruption. But there’s an important flip side that Stelter completely missed. Here’s his article:
Mark Follman, national affairs editor for Mother Jones, said last week that “Trump’s incessant war on the American press has grown more extreme as his presidency has gone on.”
And he noted the potency: While the tactics “represent an inherently dangerous attack on a pillar of our constitutional democracy, Trump’s multiyear campaign against the press appears to have been no more successful a project than, say, Trump Tower Moscow.”
The president sometimes seizes on ethical lapses to bolster his case — a form of argument by anecdote that is certainly persuasive to his fans but isn’t factually sound.
Last week, for instance, Trump called out MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell for a reckless TV segment about his finances. O’Donnell cited a single unnamed source and didn’t go through the network’s proper vetting process — and he was widely criticized for the misstep. After a legal threat from one of Trump’s lawyers, O’Donnell apologized for making the claim and retracted it. The episode was embarrassing for MSNBC.
The free press has a responsibility to the truth. Perhaps calling it generally “fake news” is overkill, but the President, the GOP, and American conservatives have seen an unambiguous bias from the media since 2016 that is, as the President puts it, corrupt. For Stelter to pretend the media only reports the news and, “oops, sorry if all of it’s bad for the GOP,” is disingenuous. It’s a daily, even hourly onslaught of crooked reporting, skewed perspectives, and subtly editorialized “truth” that, if believed, would mean the United States should no longer exist. If things were as bad as most mainstream media outlets paint it, our nation would have collapsed dozens of times over the last three years.
But we’re still here. We’re still thriving. We’re doing better today than at any time during the last two presidencies, and one can argue it hasn’t been this good since the middle of the Reagan years.
The example Stelter used – Lawrence O’Donnell’s false report – is like using Caesar salad as proof that all Greek food is low-fat. O’Donnell’s report was a clear debacle on every level. Saying his retraction is an example of the press self-policing or correcting itself over threats is a one-off in a sea of terribly biased reporting. Stelter himself conveniently “misheard” when a guest compared President Trump’s death toll to Hitler’s, Stalin’s, and Mao’s.
No, sir, you did not mishear that. Your technical difficulties didn’t cut you off from your guest’s completely unhinged tirade. You heard it, and you decided not to correct him because what he said represented an extreme level of the basic narrative you are pushing.
I won’t even go into the two-year ordeal promoted giddily by mainstream media regarding the Russian collusion hoax. One could write books on how tilted and anti-journalistic the reporting was on anything that had to do with Robert Mueller. We know this by their sudden silence that came not after his report was released (at which point they ramped up their claims of the Trump campaign’s wrongdoing) but only after his testimony before Congress that revealed to them and the world how feeble the foundation of the investigation really was.
Was the press rebuked over the Russian-hoax reporting? Did they self-correct? No. They patted themselves on the back and even gave themselves awards over it.
Mainstream media feels justified in their reporting because they have an agenda. They desperately want President Trump out of office. It’s so blatant that rebuttals like Stelter’s ring hollow to anyone with an ounce of discernment.
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