Tag Archives: First Amendment

Memo to POTUS: Leave the NY Times alone

Donald Trump continues to demonstrate his breathtaking ignorance of what the U.S. Constitution guarantees in the treatment of media in this country, which is that government mustn’t interfere with the practice of a “free press.”

However, he’s at it again, saying that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions “should” investigate the New York Times over its decision to publish an anonymous op-ed essay from someone inside the Trump administration. The mystery writer has alleged that the president is out of control and that a “resistance movement” within the administration is pushing back against the president, seeking to curb his more, um, impulsive instincts.

Trump is enraged over the anonymity aspect. He is trying to find out who did it. Hmm, does the term “witch hunt” apply?

Moreover, he wants the Department of Justice to pursue the New York Times over what he calls a “national security” concern.

It’s a reach, Mr. President.

The First Amendment specifically and explicitly protects a “free press” from government interference, intimidation, bullying or coercion. It’s in there. Honest. I’ve read it. So have you.

Trump also has said he is considering some sort of punitive action against the Times. “I’m looking at that right now. It only happened yesterday,” he said.

C’mon, Mr. President! You can’t expect to succeed in bullying a major American newspaper into doing your bidding. I get that he’s angry that someone possibly within his inner circle has spilled the beans on the goings-on in the White House. I expect him to learn the identity of the whistleblower.

However, the notion of punishing the New York Times for giving someone — even someone close to the levers of power — a forum to express their grievance against the federal government goes way beyond what’s acceptable.

Read the Constitution, Mr. President. Start with the First Amendment. You’ll see what it says.

Op-ed writer has committed ‘treason’? Good grief!

Let me see if I have this right.

Someone within the Donald J. Trump administration writes a commentary, submits it to the New York Times, which the newspaper publishes anonymously. It speaks to chaos and panic within the White House and to an administration “resistance” movement to shield the nation from the president’s more impulsive instincts.

The president gets so angry he demands that the NYT release the writer’s name so that he or she can be turned over “to the government.”

For what? To be prosecuted for, um, an unspecified “crime”? The president is off his rocker. He’s gone ’round the bend. He’s off the rails.

The writer — whoever he or she is — has every right to speak his or her mind. The U.S. Constitution guarantees it. They committed not a single act of “treason,” which the president alluded to in a Twitter message.

Many of Trump’s senior advisers are running away from the op-ed, saying they didn’t write it. Not all of them have offered the denial.

What is so remarkable and, frankly, disgraceful is that Trump is categorizing this act as “treasonous.” One can question the ethics of publishing an anonymous essay; one also can question the courage of the author who refused to put a name on the submission. Those are legitimate debating points.

However, treason is way off the mark. It is beyond the pale. For the president to imply a threat that the op-ed author should be arrested and detained speaking his or her mind reveals — yet again — total ignorance of what is contained in the U.S. Constitution.

Trump wants to ban dissent? Really?

I have a three-letter response to what I understand Donald J. Trump said in the White House today.

Wow!

Trump told the Daily Caller — and I hope you’re sitting down when you read this — according to The Washington Post: “I don’t know why they don’t take care of a situation like that,” Trump said. “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don’t even know what side the protesters are on.”

He added: “In the old days, we used to throw them out. Today, I guess they just keep screaming.”

Embarrassing for the country to allow protesters? Yep. He said it.

He clearly needs to read the U.S. Constitution, the document he took an oath to protect and defend. It lays out in the Bill of Rights that citizens are entitled to protest.

In fact, and this is no small point, the nation was founded by a band of protesters who came to this new land to protest things such as political and religious oppression.

Political protest is as American as it gets, Mr. President.

Really. It is!

If the president is discussing the unruliness of those who are yelling at U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee members and U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I agree that they shouldn’t be allowed to disrupt a hearing. They are being “thrown out” of the hearing room by congressional security officers.

But to ban political protest? I say again: Wow!

Such ignorance about the First Amendment …

Here’s a bit of unsettling news: 44 percent of Republicans believe Donald Trump should have the authority to shutter news outlets for “bad behavior; what’s more, 12 percent of Democrats share that idiotic view.

The polling was done by Ipsos and it sends a chill up my spine. It should send tremors throughout the nation.

The president is angry with media outlets that report news he finds disagreeable. He has implied a desire to close them down if they continue to report completely the news about his administration.

Let me remind us all here about something that needs no reminder: The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the media from this kind of government interference, intimidation and intolerance.

It speaks to freedom of religion, political expression, peaceable assembly and a “free press.”

The First Amendment says Congress shall “make no law” that interferes with a free press. Period. End of story.

Yet nearly half of GOP voters and more than a tenth of Democrats think it’s OK for the president to coerce the media and shut ’em down if they p** him off.

Frightening, man.

Alex Jones: no free-speech martyr

Alex Jones has been kicked off some social media platforms.

I have to offer a huge round of applause for those platforms that have seen fit to abide by the standards they set for those who use them. Jones didn’t do that. He’s gone at least from those particular venues.

Who is this clown? He’s a talk-show blowhard and noted conspiracy theorist. His infamy grew exponentially when he alleged that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn. — where 20 first- and second-graders and six teachers were gunned down in 2012 — was a “hoax.” He said the grieving parents were actors brought in by anti-gun activists to carry the cudgel for disarming the American public.

He is a monstrous purveyor of hate speech.

Facebook, Apple, Spotify and YouTube all have banned Jones from using their platforms to spew his garbage.

Jones’s response has been predictable. He says the First Amendment guarantees him the right to speak his mind. No matter how vile his thoughts might be.

Hold on, buster.

This argument reminds me of discussions I had throughout my journalism career with individuals who would submit letters or other commentary that I found unsuitable for publication on the opinion pages I edited.

They would say, “But what about free speech?” My response was the same. “You are free to purchase and run your own newspaper and then you are free to publish whatever you want. We have rules and standards and your submission falls short of them.”

So it is with Alex Jones’s hate speech. The social media platforms are within their own constitutional rights to set standards that those who use them must follow. Jones crossed many lines with his hideous pronouncements.

He’s still able to spew his filth. The U.S. Constitution allows it. He simply is no longer able to do so using the venues whose owners and managers have done what they should have done long ago.

They cut him off.

Dangerous media intimidation continues

I am running out of words to describe my outrage at the behavior of Donald J. Trump’s voter bloc and its attitude toward the media that are doing their job.

It manifested itself yet again this week at a Florida political rally. The president fired ’em up at the rally while campaigning for a Republican candidate for governor.

Then came the reaction from many in the crowd toward media outlets covering the event. The shouted obscenities, made obscene gestures, they issued veiled threats at reporters. CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta was targeted specifically by the crowd, whose members consider CNN to be purveyors of so-called “fake news.”

I want to back up for just a moment.

There hasn’t been a president of the United States in the history of the republic who hasn’t had issues with the media. They don’t like the media’s tough questions on issues of the day. They really dislike it when the media starts probing into controversial matters. Some examples? How about Iran-Contra, or the Lewinsky matter, or Watergate, or the “fast and furious” scandal?

None of the presidents questioned about those matters — Republican or Democrat — ever called the media “the enemy of the people.” Nor did they egg on their supporters when they would shout at media representatives. They didn’t enable this kind of boorishness.

Until now.

The 45th president cheers them on, all the while proclaiming his phony belief in a “free press” and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

We are witnessing a fundamental attack, launched by the head of state, on an institution that is protected specifically by the First Amendment.

It is un-American and unpatriotic in the extreme.

First Amendment: Why protect the ‘free press’?

Jonathan Capehart writes a column for the Washington Post, which means he’s a dedicated journalist. He also makes a compelling point: It is that the U.S. Constitution protects only one profession from government oppression, intimidation or coercion. It’s a “free press,” Capehart noted today.

Why is that?

Well, it’s because the founders knew something that has been lost on one of their political descendants, the 45th president of the United States. They knew that a free press was an essential element of ensuring that those who run a democratic republic must be held accountable for their actions.

Yet the current president refers to the press as purveyors of “fake news,” and calls them the “enemy of the people.”

How utterly and categorically disgraceful. Donald J. Trump’s abject ignorance of government and the role that a “free press” plays in ensuring that government does the right thing is breathtaking in its scope.

Yet he continues his rampage. He continues to spread lies about the media. He bellows his demagogic rhetoric to the cheers, hoots and hollering in front of crowds that comprise those who make up his political base.

The president needs to understand — even though I know that he won’t — that the founders had it right when they guaranteed a “free press” in the very First Amendment to our Constitution.

Yes, the amendment also covers the right to worship as we please and to protest government policies, to assemble peaceably and to speak freely without fear of retribution.

I need to re-state it once again: the media are the only private industry covered in any of the 27 amendments to the Constitution. Why do you suppose that’s the case? Because the founders knew at the very beginning that the press must remain free of government interference or intimidation.

Listen up, Mr. President.

‘Very unpatriotic’ media? Really, Mr. President?

Donald J. Trump fired off a series of tweets in which he tears into the media, the so-called “enemy of the people.”

They say in part:

When the media – driven insane by their Trump Derangement Syndrome – reveals internal deliberations of our government, it truly puts the lives of many, not just journalists, at risk! Very unpatriotic! Freedom of the press also comes with a responsibility to report the news … accurately. 90% of media coverage of my Administration is negative, despite the tremendously positive results we are achieving, it’s no surprise that confidence in the media is at an all time low! I will not allow our great country to be sold out by anti-Trump haters …”

I want to focus briefly on the “very unpatriotic” label he has hung on the media.

It is quite “patriotic,” actually, for the media to report fully, critically and analytically about the government. For the president, moreover, to suggest that the media doing their job jeopardizes the lives and safety of Americans is an absolutely insane — not to mention idiotic — assertion.

The jeopardy stems from the president’s incessant attack on a “free press” that constitutes bullying and coercion in the extreme of the only private business offered specific protection from government interference in the U.S. Constitution.

The only “enemy of the people” I can find in this context occupies the chair behind the big desk in the Oval Office. Yes, I know that millions of Americans bristle at the criticism launched at Trump. Millions of other Americans, however, remain committed to understanding what the government is doing to us — or for us.

Those Americans depend on an unfettered and patriotic “free press” to tell them.

White House sinks to new level of juvenile petulance

A reporter for CNN has found out she has friends.

Her colleagues are standing with her in the wake of a petulant White House decision to bar her from a press event in the Rose Garden.

What got Kaitlin Collins in trouble with the White House? She asked some tough questions. That’s it, man! She was doing her job.

Well, the White House banishment of her hasn’t gone over well. Get a load of this statement from Fox News, the favorite cable network of Donald John Trump Sr: “We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press” Fox President Jay Wallace says in statement.

A “free and unfettered press” needs “full access” to the people in power. Yep, they do. Jay Wallace’s defense of Collins is spot on.

Donald Trump is demonstrating time and again that he possesses the thinnest skin in a president since, oh, Richard M. Nixon. That goes back more than four decades. President Nixon was known to exact revenge against media members, particularly the Washington Post, which led the journalistic investigation into that “third-rate burglary” known as Watergate.

This president, No. 45, is setting a new standard for presidential petulance.

As The Hill reported: “Wannabe tyrant Donald Trump is banning reporters he doesn’t like from official press events,” McGovern tweeted. “Journalists like [CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins] ask questions not just for their news outlet, but on behalf of all Americans.”

“Shutting them out is a slap in the face to our democracy,” he added.

Except that the president shows us damn near daily that he is ignorant of the value that a free press brings to a free society.

Fox News: state media outfit?

What’s up with this?

Donald J. Trump reportedly became angry with staffers aboard Air Force One because they were watching CNN on the presidential jet. Why, he insists on them watching Fox News, the president’s news/commentary network of choice.

He continues to lambaste media outlets that report goings on in the manner that they should, with facts and critical analysis. His favorite network, Fox, continues to slobber all over the president’s shoes (figuratively, of course) while offering nothing but “positive” coverage of his every statement and deed.

Anything negative is deemed “fake news.” Amazing, given that the president is the godfather of “fake news,” as he promoted the lie that Barack Obama was not constitutionally qualified to run for president of the United States. It was that “birther” thing, remember?

So, are we to presume that the president is creating a form of de facto state media?

I believe the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says the government must not interfere in any fashion with a “free press” doing its job.