Being president entails never having to say youre sorry.
Republican Greg Gianforte apologized last week after allegedly body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, who questioned the Montana Representative about his thoughts on the GOPs stalled health care bill. Gianforte initially blamed the incident, for which he will face misdemeanor charges, on aggressive behaviour from a liberal journalist but changed his tune after winning Thursdays special election race. The creationist claimed hes not proud of what took place in a Friday press conference. No kidding.
Gianfortes response is pathetic, but its better than the one from the White House. After months of assaulting journalists on his Twitter account, President Donald Trump forgot to offer his condolences when a journalist was physically assaulted. Instead of apologizing, the POTUS called the conservative lawmakers six-point win over folk singer Rob Quist a great win for Montana.
Its far from hyperbole to say that Trump bears personal responsibility for the incident in Montana. Since announcing his run for the White House in June 2015, the president has continually targeted and demonized members of the press, whom he has extol the enemy of the American people. Trump has called reporters scum and sleazebags, claiming that “they il be” out of touch, horrible, terrible, and dishonest. He has alleged that the New York Times , printed publications he refers to as fake news, purposefully prints narratives it knows are false in order to discredit him. Trump repeatedly belittles and singles out members of the press, including mocking a disabled reporter and suggesting that a female debate moderator was on her period.
The commander-in-chief has even would be in danger of sue and jail his critics, but he always stops just short of instigating violence against them. Check out this cleverly worded statement, delivered with as broad a wink as is practicable: I would never kill them, but I do hate them, Trump told of reporters at a December 2015 campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It's true.
The president might believe these are just terms. But when Trump says that he wouldnt personally kill a journalist( but doesnt actually condemn violence against the press !), it sends a covert yet clear message about what is acceptable.
As weve seen again and again, Trumps inflammatory statementswhether they are about Latinos being rapists or the risk of being militant Islamincite real-world harm. A reporter for OC Weekly claimed in March that he and two photographers were attacked by Trump advocates while encompassing a Make America Great Again rally in Huntington Beach, California. Some of these attacks have come from inside Trumps own campaign. A Time photographer was grabbed by the neck and placed in a stranglehold by Secret Service agents in February 2016. Agents hurled him to the ground, and he collided with a table on his style down. A Breitbart journalist alleged Trump adviser and former campaign director Corey Lewandowski physically pulled her out of a press conference last March.
How does the president respond to these incidents? He doesnt. The Trump campaign simply denied the claims, even after a video of Lewandowski grabbing the reporter surfaced.
The presidents attacks on the press are not a new strategy. Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who ran for vice president in 2012, famously refers to journalism as the lamestream media. Nixon speechwriter William Safire called critics of the Vietnam War nattering nabob of negativism, a phrase that became synonymous with the White Houses contentious relationship with the press after Vice President Spiro Agnew use it in a September 1970 speech.
Although scapegoating the media as a biased, liberal witch-hunt dates all the way back to Barry Goldwater, theres a reason that targeting reporters has been so effective for Trump: Our trust in journalism is at a historic low. In 2016, a Gallup poll found that just 32 percentage of Americans claimed that they have a great deal or fair quantity of trust in news organizations, which is down 22 phases since 2003, when President George W. Bush was operating for re-election. And in a survey released earlier this year, 62 percent of respondents told Gallup that the media favors one party over the other. This includes 79 percent of Republicans, a 20 -point increase over the last 14 years.
If Trumps campaign views the media as the opposition party, even claiming that reporters cover up terrorist attacks, his diehard advocates listen to what he saysoften unquestioningly. That has dire outcomes, illustrated by the fact that Montana voters were perfectly willing to cast their ballot for a human who assaulted a journalist. One of Gianfortes advocates told CNN when a recording of the attack leaked onto the internet, it was music to his ears. That audio stimulated me cheer, the voter said.
Trump shouldnt merely apologize for the role hes played in inciting hate against an institution so valuable to the American public that freedom of the press is third among the rights listed in the First Amendment of the Constitutionright after religion and speech, two of Republican favorite talking phases. He should take responsibility for his role in repressing media around the world. As the United States ranking for press freedom plummets( currently below Burkina Faso ), countries like Cambodia and China have begun to adopt Trumps autocratic tactics. Russias Foreign Ministry has a web page devoted to discrediting fake news, entailing any media report the Kremlin doesnt like. That is also, incidentally, also what Trump considers fake news.
If you were horrified and appalled that Trump was willing to put up with violent, criminal behaviour from a politician who supported him in the 2016 election, be warned. The attacks on the press are just getting started.