Attempts to Discredit Media
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects free speech and the free press, and this is one of the things that distinguish democratic and authoritarian governments. In an authoritarian government, media must respect the demands and desires of authority. The press isn't under direct control of the government, but is nonetheless subject to government censorship. (More on Authoritarian Theory of Mass Communication.)
The right to free speech means people can express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court has recognized some limits: advocating illegal action, fighting words, speech that is inherently commercial, and obscenity. Freedom of the press mirrors freedom of expression. Individuals can publish and disseminate information whether they are members of the press or not.
Trump has repeatedly restricted press access, has threatened "opening up libel laws" to make lawsuits against media easier, and has regularly called members of the media "dishonest."
Following his inauguration, he increased his anti-press rhetoric, and his spokesman Sean Spicer lied about the size of the crowd gathered. Trump also lied about his feud with the Central Intelligence Agency over Russian meddling in the election, implying it was a media fabrication even though primary-source evidence, including his own tweets, prove otherwise.
|2015.07.28||After a top aide tells The Daily Beast that Trump couldn't of raped his wife because, "a husband cannot legally rape their spouse." Trump attacks The Daily Beast for reporting the interview calling them, "a joke desperate to remain relevant." cnn.com (See also #2016 Campaign, Sexism, Misogyny, Women)|
|2015.11.26||Trump mocks disabled NYT reporter on camera. theguardian.com (See also People with Disabilities)|
|2016.02.16||Trump advocates "opening up" libel laws to make it easier to sue the press. washingtonpost.com|
|2016.02.16||Trump: "I'm going to open up our libel laws so when [the media] write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money." politico.com (See also 2016 Election, Constitutional Issues)|
This would appear to violate the guarantee of a free press made in the First Amendment.
|2016.02.26||Donald Trump vowed to ‘open up’ libel laws to make suing the media easier. Can he do that? washingtonpost.com |
It's not likely. But it's not impossible, either.
|2016.02.26||Trump: We're going to "open up" libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists. politico.com (See also Feuds, Assaults on Civil Liberties)|
|2016.03.08||Trump admits he sued an author to make him miserable for questioning Trump's net worth in a book. (He lost the suit in humiliating fashion.) washingtonpost.com|
|2016.06.14||In an unprecedented show of hostility to journalists during a campaign, Trump revokes press access for the Washington Post after previously banning nine other media outlets. money.cnn.com|
|2016.10.07||Newsweek reports on how Trump supporters have attacked journalists for coverage they don't like. newsweek.com|
|2016.10.13||Trump sends New York Times letter threatening lawsuit over their article detailing two women's allegations that he'd groped them. The Times calls him "ignorant about constitutional law." nytimes.com|
|2016.10.13||Trump threatens to sue The New York Times over publishing article where they interviewed two women who claim Trump sexually assaulted them. nytimes.com (See also Lawsuits, 2016 Campaign, Fueds, Women, Misogyny)|
|2016.11.12||Committee to Protect Journalists issues unprecedented denouncement of Trump for insulting and vilifying the press. newsweek.com|
|2016.11.23||Donald Trump’s New York Times Interview: Full Transcript nytimes.com|
|2016.11.23||Journalists gather to shine spotlight on Trump's regular abuses of the press during his campaign. nytimes.com|
|2016.12.01||Trump kicks off a "Thank You" tour so he can revel in crowds, boast in person, and disparage Hillary Clinton and the media. nytimes.com (See also 2016 Election, Unprecedented Actions, Narcissism)|
|2017.01.11||Donald Trump calls Buzzfeed a "failing pile of garbage," refuses to take questions from CNN reporter, and calls the network "fake news." teenvogue.com|
|2017.01.11||Trump tweets, "Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?" twitter.com (See also Feuds)|
|2017.01.18||The Trump administration served a retraction request to CNN for a factual story regarding Tom Price profiting from trading stock in health-related companies that he was also sponsoring and advocating legislation. washingtonpost.com (See also Conflicts of Interest, Tom Price, Department of Health and Human Services)|
|2017.01.18||Trump now says he won't evict press from White House, but he'll pick who gets in. mediaite.com|
|2017.01.21||Official statement by Sean Spicer attacking accurate reporting of inaugural crowds. whitehouse.gov (See also False Statements, Assaults on Facts, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.01.21||Trump brought studio audience with him to CIA. politicususa.com (See also Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.01.21||Trump falsely accuses journalists of inventing a rift between him and spy agencies, and of deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd. nytimes.com (See also Feuds, Assaults on Facts)|
Trump: "I have a running war with the media... They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth."
|2017.01.21||Trump says media are "among the most dishonest human beings on Earth" during speech at CIA headquarters. money.cnn.com (See also False Statements, Feuds)|
|2017.01.21||Trump's press secretary advances seven lies in news conference, threatens journalists, refuses to take questions from media. vanityfair.com|
|2017.01.21||Trump’s press secretary lashes out at press for accurately reporting inauguration attendance. washingtonpost.com (See also False Statements, Feuds)|
|2017.01.22||Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway says Trump’s team has "alternative facts." washingtonpost.com (See also Assaults on Facts, False Statements)|
When asked why the president uttered a provable falsehood about the size of his inauguration crowd, Conway said the interviewer shouldn't be "so overly dramatic about it."
|2017.01.22||Trump press secretary Kellyanne Conway calls false statements about the size of the inauguration crowd "alternative facts." nbcnews.com (See also Kellyanne Conway, False Statements)|
|2017.01.22||Trump wrongly blames press for feud with intel community politifact.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.01.23||Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary defends his false statements about inauguration crowds And makes some new questionable claims. motherjones.com (See also False Statements, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.01.24||At least six journalists face felony charges for simply covering Trump's inauguration. theguardian.com|
|2017.01.24||Four more journalists, bringing total to six, face up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted after covering inauguration unrest. theguardian.com (See also First Amendment)|
|2017.01.25||Felony Charges for Journalists Arrested at Inauguration Protests Raise Fears for Press Freedom mobile.nytimes.com |
The six journalists charged with felony rioting were among 230 people detained in the anti-Trump demonstration
|2017.01.25||The chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee is asking Americans to trust the information they get from the President over the news produced by the media. cnn.com (See also Censorship, Assaults on Facts)|
Trump has been called out for highlighting falsehoods and conspiracy theories during his political career and has repeatedly attacked the mainstream press as pushing "fake news."
|2017.01.26||Trump Strategist Steve Bannon calls mainstream news media "the opposition party" and says news media should "keep its mouth shut." nytimes.com (See also Steve Bannon)|
|2017.01.27||Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, chair of House Science Committee says Trump is the sole reliable source of truth. vox.com (See also First 100 Days, Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.01.27||Scientists offer ways to discern actual from 'alternative' facts to help combat delusions. blogs.scientificamerican.com (See also Assaults on Facts, Fact-Checking Resources)|
Three rules from the scientific method.
|2017.01.27||Trump echoes Bannon’s assessment that "a big portion of the media" is the "opposition party." washingtonpost.com|
|2017.01.29||White house releases statement on Trump aides defending his immigrations ban, his barrage of executive orders, complaining about the lack of cabinet confirmations, and attacking media coverage on Sunday shows whitehouse.gov (See also First 100 Days, Muslim Immigration Ban, Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.01.31||In a message to staff today, Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler wrote about covering President Trump the Reuters way and compared it to covering nations where they encounter censorship,legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to journalists. reuters.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.01.31||Trump administration refuses to put officials on air on CNN. politico.com (See also First 100 Days, Assaults on Facts)|
A CNN reporter, speaking on background, was more blunt: The White House is trying to punish the network and force down its ratings.
|2017.01.31||White House shuts CNN out, calls it "fake news" because network hasn't promoted Trump agenda. politico.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.01||Trump lashes out at media during Black History Month meeting, calls CNN "fake news," and praises Fox for treating him "very nice." npr.org|
|2017.02.03||In the wake of Trump's lack of communication with Congress or government agencies about his immigration ban open government advocates are concerned Trump officials will block flow of information to public despite campaign promises for accountability and disclosure. npr.org (See also Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.02.03||New Yorker and Vanity Fair pull out of Correspondents’ Dinner parties while the organization that holds the annual White House roast says the main event itself is still on, despite President Trump’s combative relationship with the news media. mobile.nytimes.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.03||Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said Thursday that the media is encouraging a mob mentality and mob violence with what she described as "disrespectful" coverage of Trump and his aides. cnn.com (See also Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.02.03||Trump falsely claims protestors are paid "professional anarchists." nymag.com (See also Assaults on Facts, Assaults on Civil Liberties, First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.03||Trump's White House, unlike any other, has crossed the threshold into a space where facts appear to mean nothing and it will take years to gauge the impact of having a habitual liar as President. newyorker.com (See also Assaults on Facts)|
"When words like “science” and “progress” become unmoored from their meaning, the effects are incalculable. And let’s not kid ourselves: those words today are under assault with a ferocity we have not seen for hundreds of years."
|2017.02.03||Vice President Mike Pence skips CNN during Sunday show circuit; CNN declines offer of Kellyanne Conway in his place. huffingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days, Mike Pence)|
|2017.02.04||Trump posts a report falsely claiming Kuwait issued a visa ban on Muslim majority nations to his Facebook page. buzzfeed.com (See also Assaults on Facts, False Statements)|
The report claimed that Kuwait had also issued a visa ban on several Muslim-majority countries after President Trump's immigration order. They didn't.
|2017.02.06||Cosmopolitan magazine reveals Kellyanne Conway also complained of fake Bowling Green massacre to them. washingtonpost.com (See also Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.02.06||InfoWars is believed to be behind President Trump’s idea that the media is covering up terrorist attacks. washingtonpost.com (See also Assaults on Facts, First 100 Days, Belief in Conspiracy Theories)|
|2017.02.06||President Trump is now speculating that the media is covering up terrorist attacks washingtonpost.com (See also Belief in Conspiracy Theories, Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.02.06||Trump accuses media of intentionally covering terrorist attacks. washingtonpost.com (See also False Statements, Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.02.06||Trump tweets: "Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls..." twitter.com (See also Assaults on Facts, Authoritarianism)|
|2017.02.06||Trump tweets: "The failing @nytimes ... are now making up stories & sources." twitter.com|
|2017.02.06||White House press secretary Sean Spicer resurrects repeatedly debunked false claims that people protesting President Donald Trump are actually bankrolled by well-funded progressive organizations to discredit anti-Trump protests. mediamatters.org (See also Assaults on Facts, False Statements, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.02.07||According to multiple sources, Trump regrets hiring Spicer as his press secretary and is blaming Priebus. thehill.com (See also First 100 Days, Assaults on Facts, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.02.07||Jack Tapper questions Conway sharply about Trump’s false claims politico.com (See also First 100 Days, False Statements, Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.02.07||Melania Trump files lawsuit against a newspaper that alleged her former modeling agency was an escort service; the coverage, she argued, damaged her "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to turn a multimillion-dollar profit as First Lady. nytimes.com (See also Melania Trump)|
|2017.02.07||The White House attacked the media for under-reporting certain terror attacks BBC take the White House list and compare it to their coverage. bbc.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.07||The full list of Trump's 'under-reported' terror attacks – and how they were reported worldwide. theguardian.com (See also First 100 Days, False Statements)|
What does the White House’s choice of ‘cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report’ tell us?
|2017.02.07||Trump faults media while lying about murder rate money.cnn.com (See also First 100 Days, False Statements)|
|2017.02.07||Trump tells Fox News’ Bill O'Reilly that the media and other critics are wrong when they attempt to characterize his policies as anti-Muslim or anti-black. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days, Racism, False Statements)|
|2017.02.07||WH official, Sebastian Gorka deputy assistant to Trump: We'll say 'fake news' until media realizes attitude of attacking the President is wrong cnn.com (See also First 100 Days, Assaults on Facts, First Amendment)|
|2017.02.11||White House press secretary breaks tradition and typically calls on reporters from non-mainstream media first during press conferences before getting to more traditional news outlets. nytimes.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.12||Trump lies on Twitter, claiming Bernie Sanders called CNN "fake news." Sanders was making a joke about Trump's opinion on CNN. politifact.com (See also False Statements)|
|2017.02.13||Journalist says Omarosa Manigault bullied her and mentioned a ‘dossier’ on her and other journalists. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.13||Reporters outraged as Trump makes it through yet another press conference with a visiting foreign leader without having to field any questions about the controversy surrounding Michael Flynn. money.cnn.com (See also First 100 Days, Michael Flynn)|
Trump only took two questions from outlets viewed as favorable to him.
|2017.02.13||White House grants press credentials to Gateway Pundit, a pro-Trump blog that's spread false rumors about voter fraud and Hillary Clinton's health. nytimes.com (See also First 100 Days, Unprecedented Actions, house)|
|2017.02.16||Trump supporters receive email requesting they fill out a “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey” moments after Trump's 75-minute rambling press conference attacking reporters. mediamatters.org (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.16||Trump uses press conference to declare his administration is a "fine-tuned machine," attack media, and dismiss claims of connections with Russia in a 75-minute, freewheeling defense of his chaotic first weeks in office. theguardian.com (See also First 100 Days, Russian Meddling in Election)|
|2017.02.17||After a berating by Trump, a correspondent from Ami Magazine, an Orthodox Jewish weekly, said, “Regretfully, today was a day I wish we could have done over.” mobile.nytimes.com (See also Jewish Americans)|
|2017.02.17||Fox News hosts speak up against some of Trump’s attacks on the media. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.17||Trump calls established free press the "enemy of the American people." nytimes.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.17||Trump interrupts and scolds a Jewish reporter who asks about efforts to stem anti-Semitism, tells him to sit down and be quiet, and complains that he felt insulted by the question. nytimes.com (See also Narcissism)|
|2017.02.18||CNN host Don Lemon abruptly ends his show Friday night after a commentator continues to call a story they were discussing "fake news" while defending Trump. thehill.com (See also Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.02.18||Trump delivers misstatements and exaggerations to enthusiastic believers in first rally of his 2020 campaign. nytimes.com (See also Fascism, Nationalism, Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.02.18||White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus joins Trump's attacks on the media in a contentious interview on "Face the Nation," saying that the press should stop using unnamed sources and stop publishing false stories. cbsnews.com (See also First 100 Days, Reince Priebus)|
|2017.02.20||Trump tweets false information about immigration problems in Sweden, baffling Swedish leaders and diplomats: "The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!" twitter.com (See also Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.02.24||Hours after Trump criticizes as “fake news” organizations that publish anonymously sourced reports that reflect poorly on him, including those tying his associates to Russia, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer bars many major news organizations from a White House briefing. nytimes.com (See also Fascism, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.02.24||Journalists from The New York Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, and Politico were prohibited from attending a briefing by Trump’s press secretary on Friday, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps. nytimes.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.24||Trump tells a conservative group that journalists are the "enemy of the people," accusing reporters of endangering nation for printing news that makes him look bad, then his press secretary bars journalists from major media from a daily White House briefing. nytimes.com (See also False Statements)|
|2017.02.27||Former President George W. Bush breaks with Trump, saying that the media is “indispensable to democracy,” as opposed to Trump's statements that the press is “the enemy of the American people.” politico.com (See also First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.28||Trump says he can take criticism when it is justified, but he asserts that has never happened. washingtonpost.com (See also Narcissism)|
|2017.03.14||Trump releases some 2005 tax info after MSNBC host says she has it. apnews.com (See also Trump Taxes, First 100 Days)|
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times EDT): 8:35 p.m. The White House says President Donald Trump made more than $150 milli
|2017.06.06||Of all sources, Fox News host Neil Cavuto on Tuesday hit Trump for his criticism of media outlets' coverage of his Twitter habits, saying “Mr. President, it’s not the fake news media that’s your problem. It’s you." thehill.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior)|
|2017.06.20||Over the course of the Trump administration, the White House’s daily press briefings have been pared progressively further back; they are now shorter, less frequent, and routinely held off-camera. theatlantic.com (See also Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon)|
|2017.06.22||The Trump administration, ignoring the need for a free press, has announced that Thursday's press briefing may not be recorded by anyone, and then went further to say that the press also couldn't report that this meeting could not be recorded. slate.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior, Censorship)|
M.T. Anderson — Slate.com
A piece by National Book Award winning author M.T. Anderson:
Donald Trump shares several important traits with his ally Vladimir Putin—foremost among them, the deployment of outrageous lies as a political tool. Putin is a master of disinformation. After Russian troops and aircraft invaded Ukraine in 2014, for example, he simply denied they were there, which slowed and destabilized Western response. The deployment of falsehood by Putin’s regime is right out of the old Soviet playbook. It was, in particular, a specialty of Josef Stalin’s, who projected a similar strongman image and whose constant flood of lies was central to Communist rule for decades.
Trump comes by his carnival-barker falsehoods through a different lineage, via the red-blooded capitalist traditions of the American salesman. But it’s worth giving a comparative look at the effectiveness of a regime of lies in Stalin’s Russia, especially given the surprising penetration of Russian interests in our incoming American regime.
Of course, it is hyperbolic to compare Trump’s lies to Stalin’s. The differences between the two figures are many. (For one thing, Stalin actually read his intelligence briefings.) Trump and some of his Cabinet appointees are dazzled, even seduced, by the Russians, but their interest is clearly more in the culture of the current oligarchs than the drab, murderous Soviet functionaries who trained Putin and his ilk. Nonetheless, it’s worth following just one strand of comparison between these self-declared strongmen: the use of lies as a principle of control. As we struggle through the muck of ludicrous but toxic disinformation that currently infests our political swamp, we should look to the past to remind ourselves of both the potency of rampant political dishonesty at the highest levels of government and the ultimate limits of its effectiveness.
Frank Langfitt — NPR
Langfitt observes the similarities of Spicer's press conference on inauguration attendance and Conway's "alternative facts" to China's tactics dealing with foreign press:
When Todd pressed Conway on Spicer's falsehoods, she responded: "Chuck, if we're going to keep referring to our press secretary in those types of terms, I think we're going to have to rethink our relationship."
To most viewers, that sounded like a threat.
To me, all this sounded like standard operating procedure in authoritarian China, where I'd spent a decade as a reporter.
The White House seemed to be using the same tactics the Chinese government routinely uses against the foreign press corps: Make false claims to support an alternative narrative. When challenged, threaten reporters — and then try to delegitimize them.