Guest Editorial: Trump’s media attacks are dangerous

  • Supporters of President Donald Trump yell at CNN reporter Jim Acosta on July 31 at the State Fairgrounds in Tampa prior to an appearance by the president. AP FILE PHOTO

Published: 8/8/2018 8:59:47 AM
Modified: 8/8/2018 9:00:07 AM

Trump regularly misstates facts yet has the gall to claim that anyone critical of him is lying.

Presidents have long battled with the press. But President Donald Trump’s constant labeling of reporting unfavorable to him as “fake news” and his declaration that the media is the “enemy of the people” are dangerous tactics, threatening independent reporting and instigating the kind of anger that can lead to violence.

At a rally Tuesday in Tampa, Trump supporters shouted, booed and chanted at CNN reporter Jim Acosta. He sent out a video of the treatment on Twitter, writing that he was “very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in someone getting hurt.”

Trump’s son, Eric, ended up sharing footage of rally goers chanting “CNN sucks” on Twitter along with the hashtag “#Truth” and the president himself retweeted it. Trump’s attacks show his disrespect for our country’s democratic values, including the right and responsibility of the media to independently report on the government.

Trump is working to discredit well-sourced reporting so his supporters will continue to believe anything he says no matter its accuracy.

Trump regularly misstates facts yet has the gall to claim that anyone critical of him is lying. The fact-checkers at PolitiFact found at least nine statements made by Trump at the Tampa rally lacked evidence or were misleading, exaggerated or outright wrong, adding to the hundreds of false claims that it has found he has made.

Fake news is a real problem, with false stories shared through social media inflaming hate and influencing elections. But Trump’s use of the term is a strong-arm tactic to try to shut down the independent reporting needed to keep government transparent and accountable.

These are the types of methods used by authoritarian leaders in other countries such as Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Vladimir Putin of Russia. Instead of condemning them, Trump has often praised autocratic leaders and overlooked their human rights abuses.

These developments come as journalists are being jailed and killed for doing their jobs. At least 18 journalists were murdered worldwide in 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Here in the United States, five journalists were shot to death June 28 at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland. At a time of deep political divides and easy access to firearms, further provoking people against the media risks causing additional violence.

To Acosta’s credit, he engaged several people shouting at him at the rally and even took questions from them. New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger recently held what was supposed to be a private meeting with Trump to raise concerns about the president’s anti-press rhetoric.

Instead of taking those concerns to heart, Trump tweeted about the meeting and continued his inflammatory language. The president must stop such irresponsible behavior before it causes someone to get hurt.

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