Since President Trump’s election in November 2016, optimists have gone on trying to reassure each other. “Our institutions will hold,” they say.
Our institutions will only hold, however, if they are defended with concrete actions. The lawsuit filed by PEN America in October 2018 against Trump shows how. It charges that he has violated the First Amendment in misusing his official powers to retaliate against speech he finds objectionable. He revoked press passes of White House reporters from outlets that criticize him. He issued an executive orderto review postal rates as a way of punishing Amazon, whose founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Post, which was Trump’s real target in this operation. (Those rates were raised in January.)
And just this week, he has suggested that Americans boycott AT&T as a way of punishing CNN, a network he views as his nemesis. He’s even been to known to share images that could encourage violence against CNN employees, such as a meme of him with a bloodied CNN logo on the bottom of his shoe.
Freedom of the press is at serious risk, thanks to Trump’s years-long crusade to discredit the media and his creation of a climate of hostility against journalists that is unparalleled in American history. There is evidence that attitudes have already changed among Republicans in ways that threaten liberty of expression. Almost half of Republicans polled by Ipsos in 2018 believed that the president should have the right to close news outlets for “bad behavior.”
Read the entire essay at The Washington Post.