Donald Trump has had a love-hate relationship with the press. They give him tons of earned media which no doubt benefited his campaign during the primaries. The media also has been giving him attention, but it has been focused on, myself included, off-the-cuff remarks made that have been politically unconventional – which is putting it mildly. There is truth to his complaints that the media has not focused as much on Hillary Clinton’s problems with her emails, the Clinton Foundation, and the fact she hasn’t taken a press conference since I can’t even remember.
That isn’t to say those things haven’t been covered, they have. They have just been overshadowed by things that Donald Trump has said on the stump that is mind-boggling to those of us who have observed the political process for some time now.
I’m not entirely sure what he was responding to, but yesterday Trump tweeted this.
It is not "freedom of the press" when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2016
Actually freedom of the press does mean, by and large, that newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want. In times when what is reported or false, if done deliberately, there are libel laws that can go into effect.
Here is the problem. Anytime there is negative reports, opinion pieces he disagrees with, or a poll that doesn’t favored him – it is false, wrong or skewed.
Last spring Donald Trump said he wanted to “loosen up the libel laws.” This is concerning. It is concerning when Democrats talk like this, and it should be concerning when Republicans talk like this.
The freedom of the press is not determined by whether or not a politician believes what they say, report or write is false or not. In terms of public figures it isn’t even considered libel unless malicious intent can be proved. This is especially true in a political context. Voters get to decide what is true or not in these circumstances, not judges. Trump can certainly correct the record and rebuke the press when they get it wrong, but take away freedom or sue? No.
If Donald Trump wins the presidency he is going to have to grow a thicker skin, and he is not the one (or Hillary Clinton for that matter) who is the arbiter of what constitutes free speech that includes the freedom of the press, and what doesn’t.
This is a double-edged sword for if a Republican president is allowed to go after media outlets he or she deem unfriendly, the shoe will eventually be on the other foot.