It is fair to say that President Donald Trump doesn’t particularly like the news media. They both seem to be each other's favorite punching bag.
The president recently wrote a tweet that was particularly interesting, and appeared to have been influenced by an anti-Trump "Saturday Night Live" skit.
He tweeted, “A REAL scandal is the one-sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame and belittle! Collusion?”
How does this match up with the Constitution?
First, I think it’s important for me to point something out. President Trump is far from the first person to have a dislike for the news media. Thomas Jefferson once said, “Advertisements contain the only truth printed in newspapers.” One of the Union’s best generals during the Civil War, William Tecumseh Sherman, made his opinions on reporters known when he said, “If I had my choice, I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure that we would be getting reports from hell before breakfast.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headlines that afternoon would read: ‘President Can’t Swim.’”
So I reiterate: Quite a few people throughout history have had a “lukewarm” dislike for the press.
However, the president tweeting something like his anti-"SNL" rant certainly flies in the face of the Constitution.
The First Amendment clearly protects freedom of the press, saying in part, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” This freedom has been closely defended through the years, as well it should be.
But, while I understand that President Trump doesn’t like the press, I also understand that the president has been the recipient of extraordinarily negative, and I would say at times unfair, coverage.
We all can agree that a media group should publish the truth, as opposed to lies. But a news organization is allowed to report on a controversial issue and then take a positive or negative stance, especially if it admits that it is an opinion site.
The press always has had an element of bias one way or another, because that’s how most publishers or editors are. For example, Fox News gives a conservative view of the news, while MSNBC promotes a liberal viewpoint. So there really is no such thing as a completely non-partisan or unbiased news organization.
The fact is that the press should try to be fair in its reporting, and it doesn’t help when a network such as CNN claims it is a facts-only news site while very clearly pushing a particular point of view. Dishonesty in admitting their bias hurts the media’s credibility and directly abuses the freedom given the press in the First Amendment.
However, the idea that NBC should be taken to court over an "SNL" skit is flatly unconstitutional.
I quoted Jefferson a little earlier by repeating a negative statement he made about the press, but listen to what the same man also said: “Our liberty depends upon freedom of the press.”
A free press is vital to the ability of our republic to operate smoothly and shouldn’t be threatened just because someone is offended by their coverage.
With all due respect to the president, it is more important that we protect freedom of the press than his ego.
Isaac Hadam, a resident of Moultonborough, is vice president of The Constitutional Awareness Pact (constitutionalawarenesspact.webs.com).