From Trump, a new low in bid to si­lence press

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE -

Don­ald Trump’s threat to sue The New York Times over un­flat­ter­ing cov­er­age has se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions.

Like much about his cam­paign, Don­ald Trump’s threat to sue The New York Times over un­flat­ter­ing cov­er­age would be amus­ing if its im­pli­ca­tions weren’t so se­ri­ous.

It stems, of course, from the wish of all can­di­dates and of­fice-hold­ers to avoid head­lines that might un­der­mine their pop­u­lar­ity and cost them elec­tions.

But the fact that all politi­cians have trou­ble with the news me­dia doesn’t mean that some ex­am­ples aren’t worse than oth­ers.

One of the worst when it comes to pre­vent­ing the po­lit­i­cal press from do­ing its job of re­port­ing what pub­lic of­fi­cials are up to is Hil­lary Clin­ton. See the months she goes be­tween news con­fer­ences. See her re­sis­tance to full dis­clo­sure of many as­pects of her pri­vate and pub­lic life, in­clud­ing con­tro­ver­sial parts of her record as U.S. sec­re­tary of State. See (not that ev­ery­day peo­ple can see) how her in­stinct for se­crecy turns her per­son­al­ity from charm­ing to tac­i­turn as soon as a jour­nal­ist’s note­book opens.

But Trump’s fre­quent out­bursts and threats against the press and broad­cast me­dia take this to a dif­fer­ent level.

The lat­est hap­pened Satur­day.

That day, The New York Times quoted pub­lic records to doc­u­ment how Trump’s busi­nesses had ben­e­fited from $885 mil­lion in tax breaks, grants and other pub­lic sub­si­dies over the years. Separately, Times colum­nist Mau­reen Dowd, in a CNN in­ter­view, said she ques­tioned Trump about vi­o­lence at his cam­paign ral­lies, and the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee said the rough stuff added “ex­cite­ment” to the events.

Trump re­sponded with a se­ries of mis­sives on Twit­ter, ridi­cul­ing Dowd (“crazy,” “wacky,” “a neu­rotic dope”) and seem­ing to deny hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tions she de­scribed. Trump’s posts on the so­cial-me­dia site in­cluded this: “My lawyers want to sue the fail­ing @NY­Times so badly for ir­re­spon­si­ble in­tent. I said no (for now), but they are watch­ing. Re­ally dis­gust­ing.”

Le­gal ex­perts mocked Trump’s phrase “ir­re­spon­si­ble in­tent,” which sounds like a le­gal doc­trine but isn’t. Per­haps Trump meant “reck­less dis­re­gard” for the truth, which, along with mal­ice, must be proven by a li­bel plain­tiff un­der the prece­dent set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1964 New York Times v. Sul­li­van rul­ing.

Po­lit­i­cal ob­servers doubted Trump ac­tu­ally would sue the news­pa­per. More likely, the can­di­date is just try­ing to work the me­dia ref­er­ees and stoke many sup­port­ers’ an­tipa­thy to­ward the press.

Even if that’s the in­tent, Trump is go­ing about it in a way un­seen in pre­vi­ous his­tory.

Along with his Fe­bru­ary pro­posal to “open up our li­bel laws” and make su­ing eas­ier, and his cam­paign’s bar­ring of cer­tain me­dia out­lets from his events, this talk be­trays a con­tempt for a free press that would be wor­ri­some in a pres­i­dent. One need not take sides in the decades-old fight be­tween con­ser­va­tives and the “lib­eral me­dia” to think elected of­fi­cials must not be pro­tected from press and pub­lic crit­i­cism. In fact, Trump’s sup­port­ers, many of whom ex­press whole­sale dis­trust of the po­lit­i­cal class, should be as ap­palled as any­one by an at­tempt to sti­fle re­port­ing and com­men­tary about our lead­ers from me­dia of any or no po­lit­i­cal stripe.

If Trump re­ally took up this fight against The Times, it wouldn’t end with this can­di­date and that news­pa­per.

Let there be no doubt that Hil­lary Clin­ton would be right be­hind him in line at the court­house door. — Los An­ge­les Daily News,

Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

If Trump re­ally took up this fight against The Times, it wouldn’t end with this can­di­date and that news­pa­per.

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