When President Donald J. Trump was inaugurated, he swore to defend the Constitution. That includes the First Amendment’s freedom of the press. However, in his attacks on CNN Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta, Trump disregarded that oath. Trump’s actions are part of a broader anti-media narrative that threatens the press’s ability to accurately cover the Trump administration. As a student newspaper, the Wheel condemns the president’s actions.
The White House suspended Acosta’s press pass on Nov. 7 after a heated press conference during which Acosta refused to surrender the microphone while questioning Trump’s construction of immigrant caravans as a threat to America’s elections. To justify removing Acosta’s press pass, the White House accused Acosta of laying hands on a White House aide and used a doctored video from Infowars as evidence. Alex Jones’s Infowars has spread conspiracy theories and been banned by social media outlets for hate speech, further illustrating the administration’s tendency to support unreliable news sources.
Acosta was doing his job: asking tough questions to keep the president accountable. Trump’s removal of Acosta was both unwarranted and inappropriate, part of his continuous undermining of the free press. The president has repeatedly criticized CNN and The New York Times for reporting “fake news” and attacked multiple media outlets as “enemies of the American people.”
Trump’s preference for certain news outlets — especially those that propagate his own agenda — is unnecessarily divisive. By revoking Acosta’s press pass, Trump demonstrated his ability to suppress the journalism he disagrees with and to intimidate individual reporters He has even threatened to revoke more reporters’ press credentials. The message from the White House is clear: agree with Trump or get out.
The suspension of Acosta’s press pass, in addition to Trump’s attacks on Acosta’s character, mark a shift from exaggerated rhetoric to authoritarian action. While the president’s derogatory rhetoric alone should be condemned, his action directly threatens the freedom of the press that is integral to functioning of any democracy.
Trump’s latest move is part of a larger pattern of disparaging the press. Trump has repeatedly tweeted attacks on news organizations that run articles criticizing him, one tweet featured a photoshopped WWE video of Trump tackling and punching a person labeled “CNN.” During a rally last month, Trump praised Greg Gianforte, the Montana congressman who body-slammed a Guardian reporter. Trump has threatened those who own critical news organizations with financial harm, calling for anti-trust action against Amazon (whose CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post) and attempting to block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner, the owner of CNN.
Delegitimizing the press erodes the trust that students have in reputable news sources, whether it’s school publications or national news networks. Students and faculty should make the conscious decision to support credible news sources and scrutinize Trump’s actions that undermine the freedom of the press.
The Editorial Board is composed of Zach Ball, Jacob Busch, Ryan Fan, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Omar Obregon-Cuebas, Shreya Pabbaraju, Isaiah Sirois, Madison Stephens and Kimia Tabatabaei.