Trump doesn't like free speech, especially speech and reporting that expose him for what he is. So he attacked it.
Even before he won the election in 2016, Trump had fantasized for years about attacking the free press and using power to limit the First Amendment.
In his second year in the White House, he indulged those impulses and attempted to bully the press as they continued to uncover the corruption, bigotry, and incompetence of his administration.
After Trump described countries like Haiti with large black populations as "shitholes" in January 2018, he said he instead wanted immigrants from majority white nations like Norway. CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked Trump if this meant he only wanted white immigrants — a perfectly legitimate question after his comments. Instead of defending himself, Trump had Acosta kicked out of the Oval Office.
Appearing alongside leaders of several Baltic states in April, Trump advised them to avoid calling on American reporters. Instead he said, "Pick a reporter, please. You can pick a reporter — a Baltic reporter, ideally. Real news, not fake news." Instead of championing American journalism on the world stage, he chose to denigrate it.
Under orders from Trump administration, the National Park Service submitted a proposal in October that would close off nearly 80 percent of the area directly in front of the White House from peaceful protests. The area has been the site of many protests against Trump's abuses since he took over, and would eliminate much of a venue that has been used to expose him.
CNN reporter Abby Phillips was directly attacked by Trump in November, when he bellowed at the woman that she "asks a lot of stupid questions." Phillips was asking an honest question about Trump's decision to put in place an attorney general that could obstruct special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of his campaign's ties to Russia.
Trump's opposition to CNN's reporters went all the way to court in November, when he banned Jim Acosta from the White House and revoked his press pass. Often flustered by Acosta's aggressive questioning, the Trump team made up an allegation that Acosta had physically assaulted an aide. Video showed the claim to be false. A judge appointed by Trump gave him a loss in court in the first round of negotiations, ordering that Acosta have his pass returned.
The hostile attitude against journalists permeates the Trump orbit, and like their leader, Trump's underlings have attacked the press too. Radio One reporter April Ryan was described as "Miss Piggy" by Lynne Patton, an official who was installed at the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Department by Trump. Ryan, who is black, has been repeatedly attacked by Trump underlings for legitimate questions and also came under fire by Fox News. The Fox attack helped to provoke death threats against Ryan.
Trump can't handle reporters telling the world about what he has said, done, and plans to do. When they cover him aggressively, he whines and calls it "fake news." He is an authoritarian who identifies more with a dictatorial approach than a traditionally American democratic stance on free speech and a free press.
But, as with many of his plans, Trump has failed, and must continue to do his job answering to the free press.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.