There’s this notion the only press for a presidential administration should be good press. President Donald Trump and his allies sure think that’s the case.
Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!
— President Trump 45 Archived (@POTUS45) February 26, 2017
This has been Trump’s MO since he started his campaign for president, including an October promise by senior economic adviser Peter Navarro to break up the media conglomerate.
“This oligopolistic realignment of the American media along ideological and corporate lines is destroying an American democracy that depends on a free flow of information and freedom of thought. Donald Trump will drain the swamp of corruption and collusion, standing against this trend and standing for the American people.”
Trump has also put up a Mainstream Media Accountability Survey on his website, and certain media outlets were not allowed to participate in a “gaggle” on Friday. This caused a lot of consternation in the media with even the alleged pro-Trump The Wall Street Journal blasting the decision.
WSJ says they would not have participated in gaggle had they known of the blocking of others and said they won't in future pic.twitter.com/Osef9I0XPx
— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) February 24, 2017
A similar situation happened in 2009 when the Obama Administration tried to keep Fox News from participating in a “gaggle” with a Treasury Department office. The White House later apologized, but the admin never should have tried to do it in the first place.
But here’s a fact for Trump and his supporters: the press will always be biased, in some way, shape, or form. A biased press dates all the way back to the early years of the Republic. George Washington saw his administration relentlessly attacked by newspapers, specifically over the U.S.’ 1794 treaty with England. Via MountVernon.org.
Washington’s apparent refusal to acknowledge public opposition to the treaty added to a general discomfort with the power he was wielding. “Belisarius” cast harsh aspersions upon Washington’s high-handed manner, which he saw as emblematic of the entire administration: “a brief but trite review of your six years administration, mark the progressive steps which have led the way to the present public evils that afflict your country. . .the unerring voice of posterity will not fail to render the just sentence of condemnation on the man who has entailed upon his country deep and incurable public evils.”
The harsh language on both sides of the newspaper debate by 1795 was a reflection of a profound mutual distrust. Both the Federalists and the Republicans saw their opposition as a fundamental danger to the future of the country and acted accordingly. By 1797, the Federalists were referring to themselves as “friends of government”—the expression the Loyalists had used for themselves during the American Revolution—and called their opposition the “disorganizers.”
The hostile press caused John Adams’ administration to pass the Sedition Act of 1798, an act some of the current president’s supporters would probably love to see become law again.
To write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against either the hatred of the people of the United States, or to stir up sedition, or to excite unlawful combinations against the government, or to resist it, or to aid or encourage hostile designs of foreign nations.
This obviously goes against the First Amendment, and the guarantee of press freedom. But the government always seems to be against press freedom whether it’s the Sedition Act of 1918 or the Fairness Doctrine. Even the ridiculous Radio Act of 1927 (signed by my favorite president Calvin Coolidge) let the government get involved in radio. So the government has always tried to get its grubby fingers into what the press puts out. The White House’s decision to prevent CNN, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and BBC America from attending a credentialed press gaggle, regardless of what other outlets were able to get. They are credentialed media, so they should have access to the gaggle (as an aside, there’s nothing wrong with Sean Spicer letting Breitbart or OANN or Town Hall ask questions during press briefings, either).
But there’s another factor to all of this, which not everyone is talking about: the press needs to be honest about its biases. John Stossel had it correct in his recent most recent Reason.com piece.
The smug lamestream media spin left but won’t admit it.
At ABC News, my colleagues acted as if I was the only guy in the building with an opinion. Everyone else was “in the middle.” This was nonsense. Almost all were leftists.
They constantly pushed big government. Their bias was revealed in questions they asked, the “experts” they chose to interview and their endless calls for political correctness and new regulation…much of what media spew is misleading.
I did it myself. On 20/20, my consumer reports covered exploding coffee pots and risks posed by pesticides used on lawns. (“Danger in the Grass!”)
These weren’t lies. A few personal injury lawyers did have clients injured by coffee pots. One man’s skin peeled off after he played golf on a freshly sprayed course. The injuries were horrible.
But in terms of consumer protection, this “news” was irrelevant and misleading. It’s a big country. Rare and horrible things happen. I wised up eventually, realizing that those threats distract people from real threats, like driving in the rain, drinking too much, smoking, etc.
Now I’m not suggesting a law requiring the press to show its bias. That’d be as ridiculous as the other media laws out there. Everyone just needs to be honest in their biases. I come from a more libertarian standpoint, so my pieces are probably going to be enjoyed more by libertarians who favor small government, fewer regulations, more personal freedom, immigration, and being very careful about going to war. The more pro-interventionist folks aren’t going to always like what I write, which is fine.
But there’s nothing wrong with a biased press. Just like there’s nothing wrong with a president complaining about said biased press.