The Trump White House has a fervent and ongoing war with the media and ultimately its causalities are the American people. The administration's repeated dodging, blocking, and attacking of the free press keeps invaluable information from the voters, something a new bill seeks to end. "The Free Press Act" aims to mandate televised White House press briefings, opening up a notoriously secretive administration to both journalists and the public.
Rep. Jim Himes (D-CN) is sponsoring the bill, which would require administrations to hold two televised press briefings per week at minimum. It is a direct response to White House tactics that severely limit the freedom of the press and subsequently the American people's access to their own government. Press Secretary Sean Spicer has repeatedly banned televised press briefings and consistently refuses to speak to journalists outside of a restricted setting. President Donald Trump slams the media as "fake" almost once a week and postures himself after enemies of free speech. The result is an administration that holds considerable power with diminished chances at accountability. It's patently undemocratic.
"The White House has begun to dramatically, and in an historically unprecedented way, reduce the media and therefore the American people’s access to the thinking of the president," Himes said, explaining his reasoning behind the bill. "And that’s not healthy. So now is the time.”
“While a Republican might say, gosh this feels like it’s anti-Trump, it’s actually pro-transparency, it’s pro-democracy, and it would apply equally to future Democratic presidents as it does to this Republican president," he added.
For Himes, the wheels started turning on this proposed legislation months ago shortly after Trump moved into the Oval Office. When the White House banned the press from a closed-door briefing in February, Himes spoke out against the administration for their lack of transparency and set the stage for his future bill.
“There’s some things you don’t compromise on,” he told voters at a town hall. “You don’t compromise on certain principles, you don’t compromise on freedom of the press, you don’t compromise on treating people of different religions the same.”
A free press is an integral part of United States politics and works as an intermediary between citizens and their government. Journalists un-tethered by government provide voters critical information so that they can better understand what is going on in their country and make educated choices come the next election cycle. The Trump administration's attempts to put up a wall between the media and the American people using divisive and misleading rhetoric is the antithesis of democratic. In fact, it's a tactic that more than echoes the strategies of authoritarian regimes. The point of "The Free Press Act" is not only to put the press back into the White House, but to put the power back into the hands of Americans. An informed citizen is a powerful one.
“When you’re talking about something as important as White House policy," Himes reasoned. "I think it’s really important that American citizens can at least feel like they were in the room."