Hundreds of newspapers across the country joined together on Thursday in a spirited effort to rebut assertions made by President Donald Trump that they’re the “enemy of the people.”
The plan was originally proposed by The Boston Globe, which invited newspapers across America to take part in denouncing the president’s attacks on the press, whom he frequently calls the “fake news” in tweets and general statements.
The freedom of the press to deliver news to the people is indeed a pillar of our democracy, one that dates back long before the incorporation of our nation itself. The Globe, in recognizing the importance of the press' role in society, urged other papers (even those whose politics may match his own) to stand up against Trump’s attacks.
“This dirty war on the free press must end. Publications, whatever their politics, could make a powerful statement by standing together in the common defense of their profession and the vital role it plays in government for and by the people,” The Globe’s editorial from earlier this month read. They suggested Aug. 16 to be a day in which newspapers would join them in expressing disgust with Trump’s rhetoric.
On Thursday, about 350 newspapers did just that.
The Globe itself wrote in its editorial pages, “The greatness of America is dependent on the role of a free press to speak the truth to the powerful. To label the press ‘the enemy of the people’ is as un-American as it is dangerous to the civic compact we have shared for more than two centuries.”
The New York Times followed suit.
“Insisting that truths you don’t like are ‘fake news’ is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy,” their board wrote. “And calling journalists the ‘enemy of the people’ is dangerous, period.”
Other papers from states Trump won in the 2016 presidential election joined in as well.
“The true enemies of the people — and democracy — are those who try to suffocate truth by vilifying and demonizing the messenger,” the Des Moines Register editorial board wrote.
The Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina made a direct appeal to Trump’s supporters, noting that the president’s attacks against the press weren’t likely to stop.
“Rather, we hope all the president’s supporters will recognize what he’s doing — manipulating reality to get what he wants,” the paper wrote.
The Observer’s prediction that Trump would continue to rail against the press came true later Thursday morning. Trump tweeted directly toward the papers that addressed his attacks, and it didn’t seem like he was very happy about it.
THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country....BUT WE ARE WINNING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2018
“THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY,” Trump wrote in all capital letters. “It is very bad for our Great Country....BUT WE ARE WINNING!”
In a second tweet, Trump tempered his aggressive tone but continued to allege “fake news” outlets were against him and Americans in general.
There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2018
“There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS,” Trump wrote. “The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!”
The truth is, however, that most Americans see through the president's attacks on the media. In a Quinnipiac poll from the end of July, 54 percent of respondents said they trust the press over Trump, while only 34 percent said they felt the opposite. That same poll found that only 21 percent of Americans believe the media to be the “enemy of the people,” while 71 percent felt the media is an important part of democracy.
Trump can spout on every day about how the “fake news” is working against him. But in doing so, he behaves more like a monarch, demanding loyalty from his subjects, rather than behaving as a president trying to defend his reputation.
His rhetorical bombardments against the American media are themselves an affront to the values Americans hold dear. Hopefully, millions of readers who are subscribers to the hundreds of newspapers who scolded Trump on Thursday will take note of how un-American his attacks truly are.
Banner/thumbnail image credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters