From feuding with former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly following the first Republican presidential debate to tweeting about the “failing” New York Times, President-Elect Donald Trump’s attacks on the media have been a recurring theme since he began his campaign for president. His disdain for news organizations surfaced once again on Jan. 11 at his first press conference since July.
At the press conference, Trump denied CNN’s Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta the chance to ask a question and called CNN “fake news” for reporting that President Barack Obama and Trump received a classified briefing regarding allegations that the Russian government had damaging information about Trump.
The briefing has been confirmed by top US officials including Vice President Joe Biden and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. So no, Trump, CNN is not “fake news.” But such is Trump’s response to reports that have the potential to raise criticisms or concerns regarding him, and this response has dangerous implications.
Columnists including Connie Schultz of Creators and Pete Vernon of the Columbia Journal Review wrote that journalists should have come to Acosta’s aid and backed him up instead of moving on with the press conference. I wholeheartedly agree with these columnists and fear that free speech is on the line if journalists do not band together to act as watchdogs over the incoming Trump administration.
In this recent scuffle with the news as in many other cases, Trump has shown that he does not enjoy facing criticism and is willing to strong-arm the press to avoid answering their questions directly if he believes the questions could shed light on unflattering information. If this tactic is allowed to succeed, there will be a veil of secrecy surrounding Trump’s administration which will protect him from addressing tough questions head on. We cannot let that happen.
Journalists, politicians and citizens alike need to stand in opposition to Trump’s recent attack on CNN and any other attempts to evade media scrutiny. Questioning, criticizing and inspecting of the government must be preserved to maintain a truly free press. At best, failure to do so could leave Trump unchallenged on matters of national concern. At worst, it could lead the country down a path where government officials are no longer held accountable, do not feel obligated to respond to the press and get away with malpractice that has dangerous ramifications for everyone in this nation.